Judy Bernice VanDuzer (nee Sinclair)

February 18, 1964 – July 28, 2023

To know Judy was to know Jesus; to know Jesus was to know Judy. After lengthy illnesses, Judy was “called home” early last Friday morning.

Born and raised in Brockville, Judy excelled academically and from a very young age she wanted nothing more than to be a teacher. The first of her family to ever attend university, she graduated with three degrees: Bachelor of Arts, Honours (Queen’s, 1987); Bachelor of Education (Queen’s, 1988); and Masters of Theological Studies (McMaster, 2006).  A life-long learner and academic, Judy was always enrolled in continuing education courses and the list of her additional qualifications is long.

As a primary school teacher, Judy first chose to serve in the inner city Jane-Finch corridor with North York Board of Education (1988-1995). After buying the historically-designated ‘VanDuzer House’ in Stoney Creek, she volunteered for many years at Winona Public School. She then became a highly valued long-term occasional teacher for the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board. First called to the service of God through the ministry of education, Judy then pivoted to education in ministry. After receiving her Masters, she was hired as the Christian Education Facilitator at Marshall Memorial United Church in Ancaster (2011-21). Through it all (1989-2023), Judy was vice-president of WISHART, a boutique agency that has helped Canadian charities raise over $2 billion. Although her strength was as a researcher and strategist, Judy won over fifty awards for her copywriting.

As an active volunteer, Judy was a chair of her church’s outreach committee; a youth group leader; a children’s ministry coordinator; Presbytery representative; church elder, member of the Official Board and, later, Council chair; beaver, cub, and spark leader; as well as a co-op preschool chair. There was more, but paper is in short supply.

As a wife to John (34 years), and as a mom to Ian (Madi), Evan, Anna (Keirn), and Sarah, Judy modeled the love of God with every essence of her being. Ironically, it was through physical weakness–first with rheumatoid arthritis and then cancer (twice)–that Judy showed her greatest strength: her faith in Jesus. Judy’s steadfast faith enabled her to surrender and become a living sacrifice to the glory of God.

Much loved, Judy has once again graduated. This time, it’s to heaven.

Grieving Judy’s death, but celebrating her eternal life, are Judy’s mother, Betty Sinclair (Brockville), her brother, Stan (April) of Prescott and her mother-in-law, Alison (Bob) of Cambridge. Judy leaves behind very much loved sisters-in-law: April, Donna, Judy H, Karen S, Karen V and Mary, as well as brothers-in-law, Douglas, Geoff, John and Stan. Adored nieces are Caitlin and Rachel, as well as nephews, Brant, David, Jack and Noah (Mackenzie). Loads of love to Ilona and Jack Calwell, too.

Judy was predeceased by her brother, Steve (Karen S) of Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia, and her father, George. Judy had a special fondness for her beloved Nannie and Grandpa, Anna and Bill Knapp (Brockville) and for her Aunt Jean and Uncle Stan Sinclair (Nepean).

The family extends very special thanks to the Hamilton health care community who have supported Judy every step of the way for two decades. Special mention needs to be made of Dr. David Robinson, Dr. Jason Profetto, Dr. Margaret Larché and Dr. Gerard Cox. More recently, Dr. Erynn Shaw and Dr. Oren Levine provided Judy with exceptional care. But it’s to Judy’s unbelievable Bayshore home care nurses, Anne Doherty and Rachel McGregor, to whom we owe the biggest debt. (Anne visted Judy almost 200 times over the past year-and-a-half!) Finally, we acknowledge the phenomenal staff of Emmanuel House Hospice (Hamilton) – including their PSWs, administrators and volunteers – for providing Judy with compassionate, Christ-centred, end-of-life care. To nurses Brenda, Cecilia, Emily, Janique, Jarah, Jerin, Joan, Julia, Kristen, Margarita, Priscilla and with extra props to Louise, ‘thank you’ is hardly sufficient for all you offered of yourselves.

Visitation for Judy will take place at Donald V. Brown Funeral Home, 36 Lake Avenue Drive, Stoney Creek on Thursday, August 3, 2023 from 2-4pm and 6-8pm. The funeral will be held at Fifty United Church, 1455 Highway 8, Stoney Creek (Winona) on Friday, August 4 at 11am. A luncheon at the church will follow. Both the funeral home and church are fully accessible.

Plans are being made to livestream the service. Details to follow.

For those wishing to make a donation in Judy’s memory, you are welcome to consider supporting the church she served for a decade, Marshall Memorial United (Ancaster), or her home church, Fifty United (Winona). In particular, Judy had a heart for children’s ministry and she was an enthusiastic and long-time supporter of CityKidz (Hamilton). If you make a gift, please do so “In Memory of Judy VanDuzer.”

Emmanuel-God is with Us

A Spiritual reflection on strength, surrender and sacrifice by John VanDuzer in honour of my wife, Judy


On the day we were married, my brother, Doug, welcomed Judy into the family with a toast to the bride.

Doug ended his speech with these words: “Judy, we give good gifts.”

Over the past 34 years, 0 months and 27 days, I still don’t know what the heck he was talking about. Like, seriously, who says “we give GOOD gifts?!”

Even so, I’ve thought a lot about what Doug said, and I’ve tried to live up to his promise.

But if the last two years… the last two months… and especially the last two weeks have taught me anything, it was that the gift Judy desired most of all wasn’t a present; it was in my BEING present.

Judy didn’t want me close so I could do stuff for her, she wanted me close so I could ‘be’ with her.

All she wanted… and all she needed was for me to ‘be’ with her.

She didn’t want me to be a human ‘doing;’ she needed me to be to step way outta my comfort zone in order to become a human ‘being.’

Moreover, she needed me to be content with and be at peace with simply ‘being.’

And it was in being with her – just being present for her – that I felt the God’s presence.

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    And as I was with her, these three words kept coming to mind:
    • Strength
    • Surrender, and
    • Sacrifice

    While I’m not a fan of 3-point sermons, and while I’m not trying to sermonize you today of all days, I hope you will grant me the opportunity to share something that seeks to solve the mystery and marvel that was – and is – Judy. That was – and is – God.

    • • •

    For more than 20 years, Judy’s body was ravaged by the relentless pursuit of rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating disease, that
    • curtailed,
    • compromised, and then
    • cut short her work at Marshall Memorial United Church.

    As if this weren’t bad enough – as if she hadn’t suffered enough – just over two years ago, Judy became extremely ill.

    Long story short, she was diagnosed with colon cancer, a cancer that later metastasized.

    From October 2021 until May 2023, she endured 27 rounds of chemo.

    Doctors ordered almost 200 prescriptions and Judy consumed over 15,000 prescription pills.

    Add to this at least 5,000 over-the-counter meds to deal with the side effects of the prescription meds meant that Judy was popping pills Gangnum-style.

    There were many hospitalizations and I can’t even tell you how many trips to the ER. And there were seven 9-1-1 calls… including one just a few weeks ago.

    Through both diseases, she persevered.

    Even at the end in her frail and emaciated state, she showed a strength that even the strongest superhero couldn’t source, much less sustain.

    Normally, when you hear the word “strength,” it’s narrowly defined in the context of “power” and “might.”

    But there’s more to strength than simply being strong.

    As Judy proved time and again, weakness can be a strength.

    In fact, ironically and paradoxically, weakness became Judy’s superpower.

    That super power – that ability to withstand unbelievable AND unrelenting physical challenges – came from God.

    I believe Judy was a living testament to the words Jesus is quoted as having said: My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.  2 CORINTHIANS 12:9

    Through it all, the mighty power of Christ rested upon Judy.

    Now, through God’s grace, she mercifully rests in peace.

    • • •


    In the world of our making, to be strong is to be self-made, selfish and secure. But God calls us to be ‘selfless,’ we are to become wholly dependent upon Him.

    I believe this is why the Apostle Paul said, For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. And then the clincher: For when I am weak, then I am strong. 
    2 CORINTHIANS 12:10

    It’s opposite day.

    This is the day where God rules, not humankind.

    Where ‘dependence’ prevails over ‘independence.’

    Where we abide by the words that we’re taught:

    Do not conform to the pattern of this world, 
    but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. 
    Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —
    His good, pleasing and perfect will.
    ROMANS 12:2

    When we recite the prayer Jesus taught, we pray that God’s kingdom will come.

    We pray that God’s will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. 
    MATTHEW 6:10

    In praying the Lord’s Prayer, we deny ourselves. 
    MATTHEW 16:24-26

    We disown ourselves.

    We willingly submit to God, giving Him authority over everything we think, say and do.

    We surrender. Fully. Completely.

    And in surrendering, we can become a living sacrifice.

    • • •


    There’s probably pretty good reason why recently widowed spouses don’t normally get up to speak at the funeral of their ‘dearly beloveds.’

    So, if some of what I’ve said, or some of what I’m saying doesn’t make any sense to you, perhaps that’s the reason.

    But I should also tell you that when planning her funeral, Judy said she didn’t want it to be about her.

    “Well, who’s it supposed to be about?!” I asked stupidly one night over a month ago.

    I’m not sure if it was the last time she gave me an eye-roll but at least this time, she added a smile. Because even she knew I’m not quite THAT stupid! She knew that I knew that she wanted the funeral to be all about Jesus.

    Sorry, this isn’t one of those funerals where you’re going to hear all the cute and cuddly stories… where you’re going to hear about goofball adventures… or the person’s endearing quirks.

    Judy didn’t want that.

    • • •

    It’s probably not a shock to say that I like to talk…. or that my ego is bigger than my nose.

    So, lean in. Listen close…
    Because the next story is one that humbles me….
    Cuts me to the core.

    It was back in 2002. It was the best of times, and the worst of times.

    We had three kids and we were in process to adopt Sarah, our number four.

    It’s then that the wheels fell off the cart.

    My business revenues were down… expenses were up… we needed to cut. And we did. But it wasn’t enough – not nearly enough.

    There were tough questions. Difficult conversations.

    And through it all, Judy didn’t yell… or throw dishes… or have a hissy-fit, tears-and-all temper-tantrum. Honestly, I think it would’ve been easier had she done so.

    Instead, she was quiet. Contemplative. She prayed a lot. And then she made a significant sacrifice.

    Judy was half-way through her Masters’ program: Masters of Theological studies at McMaster University.

    It had taken her four years to get through the first year of the 2-year program.

    She was raising a family.

    And she was vice-president of a company whose president was driving to-and-from Toronto each and every day for 13 years.

    We had a big house and a big – and getting bigger – family.

    But taking your Masters seems like a rather big indulgence when there’s no reason – no job on the horizon – for you to be back at school.

    So, she sacrificed.

    Although she felt ‘called’ to continue her studies, Judy told me she was calling it quits.

    I had utterly failed her.

    Just as the bills were piling up… so were the requests for money from various charities. One of which was the Divinity School at Mac.

    Weeks later, she opened their envelope, expecting it to ask her for much-o money. But she was in for a surprise. WE were in for a surprise!

    God was with us…

    It wasn’t a fundraising letter; it was a letter informing her that she had been the top student in her program, and that Mac was offering her a scholarship that covered her tuition for the final year of her program.

    Best of all, there was no cheque in the envelope; all the money was going to be held in her student account.

    If she used it, great! But if not, it would just sit there languishing.

    Although it took Judy another four years to complete her Masters, that scholarship not only covered her tuition, it also somehow covered ALL of her books –
    • the required readings,
    • the recommended readings
    • and the books that the recommended books recommended.

    At the end of her program, she had money left over.

    For those of you who like Jesus’ parables, I’m sure the one about loaves and fishes comes to mind.

    Even though Judy’s scholarship was only intended to cover the basics, four years later money remained in her account.

    At her convocation in 2006, she received more cash awards.

    She donated it all back to McMaster.

    At a time when we thought God had abandoned her, God was with her.

    It wasn’t God who abandoned Judy, it was us who had given up hope… and abandoned Him.

    In her being a living sacrifice, God glorified Judy, allowing her to complete her Masters.

    It was that degree that enabled Judy to apply for and get the job at Marshall in 2011.

    God was with us!

    • • •

    Fast forward to Monday, July 17 of this year and Judy was in crisis.
    I was in crisis!

    Judy needed better care than what we as a family could continue to provide.

    After taking 17 pills a day in 2022, she was now taking a minimum of 20 pills each and every day. With ever-changing dosings at 6 and 10am… 12 noon… and at 2, 5 and 10 pm.

    And more whenever she needed more. And she ALWAYS needed more!!! Heavy-duty pain pills whenever she couldn’t take it any more pushed this total up to 30 or more prescription pills a day.

    Judy couldn’t swallow. Judy couldn’t breathe. Judy needed help!

    I called 9-1-1 for the seventh time. While the kids gathered ’round, the paramedics were with us from 2-5am.

    Beginning at 8am, I started making calls. Judy needed hospice care and she needed it now! This had been in motion for weeks but time had run out.

    A hospital was suggested. No, Judy hated hospitals; keep calling. Pleeeeeeeeeeeze!

    Two hours later: a call back… A hospice was available in Hamilton; they had a bed.

    “We’ll take it,” I practically screamed into the phone, I was so excited!

    “Wait, what’s it called, again?” I asked because the hospice wasn’t on my list, heck, it wasn’t even on my radar.

    Emmanuel House? I don’t know it.
    Never mind, I’ll Google it.

    24 hours later, we were in patient transport speeding down the QEW.

    At 5:30pm, we were ‘home.’ At Emmanuel House in downtown Hamilton.

    Emmanuel. It means “God is with us.”

    God WAS with us.
    God had ALWAYS been with us.
    God IS ALWAYS with us!

    As I wrote in the lead-in to Judy’s obituary, To know Judy was to know Jesus; to know Jesus was to know Judy.

    Like Jesus, Judy was only strong when she was made weak:
    when she was MADE to lie down in green pastures.  PSALM 23:2A

    Like Jesus, Judy surrendered: her selfishness transformed into selflessness.

    Like Jesus, Judy became a living sacrifice holy and pleasing to God. 
    ROMANS 12:1

    The good you saw in Judy? That was God. For God is good!

    As the VanDuzer stained glass window to your left reads:
    Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  
    MATTHEW 5:8

    To believe is to see what can’t be seen.
    To be present with God is to see the presence of God.

    God IS present; God IS with us.
    God is ALWAYS with us.
    Thanks BE to God.



This is My Mother

A Remembrance in honour of his mother, Judy by her eldest child, Ian VanDuzer

I want to start by reading from 2 Corinthians, chapter 5, verses 1-5:

For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. … It’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life.

I don’t remember Mom ever quoting that verse specifically, but growing up, the theme of the resurrected body was a recurring one.

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    I have no memories of my mother being healthy. My brother and I were still young when Mom was diagnosed with what would become severe Rheumatoid Arthritis. I won’t lie and say that Mom’s illness had no effect on our lives, but it was never allowed to become an excuse. Instead, it became just another characteristic to list off when describing her:


    It would be easy to imagine how a painful, chronic illness would cast a shadow over the person, but Mom never let that happen for long. Mom was determined to be the mother she wanted to be, illness be damned. And it’s a testament to her strength and dedication that my childhood – and the childhoods of my siblings – are more full of memories of hobbies and passions – passions she encouraged and empowered us to explore – than of memories of her illness. She loved being a mother.

    She was incredibly, unfathomably smart. A voracious reader who instilled a love of books in all of us. People use hyperbole during eulogies, but I honestly believe that she knows more about rheumatoid arthritis than most doctors in Ontario. She was determined to always know the most about her illness, so that she could advocate for herself and what would be best for her and her family.

    She was always great to talk to. She couldn’t help but be inspiring, even if she didn’t know it.

    She was always wise and perceptive. She was who everyone went to for advice and guidance. When Mom spoke up, everyone stopped to listen because we all knew what she was about to say would be valuable, measured, considered, and good advice.

    She is the living embodiment of acceptance and love. I remember introducing Madi to my family weeks before Christmas, and at the time Mom was knitting scarves for each of us. The first time she met Madi, she took the scarf she’d knitted for Dad and gave it to her instead, because she was going to make sure that Madi would feel welcome and loved immediately. That’s just the sort of person she was.

    When chemotherapy actually subdued her arthritis, she immediately started crocheting baby blankets for grandchildren she hoped to have.

    To say that I love and appreciate her is an understatement. She is my teacher, and my inspiration. My loving, dearest, kindest Mom. And I can’t wait to see her again. And for her to smile and say in her new body that the pain is gone. Because if ever a human lived who deserved a new, glorious, resurrected body, it would be Judy VanDuzer.