Home of Peace

Dear Liza,

Walking with Zavta, 2017

As you know, I love visiting cemeteries. They are peaceful, historic, and give me a sense of perspective. The other day, Auntie Katie and I visited the Home of Peace Cemetery in Tacoma, Washington, a few hours north of Portland. We weren’t there for perspective or history, but to say goodbye to our dear friend Barbara Binder Kadden.

Barbara died last week, the day after her 64th birthday. The Home of Peace, besides being beautiful and historic, was filled with love and a sad awareness that Matan and Liav, Barbara’s grandchildren, will grow up without her joy and generosity and her gift for bringing organization and beauty to the world.

In her talk about Barbara at the graveside service, her friend Debbie spoke of Barbara’s dedication to Jewish education and her talent for feeding other Jewish students good meals. She told of Barbara’s last words to her husband, Rabbi Bruce Kadden, as he left her hospital room to go to work at Temple Beth El. “You teach them Jews,” she said, as she usually did when they parted. Barbara’s list of teaching posts, published works and leadership positions is long and impressive, but that’s not why she was my friend.

We met in 1984 in Salinas, California. Bruce had been hired as the Rabbi for our tiny congregation in a predominantly Catholic farm town. I had just converted to Judaism and was trying to raise my two kids in this new tradition, finding my way through Sabbath, Hebrew and graduate school all at once. Barbara was a different sort of woman than I had ever met.  She didn’t couch her comments in the niceties I had grown up with, and for many years, she intimidated the heck out of me.

Barbara Kadden’s Quilted Megillat Esther

But she was early for every celebration to help set up, bringing food and much needed advice. She made me smarter and stronger than I thought I could be. She taught me how to organize a Kosher Luncheon for 3,000 people and Rummage Sale that filled the social hall. Her confidence and willingness to work was contagious.

For a few brief months in 1989, I knew something she didn’t, when the two of us started making a quilt to memorialize the Refusenik Jews the Kaddens had visited in the Soviet Union. It was Barbara’s first quilt and I was more experienced, but her drive for excellence took the project to a whole new level for me. That quilt was just the beginning of scores of incredibly beautiful quilts she made, finishing up some just months before she passed away.

Refuseniks Visited in the U.S.S.R. 1989

Our daughters, my Katie and her Alana, were within a few weeks of the same age, and grew up together. They remained friends and have run a business together. I regret that Barbara and I didn’t stay as close. The Kaddens moved to Tacoma and we lost touch.

Only after I moved up to Portland last year did we get back together, and by that time she had her diagnosis of glioblastoma. We met up at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli last year when she and Bruce were in Portland for their wedding anniversary. Barbara was using a walker but she was opinionated as ever, and surprisingly cheerful, stating that every time she stood up it was another victory over gravity.

At her funeral luncheon, the walls of the social hall were decorated with just a few of her quilts, including the first Refusenik quilt we made together and her last one, a fabric and photo collage of Barbara and her grandson Matan walking on the beach. Standing in the bright room with a plate of bagel, lox and kugel, I had to shake myself when I realized I was scanning the room for Barbara, as I had at hundreds of  Onegs, High Holidays, and B’nai Mitzvot. What was there of her were her family, friends, quilts and books, which will carry her intelligence and love forward.

Detail of Megillat Esther

I know that someday I will have perspective about this. For now, all I know is that the world will miss Barbara Binder Kadden.  And selfishly speaking, so will I.


Grandma Judy


Giving Back

Dear Liza,

While we were living in Salinas, I got to be friends with a wonderful lady named Ruth Andresen. Ruth is the mother of Pete, one of the most involved parents University Park ever had, and grandmother of four of our students. Ruth was born in 1921, so she is exactly the age your great grandma Billie would be.

I met Ruth because we were both active at The First Mayor’s House, also called The Harvey Baker House, the oldest building in Salinas. Ruth has lived in Salinas since the 1940’s and actually knew some of the people who lived in this historic house, Florence Baker and her sister Helen. They were little old ladies when she was a young wife and mother in the 1950s, and she used to go visit them. They would tell her stories of their childhood in 1890s Salinas. She heard history, as they say, from the horse’s mouth!

The First Mayor’s House

When I was learning about Salinas history to write stories and curriculum for the House, I started visiting Ruth. We talked about history, but she also told me about her life. She was a geology student at Stanford University when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, which started the western end of World War II. As a graduate, she worked in Washington to help create maps that helped with the Normandy Invasion! “It was such an exciting time to be a young woman in the world”, she said. “There was important work to be done and we got to do it.”

Ruth is still helping people learn about history. She does spinning demonstrations to show people how pioneers turned wool into yarn, and gives lectures about the “Old Days”.

She also helped organize the very first Founder’s Day Celebration in Salinas. The first one was so small, even the newspaper didn’t say much about it, but by the second in 2017, there were hundreds of people! In 2018, thousands of people came to visit the Harvey House, attend lectures, play carnival games, listen to music, and have pony rides. It took dozens of people to make it happen, including my dear friend and former Principal, Mary Randall, but at the center of it was Ruth. In my carelessness, I do not have a photo this wonderful woman! (I was probably enjoying our conversations so much I hated to interrupt for a photo.) Silly Grandma Judy.

Display at Founder’s Day

Anyway, for the second Founder’s Day, there was going to be a quilting booth, showing folks how to quilt and displaying old and new quilts. I was going to make a small one during the day as a demonstration. But so many other groups wanted booths, the quilting booth didn’t happen.

Almost done quilt, and Mouse the cat

And now, with the extra time that comes from not preparing lessons and teaching every day, I have gotten it out and am almost done. It will be wrapped up and returning to Salinas very soon. Thanks for all the stories, Ruth!


Grandma Judy

Old Friends

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I only have 5 more days here in Salinas! I can’t believe I will be home soon. But before I really leave my home of the past 36 years, I had a few more people to say goodbye to.

The Hughes family has been in my life since 1983, when my family started attending Temple Beth El Synagogue here in town. I was not born Jewish, but the religion appealed to me. Once I got to know the people, I wanted to learn the language. Hebrew, with its delicate, strange writing and its integral part in biblical history, intrigued me.

Peonies in the garden

At the time, the synagogue didn’t have a full time Rabbi. When I asked who would be able to teach me, I was referred to Rick Hughes. He wasn’t Jewish either, but was well read and extremely good at languages. He had majored in French at University and studied Gaelic, Japanese, Klingon, and a few others on his own. He had studied Hebrew under the old Rabbi, Abraham Haselkorn.

After a little negotiation, Rick agreed to teach some friends and I. Eventually, the group whittled down to just me, and we stuck with it for a few years. I got through translating a big chunk of Genesis from Hebrew into English and had a great time.

My oldest friend in Salinas

My family joined the Temple, I converted to Judaism, my kids went through Sunday and Hebrew school, and my husband Nelson was even President of the Temple for more than a few years. It was a big part of our lives. We celebrated holidays with Rick and his family, who were good sports about Passover Seders that lasted for hours and sukkot being built in the back yard. His mother and brothers became friends, too.

In more recent years, Rick has been my French teacher, as well. After I studied with Shawn Quiane at Hartnell College, I wanted more, so Rick helped out. Teachers become friends and friends become teachers. It’s nice the way life works.

Rick was active in the synagogue for years, and then he pulled away. I’m sure I knew why at the time, but the reason has slipped my mind. And now, he has returned. In our visit today he told me he is tutoring a young man for his bar mitzvah and helping with all sorts of Temple chores, like the Kosher Luncheon (the biggest fundraiser) and Sunday School. He seems so happy to be involved and needed again!

Brother Kevin in the yard

Judaism doesn’t believe in living alone. A person needs to be part of a community to be a whole person. I can see the wisdom in this in the life of my dear friend.

See you all soon.


Grandma Judy




Retirement Festivities, Part 2

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This afternoon was the next  party celebrating retirement. This one was given by my teacher’s Union, the Salinas Elementary Teachers’ Council (SETC). I’ve been a member of the Union for my 30 years teaching, and was even on the Board for a while. For teachers, the union is a big deal.IMG_5579

We met at the Grower’s Pub, an old-time Salinas establishment. It is downtown on Monterey Street. The decor is very Rodeo themed, with ranch brands burned into the walls (with notes of which ranch used this brand) and photographs of old rodeo riders. There was even a Salinas Rodeo advertisement from 1937!img_5572.jpg

There was yummy food, buy-your-own beer (or whatever) and some dear friends. I saw Kim Crook, whose son Michael I taught my third year of teaching, and Chris Mollenhoff, who was a new kid about the same time I was. Linda Serrano, one of my oldest teaching friends, (but who I’ve never taught with) helped organize the party. The room was full of loud, fun conversations.

Kim Crook and me

Jane Parrish, a dear friend who left University Park a few years ago, showed up and we had a nice chat. She is helping pull together the third leg of this retirement relay, which will happen next Friday. We even got presents! Our staffs had signed cards (which I get all teary when I read) and there was lovely local chocolate from Lula’s and a Starbuck’s card.IMG_5595.jpg

Linda Serrano and me

When I had enough of everything and had hugged everyone, Uncle David came and fetched me home. I’m worn out and ready to crash, and Cousin Liza isn’t even home from shopping at the mall yet! She is getting nice new summer clothes for her big vacation this summer.

More about that later.


Grandma Judy

Back in Salinas for May

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,


It was so much fun visiting you in Portland! Grandpa Nelson enjoyed spending his birthday with you, and we got lots of work done on our new house. But I have 19 more teaching days to do, so I am back in Salinas. Yesterday, Uncle David picked me up at the airport and took me to the Club at Crazy Horse for dinner. Good company, very tasty food, and lovely scenery!

Today started out with Liza enjoying her new comics from Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures.IMG_0340.jpg

After breakfast, it was time for a nice adventure. The weather was warm and sunny, so Liza and I packed some snacks and our overdue library books and headed downtown. We had snacks with the Hartnell Panther, who then followed us downtown. Liza says he can sense where we are, so he doesn’t need a leash.


We continued to the Steinbeck Center, and  visited the Red Pony, Tom Joad and the Pipe House, as well as fishing for sardines off a small boat. It was a fun imaginary trip.


We were hungry for a snack, but Blue Aces was closed! Liza was so disappointed, but we decided to try Portobello’s…no ice cream. The Cafe and Deli? Closed. Finally, we stopped in at the Monterey Coast Brewing Company and THEY had ice cream! Hooray! And even a lemon tart for me. No beer, though. I’m on duty.

Refreshed, we headed to the Steinbeck Library, played, and got some new books. It was getting windy and cold, and I was grateful for the jackets Auntie Olga had insisted we take along. We had to run for the bus, but we caught it and were home at 2:00…just in time for a nice long nap.



Grandma Judy

John Steinbeck in Town

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

As you may know, Salinas is the town where John Steinbeck, the famous author, was born and raised. His family home still stands on Central Avenue, open for luncheons, along with its gift shop, The Best Cellar.

I was thinking the other day that if you could be a school kid in Salinas at different periods of time (and not get any older as the time passed), you would have been taught very different things about John Steinbeck.

In the decade of the 1910s, you wouldn’t have been taught about John, you would have been in school with him. He attended the West End School (where Roosevelt Elementary now stands) and Salinas High, when it was still on West Alisal Street. John was a fine football player and wrote for the school paper.

In the 1920s you might have heard gossip that John wasn’t attending classes regularly at Stanford, after his parents were so happy that he got in. After 6 years of irregular attendance interrupted by travel and odd jobs (like being an apprentice scientist at the Spreckels Sugar Factory near town), he left without graduating and moved to New York.

In the 1930s John’s name became a hated thing in Salinas. You would have been taught he was a Socialist and un-American for his views about labor and unions. His book In Dubious Battle told of the striking farm workers and the horrible living conditions and injustices they faced. The growers, who were (and are) the power and money in town, resented his point of view and many copies of his books were burned. This happened again when The Grapes of Wrath was published. Though wildly popular, the book was criticized for vulgar language and showing the growers as greedy men.

In the 1940s you would have heard about John’s travels with the Army in World War II and his part in directing documentaries about the war. And maybe questioned his being labeled a Socialist.

East of eden and car.jpg
The Infamous Book now celebrated in the National Steinbeck Center

In the 1950s you would have been warned not to read East of Eden because of its scandalous story, but amazed by the street by street accuracy with which John described Salinas.

By the 1960s, John’s local reputation was mended somewhat by his receiving the Nobel Peace Prize  in Sweden and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson. In 1968 you would have been taught about  the death of John Steinbeck, great writer and local hero, who had written so many American classics and put our little town on the map.

Sign to Steinbeckgarave.jpg
Sign to help tourists find his grave

And, if you were paying attention, you would have noticed how a city’s opinion of a person is closely tied with that city’s own self-interests. And often, still is.


Grandma Judy






Saturday Adventure Continued

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Liza leaving the cemetery

After Liza and I left the Garden of Memories, we walked down Romie Lane. Romie is a busy street with lots of doctor’s offices, because it is right near Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. Liza and I have both been to the hospital a few times. I went with Great-Grandma Billie years ago when she got hurt, and their Emergency Room gave Liza stitches in her forehead and me stitches in my lip. Auntie Olga even gave birth to Liza in that hospital! They have taken good care of our family.

We discovered some interesting things along the road. Liza found moss, like the kind I miss in Portland, under some bushes. Because of the recent rains, the moss was soft and green. It was lovely.

Soft, green moss…

We kept walking and got to Claremont Manor Park, which is right next door to Monterey Park School. This is a park with trees that are good for climbing, small and large play structures, and even a baseball field right next door. Liza found some kids to play with and I sat in the sun and relaxed.

Bradley family
Lovely Bradley family

I ran into a friend who used to work at my school, Krysta Bradley, and her family, including their youngest son and new puppy.  He is a very soft golden retriever and very friendly. Their oldest boy, Mikey, was playing baseball at the park.

Liza found a tree to climb that was just the right size. As she was busy climbing with some new friends, Krysta told me that when SHE was a little girl, SHE climbed that same tree! That has been a happy tree for many years! Liza and her new friends made up a game that they were monkeys and were growing banana trees. “The more trees we grow, the more bananas we can eat!” they chanted. “We are monkeys!”

Liza in a tree
“We are monkeys!”

Leaving the park, we continued down Romie Lane. We found a little boy and his tiny puppy, going for a short visit on the sidewalk. Then we got to Main Street, and the MYO Frozen Yogurt Shop! What good fortune, a cool snack and place to sit, right next to a bus stop. We snacked and met a student of mine, Brandon, who had just finished bowling at Valley Center Bowl next door. Then we stepped out the door and, after a while, caught the number 23 bus downtown where we transferred to the number 20 which took us just a block from home.

Bus stop sign.jpg
Bus stop on Main Street


Boy, was I ready for a nap! I think I fell asleep before Liza did. What a fun day!


Grandma Judy