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Judith Strasser ’66

A picture of Judith Strasser

Judith Strasser ’66, January 29, 2009, at home in Madison, Wisconsin, surrounded by family.

Judith was born in New York City, and raised in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She received a BA from Reed in history, graduating Phi Beta Kappa, and an MS from Stanford University in communications research. She married Steve Ela in 1972; they traveled throughout the U.S. in a van for over a year before settling in Davis, California, where their first son was born. A second son was born in Madison; the couple divorced in 1989. Judith was instrumental in the creation of the Madison Children's Museum. She donated time to community radio station WORT, the Wisconsin Public Radio Association, the Madison Literacy Council, and the Wisconsin Coalition Against Domestic Violence, among other organizations. She was a grant writer and grants administrator for the Wisconsin Educational Communications Board from 1983 to 1985. In 1985, she produced an award-winning documentary on women judges in Wisconsin, and for the next five years worked as an independent scriptwriter and producer for Wisconsin Public Radio. In 1990, she was hired as a producer and on-air interviewer for To the Best of Our Knowledge, a nationally syndicated weekly public radio program. She left this career to write her books, Black Eye: Escaping a Marriage, Writing a Life and Facing Fear: Meditations on Cancer and Politics, Courage and Hope. She also wrote two collections of poetry, Sand Island Succession: Poems of the Apostles, and The Reason/Unreason Project, which won a Lewis–Clark Expedition Award. She was coeditor with Robin Chapman of On Retirement: 75 Poems.

Judith was successfully treated for Hodgkin's disease in 1981–82 using chemotherapy and radiation. In February 2005, she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, considered a consequence of the earlier radiation treatment. She lost her ability to speak in 2007, and created the blog In Lieu of Speech to keep others informed of her progress and her ideas. Her friends included poets, cyclists, dragon-boat paddlers, members of Congregation Shaarei Shamayim, the Walrus Club, and Reedies. Survivors include her sons; three sisters, including Susan Strasser ’69; and her niece.

Appeared in Reed magazine: May 2009

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