NEW PORT RICHEY — She hobnobbed with senators and judges. Even a governor or two when in town.
Judy Case was connected, and she didn't mind asking. She enjoyed helping politicians win elections, and that meant building campaign war chests. But she will be remembered most for turning that talent for raising money toward the neediest in Pasco County — the disabled, the blind, the terminally ill.
During the last 15 years, she endured her own terrible sickness. Her family often steeled for the worst, but she always bounced back. Even with crippling pain, she flitted from table to table at gatherings of the locally powerful, leaning on her cane as she held a hand out to be kissed.
She had charm. She wasn't shy.
Last week, she scheduled a regular appointment at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where she had been treated for various ailments since doctors diagnosed breast cancer in 1994. She beat that disease, but diabetes and other calamities finally silenced her. Surrounded by her family on Friday, Mrs. Case died at the hospital. She was 72.
Pasco-Pinellas Circuit Judge Lynn Tepper, whom Mrs. Case helped get elected to the bench 25 years ago, spoke of her old friend with reverence.
"She was elegant and enthusiastic," Tepper said Monday. "She was optimistic in her approach to life, work and friends. She was generous from the heart — and the pocketbook."
In 2000, the West Pasco Chamber of Commerce bestowed its highest honor, the Eminent Pioneer Award, on Mrs. Case. It acknowledged many years of volunteer service to organizations like HPH Hospice, the Salvation Army, the Association for Retarded Citizens, the Lighthouse for the Blind, the American Heart Association, the Pasco-Hernando Community College Foundation and on and on.
She enjoyed politics and served as a key member of the first political action committee in Pasco County, the Allen Committee, which recommended candidates and helped fuel their campaigns. She often had fundraisers and conducted other political functions at her stately home on the Pithlachascotee River that once was owned by renowned pro golfer Gene Sarazen.
Mrs. Case was a tough, self-made businesswoman. At 40, she split with her husband and raised four teenagers. She had no income but borrowed money from her parents, both college educators, to get into the health rehabilitation business. She eventually owned Comprehensive Rehabilitative Services, which grew to 60 full-time employees before she retired in 1995.
The family is planning a memorial service at 11 a.m. Dec. 4 at Our Lady Queen of Peace Church in New Port Richey.
That would have been her 73rd birthday.
Bill Stevens can be reached at (727) 869-6250 or at [email protected]