Sad and Sudden News

March 28, 2012 § 4 Comments

You will be as shocked as we were to learn that Judith, our partner, our dear friend, who has been a pillar of this cafe for so many years, died on Friday night.  Apparently in her sleep, apparently of cardiac arrest.

She was present at the creation, when Charles, Raphaela and I started this little joint almost 35 years ago.  She had been an actor with Charles in a couple of plays I directed and she called me up one day in 1977 to say that Charles had given up that profession (the theatah!) for an equally meshuggene one–he was going to open a cafe.  I called him up to ask about this nonsense and within a few days we had decided to go in on this mad venture together.  He enlisted his then girlfriend, the beautiful Raphaela, and within two months, the three of us–Charles, Raphaela, and I–opened the notorious one-room cafe with the notorious toaster-oven and the famous espresso machine.

Judith was with us in spirit from day one, and physically as soon as we made enough money to have someone come in to do the books.  Then Charles and Raphaela took off for Italy for 41/2 months (for which I have never forgiven them) and Judith and I ran the cafe.  She became de facto our first manager and did the books for years.  In the early 90’s when there was a recession (there were such things in those days, but you are too young to remember), her father died, she inherited some money, and–whoopee!–she became a partner.

Her husband Johnny, who was fifteen years older than she, unbelievably survives her.  He fought in the Battle of the Bulge, he  worked for Bell Atlantic as an engineer for much of his life, in his spare time he was a cartoonist and a playwright (we did one of his plays downstairs), but he began over the last eight or ten years to disappear into the twilit world of Alzheimer’s.  And Judith began to devote more and more time to his care.  Some years ago she made the painful choice to move him into a home.  For the last several years she bicycled up religiously every day to tend to him.  For the last several years he has not recognized her.

We recognized her from the beginning as a beautiful, sturdy, indomitable soul.  We do still and we will continue to do so as long as this little joint still stands . . .

We have put the beautiful picture of her by Jim Moore –from an exhibit here almost thirty years ago called Women on a Pedestal–in the window.  She will always be on a pedestal for us.
There will be a memorial service at 11am on Saturday April 14 at The Friends (Quaker) Meeting House located on 15th Street just west of Second Avenue

The family requests no flowers. Instead donations may be made in her name to The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America (

with love,

Robin, Charles, Raphaela, Bob, Dan and the whole Cornelia Street crew


§ 4 Responses to Sad and Sudden News

  • Brant Lyon says:

    This is indeed sad news. Thanks to Judith’s vision, hard work and dedication to Cornelia Street Cafe, I can say that the cafe has been a steady and deeply satisfying part of my cultural and literary life in New York City for many years. Thank you, Judith!


  • Ed Nelowet says:

    Thank you for writing this wonderful piece about Judith, and also including that lovely photo of her.

    I met Judith less than six months ago. Her husband Johnny and my wife are residents on the same floor at the facility that cares for those struck with dementia. It was a privilege to get to know her, and see how she lavished her love on the love of her life. She was an inspiration to me and many others there. She will be missed, but not forgotten by staff , the others residents who she always had time for, and her fellow spouses.

    I spoke with her the evening before she passed away, and told her about the lovely lunch that a friend and I had enjoyed at your Cafe that day. I know that pleased her, and I left with her smiling, sitting at the foot of Johnny’s bed while he slept.


  • I was stunned by the news of Judith’s death. I heard she’d died when I stopped by the cafe to say hello to her. We’ve known each other for many years, didn’t see each other often but now I miss her being in the world. She was an inscrutable, energetic, and a friend. Goodbye Judith, I’m thinking of you. Love, Lenore


  • Hans says:

    On those countless evenings many years ago when we lived in NYC and we found our way to the tasty, fun-filled confines of the Cornelia Street Café, more often than not, Judith was there to greet us. She would always set the tone for the evening with a snappy quip to remind us we had chosen the right place to be that evening. She will always be one of my lasting joys of coming to Cornelia Street and one that I will miss when I next have the chance to do so again.


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