Shane Hedges — Eulogy of Governor Judy Martz. Saturday, November 4, 2017 — Butte, Montana
***Check Against Delivery
Harry, Justin, Lynna, Stacey, Abe, Remy and Rogan, Carol, Penny, Joe, Jerrie and other family and friends, we gather today to honor the strongest and most courageous woman many of us will ever know.
As the first and only woman to ever hold the office of governor of Montana, Judy Martz made history.
But that title is merely the most visible manifestation of the life of an extraordinary woman with remarkable strength, concealed depth, and an immovable conscience.
At every step of her journey from her birth in Big Timber to her final valiant fight that has now ended, Judy defied all expectations.
Judy fought cancer the way she fought everything in her life — with the heart of a champion.
Three years ago, outside the surgery doors in the tense hospital waiting room, Judy’s beloved Harry — the first and still only First Gentleman of Montana — sat saddled with the nerves and fears and uncertainty that hit everyone who waits in agony for doctors to emerge from a difficult surgery.
Not knowing what else to do, he stopped for a moment to write down his thoughts.
But as many of us know, Harry is a man of few words. So what emerged instead was a list.
Down the page he scrawled ‘cheerleader’, ‘race car driver (sort of)’, ‘state champion softball team member and hall of famer’, ‘Miss Rodeo Montana’, ‘ranch hand’, ‘Olympian’, ‘mother’, ‘heavy truck driver’, ‘secretary/treasurer of motocross’, ‘president of Women’s Ag’, ‘hockey ref’, ‘postal carrier’, ‘hospital board of directors member’, ‘Chamber president’, ‘Field representative for a US senator’, ‘organ donor’, ‘lieutenant governor’, ‘governor’, and ‘corporate board member’.
And when his list was complete, he wrote a simple, poignant question: what has your wife done lately?
I think Harry made that list because he needed to remember each opportunity Judy seized, every barrier she overcame, and each fight Judy won.
I think Harry needed to know, in that moment of uncertainty, that Judy would fight again.
She was born with the grit and guts of a competitor.
Her parents, Joe and Dorothy, learned early that best way to motivate Judy was to tell her she couldn’t. Like a wild mustang on the open range, Judy was drawn to the untamed path.
She became a trailblazer.
When she was in high school, her mom told her she wouldn’t make it three months in Wilsall training for the rodeo. She blazed her way to become Miss Rodeo Montana.
Her sister Carol, seeing how that worked, one day told Judy she would never beat skating-great and fellow Montana competitor Silvia White. From that day forward, Judy never again lost to Silvia. She blazed her way to the world speed skating championships in Japan and later the Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
Her dad — and I hope this wasn’t just between you and me, Harry — told her she could find better than Harry Martz. She drove to Harry’s house, told him they were getting married, eloped that night to Idaho Falls and blazed her way to 53 loving years of marriage.
When you told Judy Martz she couldn’t, she did. Every. Single. Time.
Not too long ago — weakened from her battle with cancer and sick from the drugs aiding her fight — we sat on her porch reflecting on her life. I asked her what she thought was her greatest accomplishment.
She said, serving all of you.
That truth is no surprise to anyone here in this room.
Senator Conrad Burns showed up in Butte one day asking his good friend Judy to serve as his representative there. An aide asked him, “Do you even know if she’s a Republican?” Conrad with his trademark bluntness replied, “I don’t care. What I know is that Judy cares about people.”
It was working with Conrad that she got a fire in her belly for elected office. She wanted to do more to serve the people in the greatest state in the nation.
So she called up Governor Marc Racicot one day and asked him if he would consider her to be his next running mate.
She was so certain that the only way to create opportunity is to believe in it that she packed up her office at Conrad’s and continued calling Marc until he said yes. Never before had a woman earned the honor of serving as lieutenant governor. She blazed another trail.
As lieutenant governor, Judy soared. She crisscrossed this magnificent Big Sky Country motivating and inspiring Montanans to do the same. They came to know her as their champion, a woman who left everything she had on the field.
Judy called me one day to ask if I wanted to fly with her to McCone County for the Lincoln Day Dinner. Our plane nearly crashed that night as we skidded off the runway. From that moment of flying sparks and Hail Marys, we had a bond.
And when it came time for her to run for governor, nobody gave the good ole boys the memo that the way you motivate Judy is to tell her “no”. They told her she wasn’t strong enough or smart enough or capable enough to be governor.
So Judy called the indomitable Karl Ohs and together they showed the doubters.
They assembled a team in every county of Montana, cleared the primary field of all but one, then beat her primary opponent and won the general election despite being outspent by $2 million dollars. She blazed the trail for women to the most powerful job in the state of Montana.
And when the campaign was over, she rolled up her sleeves and went back to serving you.
She passed the largest tax cut in two generations, turned a $230 million deficit into a $120 million surplus, implemented a jobs program, and helped Montana become one of the national leaders in personal income growth late in her term.
She led the difficult effort to rebuild the highway through Pablo and fired Montana’s one and only silver bullet to clean up asbestos in Libby.
And you make no mistake, it was Judy Martz’s support that led to the cleanup and removal of the Milltown Dam.
Judy’s bipartisan colleagues of the Western Governors Association elected her Chairman where she led the charge on the Healthier Forests Initiative, while she also tackled the methamphetamine crisis here at home.
Judy was commander in chief during a time of great national peril. She always kept Montana’s service men and women close to her heart when they were abroad defending our freedoms.
Judy Martz was authentic and real; and few ever connected with the working men and women of Montana like Judy. From the moment she signed the Jarbidge shovel of solidarity, Judy became a champion of loggers, miners and cowboys — giving voice to the working class, backbone of our state.
But nothing mattered more to Judy than keeping Montana kids in Montana with sound educations, good paying jobs and strong families.
The path was not easy.
For hell hath no fury like the scorn of men when a woman is blazing a trail through their territory.
But Judy was never alone. From Isiah 43:2: when you pass though deep waters, I will be with you, and when you pass through the rivers of difficulty, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not consume you.
Judy Martz’s faith was unshakable; her constitution made of steel.
She got up every single day with an impenetrable optimism, a smile that melted hearts and a deep commitment to serving every Montanan.
Even if you never believed in Judy Martz, Judy Martz always believed in you.
Sometimes, Judy even believed in those who didn’t deserve it. I know, because I was one of them.
In the darkest hours of my life when I knew that I didn’t live up to her trust or to all of yours, Judy’s character was a bright light.
She had to fire me. She needed to fire me. But she dug in and she refused. To hell with politics and critics, Judy Martz was loyal to the core of her being.
So I resigned. And Judy wept. Not for herself or her political future. She wept for Paul and for me.
Judy’s resilience made people stronger.
Her optimism made people hopeful.
Her loyalty gave people strength. Her loyalty helped me to heal.
Her leadership inspired others to take a stand.
And when asked what she was most proud of as governor, she replied, “the team we built and the promises we kept.”
Her love for the people of Montana flowed from a deep well of devotion to her family. Before she died, I asked her what she most wanted her grandchildren, Remy and Rogan, to know in their own lives.
She said without hesitation, “always tell the truth, even when it isn’t popular.”
To the Morstein and Martz families, on behalf of a grateful state, thank you for sharing her with all of us.
And to Remy, and to my own little girl and to every little girl under the Big Sky, I offer this advice.
Blaze your own trail like Judy did.
Dream big. Determine your own destiny. Reach for your own aspirations. Just like Judy did.
Trust your gut and your instincts so you blaze your trail with conviction and passion. Just like Judy did.
When the writers and the critics and the haters diminish you and belittle you, hold your head high and you stand your ground. And YOU blaze on.
Grasp Judy’s love for life and her selflessness. Reach behind you and help the next one along, as she did for me and so many others.
Cultivate compassion in your heart. Be loyal, kind and decent to one another.
Spend time in prayer to fulfill God’s purpose for your life. Give generously of yourself.
Be strong and brave and bold.
That is who Judy Martz was.
Now Judy Martz belongs to the ages. But the trail she blazed belongs to you. Make it a wider path than when you found it.
So long, Governor. Thank you for your extraordinary life.