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What's In a Name?


I’ve never given my name much thought. I don’t love it or hate it. I’ve always considered Judy a rather milquetoast moniker. It’s not exotic or exciting. I’m a third child, so there was no need to name me after some beloved relative. I think my parents just liked it. But I have a new reason to relish being a Judy. I have a brilliant, beautiful namesake who is now a part of my life. 

Here’s the backstory: Judy Chen’s parents are from Taiwan and her dad was at the University of Texas working on his PhD in the late 1980’s. Since she was born in Taiwan, she had a Chinese name. But when they moved to Austin, they wanted to give her an American name before she started elementary school. She was around 4 at the time. When her parents asked her to suggest a name, I was on TV delivering the news at KVUE, which they often watched. She thought I was “glamorous” and my job looked cool, so she said,

“ I want to be Judy like her when I grow up!” and her parents agreed. 

I was deeply touched and honored when they called the newsroom to let me know that they'd named their daughter after me. So, I invited her parents to come watch a newscast and bring little Judy to meet me. We took pictures together on the anchor desk (which sadly neither of us can find). 

Some young people might have eventually soured on being saddled with a Baby Boomer era name, but it’s always meant the world to me that Judy has embraced it. She even considered switching her major to journalism for a brief moment while attending UVA. She wisely stuck with architecture, moved to New York City after college and started working in the hospitality business. Her current job is in hotel real estate development. BUT she loves performing ( sound familiar?) and has also pursued an acting and modeling career. Judy is truly talented and has come close to being cast in some high profile Netflix series. Did I mention she is fluent in Mandarin Chinese? Needless to say, I’m quite proud of my namesake! 

Though we’ve stayed in touch, up until her visit to Austin in March, we had not seen one another in person since our original meeting. I was in my late twenties at the time. Now I’m 63 and she’s 42. We discovered our May birthdays are just five days apart. 

When she texted to tell me she was coming to Austin on a business trip, I found myself both excited and nervous to meet my namesake as a fully formed, fabulous adult. What if she was disappointed when she met me as an almost senior citizen ( heavily stressing ALMOST here)? What if we had nothing to talk about? What if our worlds were so different we found few things in common? Well, that didn’t happen! We decided on getting together for dinner and I chose the patio of one of my favorite restaurants, Bar Peached. From the moment we hugged and sat down, there was NEVER a lull in the conversation. We talked for 3 hours and it seemed like 3 minutes. Our personalities are amazingly alike despite our age difference. 

I suggested some authentically Austin activities on the Sunday she had free: Gospel Brunch and barbecue at Stubbs in the morning and Chicken Sh#%t Bingo at The Little Longhorn Saloon in the evening. I mean who doesn't love a girl who dives right into Lone Star beer and yells at a chicken to poop on her bingo square? We had a blast! 

Judy’s parents divorced when she was in high school and her dad remarried and is back in Taiwan now. She left her longtime home in Los Angeles during the pandemic and moved to Las Vegas to help take care of her mom who was battling lung cancer. Judy’s mom passed away two years ago. But as a devoted daughter, she moved her life to be with her mom. So now, Las Vegas is homebase (and a really great place to go visit).  

The Judys have plans now! We are staying connected. We often text funny messages to each other or just check in. We have dreams of producing a podcast together. What should we call it? Judy,too? The Judys? (That was actually the name of a Texas punk band in the 80’s) 

One thing is certain. It won’t be another 35 years before we see each other again (I’ll likely be 6 feet under by then, anyway). And, I’m now leaning into the name Judy. There are plenty of accomplished, amazing women, past and present, named Judy: Judy Garland, Judy Collins, Judy Woodruff and, of course, Judy Chen. 

1 Comment

May 05

What a lovely story! Thank you for making me smile today! PS I remember The Judy’s. 😄

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