Judith “Judy” Savio
It is with heavy hearts that we announce the passing of Judith “Judy” Savio (née Heft) on the morning of January 8th, 2020. She was with family, in her familiar bed, exactly as she wanted to be when the time came for her to leave this earth. She was 76.
After beating breast cancer twice, she was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer in June of 2018. One of the first doctors she saw estimated she had about 11 months to live, but—in true Judy style—she refused to follow “the norm” and stayed with us for more than a year and a half. She left on her own terms, choosing to stop treatment and begin hospice care at the end of 2019. She said she was ready to go.
Judy was born to Bernice (née Kelly) and Julius “Judd” Heft on June 2, 1943 and was raised in Chicago Heights, IL. Her father was fighting in the European theater of World War II when she was born, but her mother had the support of her own family and her in-laws to help her until her husband returned from war. Growing up in a home where extended family was always ready to offer love and a helping hand was one of the greatest influences on how Judy would live her life. A significant part of her legacy is a fierce love of and dedication to family, including the friends who became family.
In the late 1960s, Judy moved from her hometown to Santa Barbara, CA. Though she often missed the fall colors and spring lilacs of the Midwest, she stayed in California for the rest of her life, calling Goleta home for more than 40 years. She met Carmen Savio in early 1974 while square dancing, and less than a year later they were married. They spent the early years of their marriage having road trip adventures, exploring new restaurants, and, yes, square dancing. They were both parishioners of St. Raphael’s Catholic Church in Goleta. In 1980, they welcomed their only child, Kelly, into the world. Judy and Carmen gave Kelly the finest example possible of what good parenting looks like, as well as what a fun, loving, respectful, and supportive marriage looks like. Carmen passed away far too early in 1994 from Lou Gehrig’s disease, and Judy bravely and gracefully took on the challenge of raising a teenage daughter as a single parent.
Those who didn’t know her well may not have realized that Judy’s personable but sometimes staid facade hid a quirky and uniquely adventurous spirit. She was a roller coaster enthusiast, a Neil Diamond superfan, as well as a lover of old movies and trashy (but not too trashy) romance novels. She went parasailing and hot air ballooning, climbed pyramids, and casually navigated the roads of Macedonia as if it was her regular commute. Judy had a distinctive sense of humor and was easily won over by a good joke. She could knit, cross-stitch, and liked to try her hand at quilting every now and then. She also enjoyed watching the World Cup and offering commentary such as “The blue team isn’t playing very nice, so I hope they lose.” Win or lose, she was a supporter of any Chicago sports team (even though she almost never watched them play), and she cried tears of joy when the Cubs finally won a World Series in 2016 (even though she couldn’t have named a single player on the team). She had Lou Malnati’s pizza overnighted from Chicago for special occasions.
In one of the last conversations Judy had with her daughter, she commented that life had been a great ride. It is telling that when she was asked shortly after diagnosis if there were any items on her “bucket list” that still needed to be checked off, she answered “no” and meant it. Judy made the most of her time on Earth, and her daughter is forever grateful for the example Judy set.
Judy worked at Hughes Aircraft/Santa Barbara Research Center (SBRC). When she retired from SBRC in the mid-1990s, she went to work as a receptionist in the psychiatry department of Sansum Clinic, before finally retiring about six years ago. Many of her colleagues remained life-long friends and join her family in mourning the loss of this special woman.
Judy was preceded in death by her wonderful parents, her beloved husband, and her dear brother, Michael Heft. She is survived by her daughter, Kelly Savio, son-in-law, Victor Breen, and her grandson, Thomas “TJ” Savio-Breen, who was her favorite person in the world. She only had 21 months with TJ, but she was a natural at being “grandma”, and filling the role was both her greatest joy and the final flourish on her beautiful life. She is also survived by extended family and friends who have loved her and supported her every step of the way as she navigated this final journey with cancer.
In lieu of flowers, please make contributions to the organizations that meant most to Judy: DAWG (sbdawg.org), The ALS Association (alsa.org), Santa Barbara Humane Society (sbhumanesociety.org), or the American Cancer Society (cancer.org).
Judy’s family would also like to offer deepest thanks to Dr. Daniel Greenwald and the nurses and staff at Ridley-Tree Cancer Center for the most outstanding and compassionate care we could have possibly asked for as we all faced Judy’s diagnosis, and both Visiting Nurse & Hospice Care of Santa Barbara and the staff of Right at Home Santa Barbara for helping us keep Judy as comfortable as possible in her final days.
A celebration of life mass will be held at St. Raphael’s Catholic Church (5444 Hollister Ave. in Goleta) on Saturday, January 18 at 10am.