Windermere resident, Judi Tome, left behind a legacy of art and creativity after her passing on July 29.
WINDERMERE A painted blue-and-green background frames the blank spot on the canvas where a small black-and-white dog would have been painted. The unfinished painting hangs above a desk covered in paintbrushes.
The portrait will never be finished.
Judi Tome had just begun working on it before she died. It was to be a portrait of her own dog, Chief, who had died earlier in July.
It’s a reminder of Tome’s unstoppable energy, even in the days leading up to her death on Saturday, July 29.
“She was kind of like the energizer bunny,” said her daughter, Karin Tome.
She gave art lessons to her granddaughter, Emily. She cooked dinner for her daughter, Karin, several times a week. She spent months planning trips for her art students. She never turned down the chance to help her friends and family. And every Thursday, after a round of chemotherapy, she would meet with her church group for lunch.
It was her vibrant liveliness and creative spirit that everyone knew. Few even knew she was battling cancer, said her daughter, Kristin O’Brien.
Diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer in 1996, Tome was given two years to live. It was nearly 20 years later that she received a second cancer diagnosis - stage-four metastatic bone cancer. But Tome refused to let cancer consume her life - she even refused to wear hospital gowns when she had to attend doctor appointments.
“She always looked good,” O’Brien said. “She always wore a scarf, always had sparkle. She was always put together. She didn’t look like a sick person.”
Despite the cancer pervading her body, Tome never for a second stopped creating.
“It ran through her veins,” O’Brien said about her mother’s creativity.
The two sisters can still remember their childhood summers helping their mother paint a different room in the house. One year, Tome wanted a Tuscan-themed kitchen and painted a mural of vines and birds across the walls. Another year, she painted Cinderella’s carriage in Karin’s bedroom.
“She could make anything enjoyable and creative,” O’Brien said.
Tome had once dreamed of being a consume designer for Broadway, but was told by her parents that she had to choose between being a teacher or a nurse. She chose teaching and ended up teaching art for 25 years.
Art was her passion.
She always carried a sketchbook with her where ever she went. She would sketch at church, at her grandkids’ sporting events, at the beach. Dozens of small sketchbooks filled the nooks and crannies of her home. She always grabbed one before she left the house.
As a member of the Florida Chalk Artists Association, she often participated in chalk-art events, including Winter Garden’s Spring Fever in the Garden.
But despite her incredible artistic skills, she always focused on helping her students rather than furthering her career as an artist.
“She would always say that there’s something in everyone,” O’Brien said. “She would laser focus on a kid and see that they had talent.”
It was this spirit that led her to become a founding member of the The Master’s Academy in Oviedo.
“She always had that vision,” O’Brien said. “She was putting in all the pieces to make that happen because she cared about the next generation.”
She even painted the screaming eagle mural in the middle of the academy’s gymnasium floor.
“She could do anything,” Karin said.
And she always glowed with pride over her students’ success. Several pieces of artwork from former students hang in on the walls of her home.
Her own artwork is tucked away in closets and drawers. She never displayed it, although friends and family often insisted she enter her work in contests and galleries. Tome never wanted the accolades or attention, her daughters said. She just wanted to have fun.
“I think that’s the mark of a true artist - (their work) doesn’t have to be displayed,” O’Brien said. “She did it for herself.”
Contact Brittany Gaines at [email protected].