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Official Obituary of

Irma Rae (Swickard) Judkins

January 12, 1929 ~ March 4, 2024 (age 95) 95 Years Old
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Irma Judkins Obituary

Irma Rae Swickard Judkins – gracious host, green-thumb gardener and motivating piano teacher – died March 4, 2024 at her home in Greenwood, Indiana. She was 95.

The daughter of Iva Esther Breidenbaugh Swickard and Alexander Foster Swickard, Irma was born in Indianapolis on Jan. 12, 1929. She was a 1947 graduate of Southport High School and a 1952 graduate of the Jordan College of Music at Butler University.

Her husband of more than 71 years, Alan D. Judkins (Jud), died in 2020. Together they raised three children, traveled widely and shared a lot of (often wry and irreverent) laughter.

Irma was a private piano instructor for more than 45 years, starting in high school, when she stuffed sheet music into a satchel and rode her bicycle to students’ homes around Edgewood on the south side of Indianapolis. Later, when the students came to her home, Irma’s own children knew by Mom’s arched eyebrow that absolute silence was expected during lesson hours. Her students appreciated Irma’s demanding yet encouraging style. One said, “I hated piano ... until she was my teacher.”

She retired from teaching when Jud retired in 1992, and the couple then made a career of travel, especially enjoying national parks and the wine country of Sonoma County, California. A favorite destination for both was Manitowish Waters, Wisconsin, the Northwoods spot where they had honeymooned and where their children and grandchildren loved to join them.

Irma was a creative, engaged mother, with a knack for making big fun without spending big money. Her kids considered it a treat when the head-for-bed routine included a tour of “Hall Street,” stopping to visit the Kitchen family and Big Bill Bathroom. She sprouted kidney beans in wet paper towels, grew samples of cotton and peanuts in the Indianapolis back yard, made hats out of Dixie Cups, and cut cake layers into elaborate animal shapes, then clad them in shredded-coconut fur. She led her kids on hundreds of state park hikes punctuated by leaf identification, bird observation and an appreciation of rock work left by the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Her children and grandchildren sponged up Irma’s love of nature and history. Her efforts to instill dedication to the piano keyboard did not absorb quite as well, but a love of music certainly did.

Irma’s own kids weren’t her only kids. The doors to her home (and her refrigerator!) were always open wide, and dozens of her children’s and grandchildren’s friends counted on her: “She always made me feel so welcome.” “She was a second mom to me growing up.” “My second set of summer grandparents for many years.” “She was pretty amazing!”

Irma delighted in hosting festive meals and parties, and she had a Martha Stewart eye for decorating the table. She could talk to anyone – and loved to, often following guests down the driveway as they were leaving a gathering, just to continue the chat. She was especially fond of Christmastime, and decorated a dazzling tree each year. She and Jud hosted many holiday open houses that featured a particularly potent cranberry punch.

Waterskiing thrilled Irma, and she skied regularly well into her 60s, which is longer than can be said for any of her children. She was known for shouting a long “wheeeee!” when rounding a curve outside the wake on a particularly glassy lake.

She had a talented eye and hand for the flower garden, and her plantings were a seasons-spanning showcase of color and shape. Irma delighted in the opportunity to host an event among flowers in her yard, or to take a guest for a walk among the blooms.

 

She was a meticulous seamstress who transformed acres of fabric into curtains, blinds, prom dresses, wedding gowns, Halloween costumes – and a remarkable progression of clothing refashioned with ruffles, inserts and panels to accommodate growing children.

Her many “Irmaisms” will be quoted for years to come. Said of the smug: “If they mind, they don’t matter, and if they matter, they don’t mind.” To encourage inclusion: “It’s always nice to be asked.” And to stoically accept a lousy euchre hand: “You can’t play ‘em if you don’t have ‘em.”

She was a member of Delta Delta Delta women’s fraternity, as well as a founding member and former president of its South Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter. Other memberships include Sigma Alpha Iota international music fraternity and Indianapolis Matinee Musicale. She was a Girl Scout leader and taught kindergarten at the First Presbyterian Church of Southport.

Irma is survived by her children Alan Judkins Jr. of Indianapolis; Jane Stegemiller (Matt) of Indianapolis; and Amy Skoronski (Steve) of Estero, Florida. She also leaves behind grandsons Erik Stegemiller (Amanda Parsons) of Boulder, Colorado, and Kurt Stegemiller of Muncie, Indiana, as well as great-grandchildren Holley Stegemiller and Henry Stegemiller of Boulder.

Other survivors are her sister-in-law Shirley Judkins of Carmel, Indiana; nephew David Swickard (Kristine) of East Hampton, New York; and nieces Jean Bates of Carmel and Nancy Swickard of Muncie.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Development Office, 32 E. Washington St., Indianapolis, IN 46204. Please indicate your gift is in Irma’s memory.

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