April 1, 2019 // 11:54 AM

Experiencing Life in Community

Written by Juanita Fox

Judy Rettew’s adventurous spirit leads her to amazing places. Judy, who has been blind since birth, accepts any challenge she thinks may have a hint of fun in it. She’s traveled all over the United States and the world. In the 1970s she traveled to Israel, where she recalls floating in the Dead Sea and climbing Tel Lachish. She also traveled to Europe, spending time in London, England and Krakow, Poland.

Judy’s outgoing, fun-loving personality draws people to her. When she moved to Garden Spot Village in January 2016 she quickly connected with her neighbors and made lots of friends throughout Garden Spot Village. Her friends have been working to help her cross once-in-a-lifetime adventures off her bucket list.

In Summer 2017 she joined a group that went water tubing in the Pequea Creek. “The rapids were a little scary,” Judy says, describing the experience. “I learned to listen for rushing water as a child, so I knew the rapids were coming and they can twirl you around when you are in a tube. It was a fun experience. I was tethered to Mike Hertzler, the fitness coordinator, so I was fine.”
In September 2017, her friend Nancy Heckman invited her to join her on a hot air balloon ride. “I was surprised; I thought I would feel more movement,” Judy says. “We went up about a mile high. It gets quieter because the ground noises recede.”

In Fall 2017 her friend Jack Alexander connected her to the Stoltzfus family, an Amish family with a dairy farm where she milked a cow. It was a first for Judy and for the Stoltzfus family. They all gathered around to help her milk the cow by hand and watched attentively. The youngest boy, Steven, watched Judy so carefully, he lost his balance and fell into the manure trough!

Milking a cow at the Stoltzfus farm was the start of a beautiful friendship for Judy. When the Stoltzfus family attended a presentation at Garden Spot Village in May 2018, Judy surprised them with an applesauce raisin cake to thank them for the time they spent with her.

Only when the family returned home and were enjoying the cake did they wonder, “How did a woman who is blind bake us a cake?”

So they asked. And Judy, who loves to share her story, said, “Please, come and visit me in my home and I will show you.”

In June 2018 Judy hosted all nine members of the Stoltzfus family, Bill and Carol Neumann and Jack and Debbie Alexander in her studio apartment in Gardens West, while she demonstrated how she makes rice krispie treats.

The visit deepened their relationship. Several months later, the teacher of the one-room school where the Stoltzfus children attend, invited Judy to share her experience being blind with her students.

As an only child, Judy doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to interact with children so she welcomed the opportunity to share with the next generation. On a Friday afternoon in mid-March 2019, Judy and Jack went to the one-room school where 25 students, ranging in age from 5 to 14 as well as 15 members of their family eagerly awaited their arrival. Judy demonstrated how she walks with a cane, showed the students how she reads and writes in Braille, how she uses a cube slate to do math and how she folds paper money and counts change.

She also printed each child’s name in Braille and provided the alphabet to the teacher so she can continue to teach the children to read Braille. The children surprised Judy with a short concert, as their thanks.

“The children stood around me as I was reading and writing,” Judy says. “They were very interested. They are not afraid to ask questions; it’s how they learn. The children were really good, so well behaved and a joy to be around.”

For Judy, continuous opportunities to learn and grow and live with purpose in community abound at Garden Spot Village. And she embraces each opportunity that comes her way. 

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