Pete’s wife of 55 years, Judi, passed away on February 8th, 2017 from an aggressive auto-immune disease.
Judi was born in Washington, D.C., the only child of Dorothy and Leroy Wright. She graduated from the
University of Maryland in 1960 with a degree in textile design. Two years later, she married her college
sweetheart, Peter Miller Dawkins, USMA class of 1959, at West Point’s Cadet Chapel.
As a military wife, Judi moved her family around the country 41 times, including stops at Fort Bragg, North
Carolina, where she gave birth to her first child, Sean, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where
her daughter, Noël, was born.
No matter where she called home, Judi was in constant motion, balancing family life with an array of exciting
jobs, including time as a licensed real estate agent in five states, a ski instructor at Round Top Mountain in
Pennsylvania, a skipper and sailing instructor off the coast of Monterrey, California, and as a research
assistant at the Stanford Hopkins Marine Station.
When there was an opportunity to make a difference, she seized it. As an Army wife, she became the head of
the Officers’ Wives Club and once spent three months learning Spanish in preparation to host the wives of
military members from the Conference of American Armies (including South, North and Central America).
Once her husband, Pete, retired after 24 years in the military, Judi dedicated herself to philanthropic causes in
the communities around her.
She was a staunch supporter of the 52nd Street Project in New York City, served over 20 years as a trustee on
the board of the Monmouth Medical Center in New Jersey, and Chaired the Monmouth Medical Center
Foundation’s board from 2000 to 2003 where she helped launch the Redefining Health Care Capital
Campaign, which included oversight of $15 million in upgrades for the Leon Hess Cancer Center and the
expansion of the Jacqueline M. Wilentz Comprehensive Breast Center.
In 2013, Judi was honored with the New Jersey Hospital Association Hospital and Healthcare System Trustee
of Year Award. The following year she was awarded the Community Leadership Award at Monmouth Medical
Center’s 42nd Annual Crystal Ball.
Today, in her memory, the Judith W. Dawkins Women’s Health Program at the Monmouth Medical Center
continues Judi’s work as a leading women’s health advocate in Monmouth County. The program provides a full
spectrum of comprehensive care for women through Monmouth Medical Center’s team of leading physicians,
surgeons and healthcare professionals, including inter-disciplinary medical specialty and subspecialty services
Judi is survived by Pete; their daughter, Noël, son-in-law, Joe, daughter-in-law, Winkie; and six grandchildren,
Fallon, Finn, Lennan, Miller, Reilly and Caroline.
At a chance meeting not far from this hallowed Cadet Chapel, a captivating young woman’s incandescent
spirit and irresistible charm transformed my life. Throughout the fifty-nine memorable years since that day, I
have watched in awe and wonder at how Judi brought joy and meaning to the countless twists and turns of the
years. She has been the absolute love of my life, and my fondest best friend!
Judi lived her life with joy and purpose. Her family came first and foremost. It was her anchor. She was
witness to sadness, but never gave in to it. Instead, she became more committed to the beauty in her life.
“Friendship” was much more than a word. It was her hallmark. She was curious and kind. She reached out
with a genuineness that touched the people she met; and they, in turn, reached back to her. She cared about
them and, as she did, they cared in return.
Judi was a do’er: a whole-hearted team member in every endeavor – large or small. She saw things that
needed to be done, and did them. She saw a tomorrow that deserved to be, and worked hard every day to
Each day to her was precious and full. She devoted 24 years to being all that an Army wife could possibly
be. She cherished the role, and imbued it with dignity and honor. Following that – and over a period of 20
years – the Monmouth Medical Community became a defining purpose and calling. It was her passion.
Around it was a kaleidoscope of other activity: tennis, boating on Dress Gray, safari in Tanzania, the
mountains and skiing at her beloved Vail, grandchildren, West Point, charities, golf… the list goes on and on.
She loved it all. And, especially, she loved sharing it with her friends. She blazed a trail, radiated happiness,
and left us a shining legacy of hope.
Looking back, there is no greater gift I could possibly have had than to live my life with Judi. We shared a
true, profound, and lasting love. And her spirit remains today – and forever – as radiant as it did that moment
fifty-nine years ago when our eyes first met!
By Noël Dawkins Mihalow
We take for granted the continuity of each day. The repetition. The mundane. Until a piece is taken away. And
the alignment that guides our life has vanished. Our world spins off its axis. And we find ourselves unmoored,
Our family has lost its center.
Over the course of a few weeks, an auto-immune disease took my mother’s life. It compromised her lungs. And
it was unstoppable. What it did not do was damage her heart. That, it couldn’t do. It may have tried, but as all
of us know, her heart held reservoirs of strength. It had too much love to ever be diminished. It had weathered
the loss of both parents and an adult child. It remained vigilant as a husband left for war, not once but twice.
It was a heart that was big, warm and it definitely had an obsession with leopard print. All
of you are here today because of that heart. And because of her love.
So, it is fitting that we should say goodbye, at least for now, here in the Military Academy’s Cadet Chapel,
where in so many ways, my mom’s life began: with her marriage to my father. In my father, she found more
than a husband. She found a soulmate. Someone who shared her drive, her sense of adventure and innate
curiosity. Their marriage remains a blueprint for a loving, healthy relationship filled with respect and
I like to say that in every successful relationship, there is a flower and a gardener. This may be the first time
anyone has publicly referred to Pete Dawkins as a flower, but my mom was the gardener in their marriage.
She was the foundation, the bedrock, upon which everything was planted and thrived. From my dad’s multiple
careers to two children and six grandchildren. As human beings, we have dominant qualities that shape who
we are. My mom was no exception. Three qualities truly paint the portrait of who she was a person, as a wife
and mother, and as a friend.
First, she was strong.
My mom’s strength wasn’t something she found when she became a military wife, but it definitely brought it
into focus. As we traversed the country with my dad’s military assignments she was the one who moved us
each of those 24 times. She took over the physical and emotional leadership of our household. She balanced
the pain of saying goodbye to friends and neighbors with a sense of the adventure to come. Her guiding
rule was that we had 7 days from the time we packed the first box until we had the last box unpacked. And
believe me, with her in charge, for those 24 years, that rule remained unblemished. At 8 months pregnant with
my brother, and unable to fit behind the steering wheel of our family car, she found the strength to push it to
a jumpstart - at 4:30 in the morning – in the rain – after my dad received a surprise rollout call as a Company
Commander in the 82nd Airborne Division. Herculean efforts like that morning were part of her DNA. Her
strength bolstered her through the loss of her parents, and ten years ago when my brother died suddenly
and far too soon. And she was a pillar of strength for all of us as I underwent open-heart surgery five years ago.
She was joyful.
Joyfulness was her default mode. You could see it every time she smiled. That smile radiated with joy. She
found joy in so many parts of her life, but nowhere did she find it as much as with her family. Growing up as
an only child, she understood how valuable each family member was. It didn’t matter to her if it was just her
two parents, her six grandchildren or her husband and his sprawling Michigan family. She loved them all with
the same abandon. She didn’t know any other way.
Her friends were another source of joy to her. Her “dear hearts”. And once you were in, that was it. You had
Judi Dawkins in your corner. We used to joke that she was constantly ‘herding’ her friends, checking in,
keeping them close whether it was in person or over the phone, via text or on email.
Seeing all of you here today, taking the time to come here, to honor her and support her family would have
made her heart soar. And for the last 59 years, she found her greatest joy with the cadet she met at West
Point. She and my dad were inseparable. Tennis, golf, chores around the house, meals with the Queen of
England, Class of 59 skiing mini-reunions in Vail, spending weekends or holidays with family, it didn’t matter
what they did, if they were together, she was filled with joy.
My mom was generous.
She knew, and believed in, being of service to others. She gave of her time and effort and spirit throughout her
life: As a military wife, a Mother and Grandmother, as board member and trustee at the Monmouth Medical
Center, and through our Dawkins Family Foundation.
It didn’t matter to her if it was a large gesture for a friend or a small act of kindness for a stranger, at her core
my mom wanted to give back. To make things better. When my company shot a video on Vail Mountain for the
Vail Veterans Program, my mom immediately volunteered. And let me tell you, she was one of the best
Production Assistants I’ve had on set.
As a board member for the Monmouth Medical Center she’d be up early to drive to New Jersey to attend meet-
ings in person. When she was in Vail, she’d was up before dawn for conference calls and up late reading and
reviewing board materials. She was fully committed.
And if you ever needed a favor, a child looking for an internship, or you knew somebody who’d just moved to
New York and could use a friend to help them acclimate in the city … much like Marlon Brando’s Godfather,
you would pay a visit to Judi Dawkins.
My mom and I were incredibly close. We spoke to each other either in person or on the phone nearly every day.
I was lucky to have shared some of my most treasured moments in this life together: my wedding, the birth
of my children, my parent’s 45th Anniversary celebration, skiing in Vail, our safari in Africa, to name just a
few. Like most mother/daughter relationships, there have been a few times where we didn’t always see things
eye-to-eye. But my mom had that uncanny ability that all great moms possess: Regardless of the situation,
she always knew what to do.
As a mom now, I understand just how much responsibility she took on as a mother, and how much of her
wisdom and experience informs how I raise my children. I was always glad to be able to impart some of my
youthful wisdom back to her, as well. A few years ago, she began signing off on her emails with
I asked her, Mom, why did you laugh at the end of all your email to me?
What do you mean?
You wrote LOL at the end. Laugh Out Loud.
She said, No, that means Lots Of Love.
And she did have lots of love. Especially for her “dear hearts” which includes every one of us in this room.
Since I began writing this eulogy for my mother, I’ve struggled with how to accurately convey her legacy. Was
it her family? Her friends? Her time as an Army wife? Her charitable work? The answer is: Yes. All of it.
Everything she’s accomplished and everyone here today. She was indeed the glue that held us all together.
And, now, as time marches forward, as it inevitably does, it is OUR responsibility to keep her in our hearts, to
hold onto each other, with the same resolve and passion that she always did for us. That’s the legacy she
would want, and, given our tremendous loss, one we all desperately need.
I have to say, I feel a bit robbed by that autoimmune disease. It has taken my true North from me. From all of
us. But she was not a bitter person. So I will be strong. And I will be joyful. And I will be generous. And by
doing so, I carry her with me and keep her close.
So, today, as we bid her farewell, I think it is only fitting to offer her, and each other, my mom’s own words
and say: L O L.