Dr. Judith Newton, Retired Missionary, Dies
March 17, 2011
By Jane Horstman
Dr. Judith (Judy) May Newton, a longtime member of Boulder Creek United Methodist Church and a retired United Methodist missionary to Japan, died at her home in Scotts Valley, California, apparently of natural causes on March 12. She had been in poor health for some time. A memorial service will take place on May 21, 2011 at 1 p.m. at United Methodist Church of Santa Cruz, 250 California Street, Santa Cruz, CA 95060.
Judy Newton was born in Sebastopol on March 23, 1939 and lived in the Central Valley and the Bay Area. The daughter of the Rev. Clark Newton, a pastor of Alameda, Twin Towers UMC, she attended the College of the Pacific at Stockton and received both her M.A. and Ph.D. in Medieval English Literature from the University of Illinois at Urbana.
For much of her life she served as an educational missionary for the General Board of the Global Ministries in Japan, teaching at Christian institutions and, as she expressed it, "witnessing to the joy, truth and power of the good news, in and out of the classroom."
Newton went to Japan in 1967 as a short-term missionary. After six months of language training in Tokyo, she taught at Baika Girls' School and Women's University in the Osaka area. She returned to the United States in 1971 to work as a parish worker and college teacher before returning to Japan in 1974.
She was commissioned a missionary in 1976 and was assigned to Sendai, Japan where she taught full-time at Tohoku Gakuin University for 10 years. She also worked in New York at mission headquarters, as missionary-in-residence, with special assignments in Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Monterey, Mexico.
Newton returned to Japan in 1988 and was eventually assigned to Kwansei Gakuin University in Nishinomiya, between Osaka and Kobe, where she taught English and American Literature to undergraduates and graduate students. She also assisted in chapel services, programs in the campus Christian Center, and offered a monthly Bible study in her home at the edge of the campus. She also served as missionary representative to the "Christianity at Kwansei Gakuim" committee, as well as serving on the boards of trustees of Fukuoka Girls School, Seiwa University, and Kobe Women's College.
After retiring in 2005, with 28 years of service, Newton returned to Japan to work at the Hiroshima Jogakuin Women's University as the assistant to the chancellor. While there, she transcribed eight notebooks of the missionary Margaret Cook, a pioneer of kindergarten education in Japan. She also was instrumental in the English translation of the stories of the survivors of the Hiroshima bombing, found in the book For Those Who Prayed for Peace.
"The recent tragedy in Japan would have broken her heart," shares her cousin and long-time friend, Mildred (Millie) Von Schell of Watsonville, CA. "Japan was truly where her heart was.
"She was always so busy. After retiring, she just seemed lost. She missed her friends and being busy," Millie continued. "Judy loved to travel. I travelled three times with her to Japan. She was such a world traveler and she had friends everywhere she went," Millie reminisced.
"She spoke Japanese. She wrote Japanese. Everything about her had to do with Japan. Everything she did had that focus," relays Becky Perry from Boulder Creek UMC.
Newton loved music and poetry and composed her own original songs. She co-wrote Songs of Bible Women with Diane Stanton Rich while in Japan and was a published author, of her music book, Went to the River. She occasionally led the worship service at Boulder Creek UMC and loved sharing her music with the congregation.
Newton spent many active years as a member of the United Methodist Women in Santa Cruz and had a circle, "Judy Newton Circle," named in her honor at Twin Towers UMC in Alameda, CA. She worked as the financial secretary at Boulder Creek UMC as well as traveling throughout the Conference, sharing her stories and her experiences in Japan.
"We'll miss her at Boulder Creek," says retired pastor the Rev. Clyde Vaughn. "I had the utmost respect for her – her dedication and her commitment to the people of Japan. The irony, the synchronicity is difficult to fathom… of the timing of the disaster in Japan and her death."