Judy Lyn Holland
August 7, 1959 – April 19, 2021
Judy Lyn Holland sought clarity, precision and connection throughout her life. She was a natural storyteller whose love for words extended to a love of language. By her early 20s, she was fluent in German and Italian she learned while working and studying abroad. Every personal experience was an opportunity for Judy to expand her vocabulary, weave into a story and share. Over a 30-year journalism career, she wrote hundreds of stories, appearing in dozens of publications. It is with great sadness that her family announced her passing at their Washington, D.C. home on April 19, 2021.
Judy was born Aug. 7, 1959, in the back of the family station wagon en route to the hospital, portending a life in constant motion. From a young age, she adored books and kept a flashlight in bed to read at night. Judy also displayed an early aptitude for performance, according to her mother Barbara Holland. She was an accomplished figure skater and continued to perform in college and as an adult. At age 7, Judy corralled children in Norwich, Vt. to put on skits in the family garage, with a blanket as stage curtains. “She wanted to put on a show,” her mother recalled.
When she arrived at the Valley News Dispatch in 1987, Judy brought impressive degrees from Middlebury College and the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Despite her obvious intelligence, pluck and drive, she was seen as an outsider by many of her older colleagues, most of whom had grown up in the surrounding industrial towns of the 30,000-circulation newspaper outside Pittsburgh. Before long, she uncovered a scheme by a powerful mayor involving municipal contracts. The series she wrote exposing those deals earned her colleagues’ respect and a state journalism award.
At The Tampa Bay Tribune, she exchanged high collars and sensible heels for animal print dresses and bare legs. One of her favorite assignments was a feature on the Weeki Wachee mermaid show. The underwater ballet performance delighted Judy. Recounting it, her raucous laugh – for someone as demure and petite as the 5-foot-3 Holland – startled, but reflected a joyful irreverence.
Washington D.C. generated her most prolific work period; first as a Capitol Hill correspondent for States News Service, then at Hearst Newspapers, where she spent 13 years and became national bureau editor. She won the Hearst Eagle Award, the chain’s highest honor for journalistic excellence. Judy also was elected president of the National Press Club Foundation and appeared as a political cable news pundit. She also was a member of the Capital Speakers Club.
Her Senate Press Gallery colleagues remember her as an uplifting presence. Howard Gantman, former communications director for Sen. Dianne Feinstein, remembered her as a force: “She wouldn’t go easy on you if she had a good story, but she always had a smile.”
Her discipline extended to a lifetime of religious daily exercise, but her family was her true pride and joy. She and her husband John K. Starr, an orthopedic surgeon, were together nearly 40 years, and are parents to Lindsay, 27, Maddie, 24 and Jack, 22. As her family grew, Judy shifted her focus from the Hill to home. She launched Parentinsider.com [parentinsider.com], an online magazine about parenting teens. Her parenting advice mirrored her all-in reporting style: “Wear your Children.” She flew 18 hours to Thailand to spend a single day with Maddie at an elephant refuge. Made regular road trips between Nashville and New Haven to cheer on singer and songwriter Lindsay, and Yale lacrosse player Jack. Last year, she published the book and podcast series HappiNest: Finding Fulfillment When Your Kids Leave Home.
For Judy, fulfillment was a lifelong creative process that demanded a strong work ethic, according to daughter Lindsay. “My mother taught me resilience, poise and eloquence. She was my Wonder Woman.”
Maddie added, “She was the most caring and supportive mother, who refused to let me quit. She taught us to be warriors.”
Judy also loved hosting home-cooked dinners with coworkers, young journalists, old and new friends in search of fellowship or really good osso buco.
She affectionately referred to her husband as Dr. John in videos she posted on social media. Last Father’s Day, Judy wrote he was “the most loving, loyal, patient, hard-working and steady man I’ve ever known.”
Covid-19 greatly curtailed the society upon which she thrived. “What’s been so achingly missing is the simple human connection we all took for granted,” she posted on Facebook last summer. “It’s the very fabric of existence.”
Her son Jack said, “I’m heartened by the memory of her brilliance, generosity and fierce love. A friend told me my mother seemed less like a person and more like an energy – radiant, powerful and inspiring. That is how I will remember her.”
In addition to her husband and three children, Judy is survived by her parents Harry and Barbara Holland of Hanover, NH and Vero Beach, FL, sister Mary Anne Holland; brothers Michael (Heidi); Joe (Becky); and Jim (Analea); sister-in-law Patricia Starr; nieces Jeannie, Greta, Hazel, Lizzie and Juniper; nephews Michael, Timothy, Hunter, Jake and Anders; maternal uncle, Don Johnston (Mary Margaret) and paternal uncle, Clark Holland.
A memorial service to mark her life will be held May 11 at 11 a.m. at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., following Covid-19 guidelines.
Washington National Cathedral
Judy Lyn Holland
May 11, 2021
Judy was such a warm, loving person, friend, and colleague. She opened her whole heart to everyone and saw the best in all people. She will be greatly missed. Love to the entire family. --Julie Rovner
May 6, 2021
Judy was such a beautiful person. I was her Barre instructor. I am from Argentina and sometimes I would struggle with my teaching. She would always find ways to help me grow as an instructor and as a person. We shared our love for Barre as well as interesting conversations, about being a mother, a spouse and how to still succeed professionally.
I am attaching a picture of both of us in this event she invited me at Columbia Country Club.
Judy, you will be deeply missed.
May 3, 2021
I knew Judy from Barre3 and just loved seeing her in class. I felt so special that she always took a moment to say hello to me. For such a tiny person, she had a big presence. She had so much inner and outer beauty; everyone gravitated toward her. My condolences to Judy's family and friends.
May 3, 2021
How sorry I am to hear of Judy’s passing.
Judy was a longtime yoga student of mine who became a friend. We spoke often about our families and she was so so proud of her children.
Judy was incredibly generous, always offering a hand when she could. She helped my son with connections when he moved to Utah and I remember a fun evening cookout out in Park City a few years back with Judy, John and her family.
Know that she was loved and admired by many and will be missed.
May 2, 2021
So many great memories...
Judy’s spirit, energy and love will be missed
May 1, 2021
To Judy's family, I am profoundly sorry for your loss and for that of her many friends and colleagues, like myself, whose hearts are filled with sorrow. She was an amazing woman, journalist and a great friend, who also lent support to someone needing a pick-me-up, a charitable act enhanced by her beautiful smile. Whether on Capitol Hill or at social gatherings, her high-energy voice made us eager listeners to whatever brutal honesty she might lend to any chatty circle. I have special and funny memories of Judy that I will always treasure, as I'm sure many other friends have as well. Thank you for honoring Judy with a beautiful remembrance of her amazing life.