Judith Gettlin Colbs

November 24, 1931January 5, 2021

Judith Gettlin Colbs died on January 5th, 2021 at the age of 89. Judy was born in 1931 and grew up in Philadelphia, PA. She was devoted to her family, and was known for her sharp wit, crazy fun-loving spirit, and ability to take charge and get things done. Judy never knew a stranger, and within a few minutes of meeting her, people were telling her their life story. Judy touched the lives of many people with her deep friendships and support of those in need.

The driving passion of her life’s work was to serve others, and to reach out to those who have been marginalized or treated differently because of aspects of their lives that are not well understood. This work for others began in her career as a teacher, first in elementary education, then in special education. After receiving her master’s degree from Georgia State University, Judy coordinated the learning disabilities program in Fulton County Schools. She advocated for the needs of students in the classroom and met with countless parents to guide them through their children’s educational journey.

After retirement, Judy shifted the focus of her service to community volunteer efforts. Her initial impetus toward this work was when her daughter, Sandy, came out to her as a lesbian. Judy quickly made connections with other parents of gay and lesbian people, and in the process, also met many members of the LGBTQ community. Her contacts within the community lead to her involvement in supporting the needs of those struggling with HIV/AIDS and she became a tireless activist and advocate for the LGTBQ community in Atlanta. She served as the President of PFLAG Atlanta (Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays) for almost 20 years and was honored twice as a grand marshal in the Atlanta Pride Parade, once in 2004 and again in 2016. Judy’s work with PFLAG included counseling and supporting young gay and lesbian people and providing “mommy hugs” and surrogate parenting to those who were rejected by their families. She built coalitions of support with other groups in Atlanta, including Congregation Bet Haverim, AID Atlanta, and many other groups. She was active during the protests in the lead up to the 1996 Olympics in the Olympics Out of Cobb actions, was a participant in the “sit in” at Cracker Barrell, protesting unequal treatment of gay and lesbian customers and employees, and traveled to Washington D.C. for the 1987 and 1993 Marches on Washington for LGBTQ Rights. Judy was honored by Southern Voice magazine with their “Hippest Heterosexual Award” in recognition of her efforts for the community. She was also honored by the Atlanta Pride Committee and Touching Up Our Roots in 2016 for being an early pioneer for Gay Rights in Atlanta. Judy lost many dear friends to AIDS and spent countless hours supporting them through their illness, by their bedside as they transitioned out of life. We would like to believe they, along with her loving husband and sister were at her side as she transitioned.

Judy never missed an opportunity to write her representatives and letters to the paper to voice her passions, and she never missed an election. In a poignant last act of civic responsibility, she proudly cast her absentee ballots for President Elect Joseph Biden, and Vice President Elect Kamala Harris as well as for Rev. Raphael Warnock and John Ossof in the GA Senate runoff. She passed peacefully on the GA Runoff Election Day. She was preceded in death by her husband of 54 years, Marvin Colbs, and her sister Louise Fradkin. She is survived by her two daughters Sandy (Kit Lockwood) and Alison (Michael Rekhelman), grandchildren Nancy, Lauren, Meaghan, and Kate (Jason Wonn), her great-grandchildren Emily, Xavier, Olivia, Sophia, Aiden, and Charlotte.

As one of her friends wrote to Judy in a letter years ago, “Quality people make the world around them a better place, leaving a definite footprint as they go.” Judy left a mighty footprint and will be sorely missed.

Congregation Bet Haverim is inviting you to a scheduled Zoom meeting.

Topic: Memorial Service for Judy Colbs Time: Jan 10, 2021 07:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

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Meeting ID: 811 8477 1482

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Several people have asked for ways to honor Judy that would be meaningful to her and to our family. In lieu of flowers, we would respectfully ask that you consider a donation to one of the following organizations:

PFLAG (Parents, Friends and Families of Lesbians and Gays)

Democratic National Committee

Congregation Bet Haverim

COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO


  • Virtual Memorial Service

    Sunday, January 10, 2021



Judith Gettlin Colbs

have a memory or condolence to add?

James Martinez

January 14, 2021

My condolences to Judy's family and friends. My mother attended PFLAG in the late 90s/early 00s, and Judy was instrumental in helping her with the conflicting feelings of having a gay son. Judy herself advocated for me at my high school when the administration was actively discriminating against me. I haven't seen her in over 15 years, but I'll never forget her compassion, kindness, and spirit. She was a truly an angel on earth.

Virginia Brickman

January 9, 2021

Dear Sandy, Alison, and family members,
I feel so lucky to have known Judy. We worked together in Fulton County Schools in a run down infamous building known as “College Street”. She was a leader in a band of brave special educators. Shortly after I started working there, my house was broken into and Judy and Alison showed up to help me clean up the mess. Not many colleagues would do that! Later I was bidding on a house in Virginia Highlands and lost the bid only to find out that Judy and Marv had the winning bid! I was glad they got the house because they did much more with it than I would have done and the house went to a friend who loved it. Judy and I shared theatre tickets at the Alliance a number of years ago and it was great to discuss those shows with her. Her insight was always spot on. Please know she will be remembered by so many whose lives are better for having known her and I am one of them.
With sympathy,
Virginia Brickman

Bob Davis

January 8, 2021

Judy was one of a kind. She was president of our PFLAG group and was an outstanding advocate, mentor, etc. to all the parents and young adults. What fond memories I have of Judy and our group during those days. I was a parent of a lesbian daughter.

Stephanie Swann

January 8, 2021

Sending peace and love to all in Judy’s family. What an amazing soul Judy was. I cofounded an LGBTQ youth org in 1995 called YouthPride. Judy was a beacon of light and transformer of hearts for so many of the parents of the kids I was working with. I always knew if I could just get the mom or dad to PPFLAG they would meet Judy and be transformed. Her love, humor, wisdom, and acceptance was also a soothing balm for me. As a young adult who had no support from my own family, I would sometimes go to PPFLAG secretly just to get one of Judy’s big hugs. Rest well Judy. Your work has been nothing short of live saving for so many in our community.

Harold Smith

January 8, 2021

Judy, the world is going to have an empty hole, but the world is certainly a brighter more loving place because of you. The work you did on behalf of Fulton County Schools special needs children and the pure inspiration you gave to all of us who worked with you is a lasting legacy. Thank you for all you did. I promise we will continue to carry on to the best of our abilities.
My sincere condolences to your family. You will be missed and you will continue to be treasured.

Lynn Pasqualetti

January 8, 2021

It is with great sorrow to see Judy’s passing. She was an inspiration to so many. She mothered many of those of us in the LGBTQ community, nursed our sick brothers and sisters who had AIDS, she nurtured the youth and their parents as they struggled with the being gay, helping so many realize there was nothing wrong with them. Judy was a beacon of hope for so many and I am a better person because I knew her for all those years. My thoughts and prayers are with her entire family as they mourn her loss. Judy was an amazing human being and the world is not better without her. RIP dear Judy, thank you for all your words of wisdom, your service and your love for so many. Fly high and watch over all of us.

Michael Suits

January 7, 2021

Steve and I fortunate enough to know Judy and Marv and was trusted to clean their house for many years. We cleaned every other Wesnesday and it was always a highlight of our work life. Judy always had a smile on her face and always had something funny to say to keep us entertained while cleaning..LOL. As many of you know Judy loved Lions and had several stuffed ones in the bedroom. Steve got in the habit of gathering all the Lions and arranging them in different scenarios after he made the bed, Judy in turn would always have them placed somewhere in the house in different scenarios for us to see, and as expected, they always tried to out do each other. There are so many memories we have that brings a smile to face. Rest In Peace sweet Judy, you made an impact on this Earth and will always be remembered by many.