Share your memories


As we each mourn the passing of our friend, Judy Bonds, we thought you might like to share your favorite memory of her on this site. We all have a story about her and it would be wonderful to have these memories told.

Thank you for sharing your stories. Thank you for honoring Judy Bonds.

Share your memory

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33 Responses to Share your memories

  1. Mary Anne Hitt says:

    I remember how people used to describe Judy Bonds. Ten years ago when I first started working to end mountaintop removal coal mining, Janice Nease, then the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch, would always say that Judy marched into their office “like a linebacker,” ready to take on the coal companies that had destroyed the West Virginia hollow where her family had lived for nine generations.

    She was a force to be reckoned with, and she never looked back. In 2003, she won the Goldman Prize – often called the environmental Nobel Prize – and she went on to inspire thousands of people.

    This morning, we all learned that Judy has died of cancer. Like thousands around the world, I was stunned to hear the news. Like many, I considered Judy a friend, mentor, and hero, and I can’t imagine the world without her. I grew up in the Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee, and I admired Judy’s unwavering devotion to Appalachia, her refusal to let our purple mountain(s) majesty become a sacrifice zone for the nation’s energy production.

    When I was executive director of a grassroots group called Appalachia Voices that was working to end mountaintop removal, I turned to Judy for advice when the pressures of running a small nonprofit seemed unbearable. I remember calling her once as I was struggling with some tough character or another, and she said, “Look, this is hard work, and everybody says and does the wrong things sometimes. Just don’t let it bother you and let it go – like water off a duck’s back.” That advice from Judy has become a mantra for me.

    Now that I have a baby of my own (an 11th generation West Virginian), I have a new appreciation of the story Judy would always tell about the moment when she became an activist. Most of the rest of her family had already moved out of Marfork Hollow due to the pollution and havoc wreaked by a nearby mountaintop removal operation, but she had stayed, until the day she found her grandson playing in a stream full of dead fish. From that moment on, Judy was a tireless and fearless activist, despite death threats, physical assaults, intimidation, an exhausting schedule, and the uncertainty of working for an organization that ran on a shoestring.

    For Judy, the fight didn’t end with mountaintop removal – she understood that as long as the nation burned coal, Appalachia and all the other coal-producing regions of the nation would never be granted a reprieve. She had a more sophisticated understanding of politics and energy production than some of the most experienced lobbyists I’ve met in Washington.

    She saw the poverty and environmental devastation in the Appalachian coalfields as living proof of the folly of trusting the coal industry’s promises. For those who haven’t been exposed to Judy’s wisdom, humor, and insight, author Jeff Biggers has pulled together some of her great quotes, articles, and videos in a tribute here:

    When Judy was diagnosed with cancer, she told all of us, “We’ve got them on the ropes, so don’t let up for a second.” That is true not only of mountaintop removal, but also of coal’s stranglehold on energy production in this country. In the New Year, let’s all work even harder to end mountaintop removal, move America beyond coal, and lead this nation to a clean energy future. That is the best possible tribute we can make to Judy Bonds

  2. Larry Gibson says:

    My friends its a sad day. We’ve lost a voice of the mountains, one of the great voices of the mountains, and most certainly a soldier, to cancer. Her voice will not die or cease because she’s left. In memory of her and what she stood for, most certainly, the voices from the hollers and the mtns will continue simply because who she was and what she stood for.

    Do not let her passing be in vain. Let her be an example for you to stand and speak out and say Enough is Enough. The price we pay in the Appalachian Coalfields, as you can see by the passing of this young lady, Judy Bonds, the price is far far too high. And so when you’re wondering what you can do, take a stand give her her voice back. Don’t let her voice die, you be the voice she had.

    Be the voice of the people oppressed so we can have equality, the health, the fresh water, the fresh air that the rich people take advantage. And those of us who live in the Coalfields of Appalachia cannot take it for granted. This is Larry Gibson reminding you that the fight is not over, it has been raised to a higher level. Keep her and your family in your thoughts. Continue to fight and if in any given time you wonder, you think about the lady who fought as hard and she did and she will be the fuel for your fire.

    Take her passing to be the fuel for your fire. Concentrate at the issue at hand and and she would say, as i do, never give up what you believe in. I will give you this promise that i will never back in on what i have told you. So, i encourage you to step up to the plate and ring your voices through the hills and hollers and let them know you’re not going anywhere. I look forward to having a long future with you.

    Larry Gibson, Keeper of the Mountains Foundation

  3. Vernon Haltom says:

    It is with great sorry that we mourn the passing today of Julia “Judy” Bonds, Executive Director of Coal River Mountain Watch. Judy was more than a co-worker, friend, and mentor: she became family. She inspired thousands in the movement to end mountaintop removal and was a driving force in making it what it has become. I can’t count the number of times someone told me they got involved because they heard Judy speak, either at their university, at a rally, or in a documentary. Years ago she envisioned a “thousand hillbilly march” in Washington, DC. In 2010, that dream became a reality as thousands marched on the White House for Appalachia Rising.

    Judy endured much personal suffering for her leadership. While people of lesser courage would candy-coat their words or simply shut up and sit down, Judy called it as she saw it. She endured physical assault, verbal abuse, and death threats because she stood up for justice for her community. I never met a more courageous person, one who faced her own death and spoke about it with the same voice as if it were a scheduled trip.

    Ultimately, Judy did all any one person could conceivably do to stop mountaintop removal. One of Judy’s last acts was to go on a speaking trip, even though she was not feeling well, shortly before her diagnosis. I believe, as others do, that Judy’s years in Marfork holler, where she remained in her ancestral home as long as she could, subjected her to Massey Energy’s airborne toxic dust and led to the cancer that wasted no time in taking its toll.

    Judy will be missed by all in this movement, as an icon, a leader, an inspiration, and a friend. No words can ever express what she has meant, and what she will always mean. We will tell stories about her, around fires, in meeting rooms, and any place where people are gathered in the name of justice and love for our fellow human beings. When we prevail, as we must, we will remember Judy as one of the great heroes of our movement. We will always remember her for her passion, conviction, tenacity, and courage, as well as her love of family and friends and her compassion for her fellow human beings. While we grieve, let’s remember what she said, “Fight harder.”

  4. Jen Osha says:

    Judy welcomed me into Coal River for the first time a decade ago.

    I was in a state of disbelief at what I had seen just on the drive down. Vida, just a little black puppy, and I slept on the couch at the old CRMW office. In the morning, she was showing me pictures on the computer and finally just said, “Oh, let’s just go see ourselves!” and off we went to White Oak to see the impoundment behind Joe Barnett’s house. We hiked up behind his house to look at the catch ponds. In no time at all, up comes a security truck and then out steps an angry looking guard. What I remember most of this moment was that as Judy talked to him, his face got redder and redder, and a vein began pulsing in his jaw. Vida was growling a puppy growl while Judy listed off all of the violations that she had seen to this guard. My brain was quite stuck at the overwhelming injustice of it all. We were, of course, kicked off the property.

    On the drive home, Judy’s good humor was infectious and soon we were laughing ourselves silly at the red face and twitch of the guard. Judy said, “See, Jen, you can always tell when they know they’re doing something wrong,” and she patted Vida’s head and said, “even dogs know.”

    Judy was my friend and my hero. I find that very hard to write in past tense. She is my friend and hero, and she helped me often in my struggle as a mother and as an activist. If it was hot outside, then she invited us over for a swim in her pool. If I was stressed out, it was time to a little sit outside together away from the phone and computer and take a break. She always wanted to know that we were warm, had enough to eat, and always had time to ask about the little things that mattered.

    I love you, Judy, you are in my heart forever.?

    p.s. I have a regret

    I wanted to get to spend time with Judy in these last months. With getting married, and getting pregnant!, I just wrote letters and figured she was probably tired of all the company, anyway. Well, I regret not having one more porch sit and laugh with her. I think that it is easy to take what we love for granted, or to think that there will always be time later to do the things that really matter. Judy is still teaching me lessons! I’ll do my best to live without regret, Judy, I promise!

  5. Bo says:

    I think my fondest memory of Judy may come from our first year Mountain Justice Campaign. We organized three days of marches here on Coal River. The first day was an interesting experience with the Massey wives giving us a hard time as we marched past Marsh Fork Elementary. We made the mistake of getting caught up in the insults being hurled at us and Judy fired a few back. The next day was full of emotion as we marched from Whitesville up to Marfork where the Massey clan waited for us again. A high level of intensity developed because they were literally blocking the road into Marfork Holler, Judy’s homeplace. She was fit to be tied. That evening we talked about how the Massey Clan knew our plans, we had a spy among us. We drove down the road scouting past the entrance to Marfork Holler. There were still a few of them hanging around just in case we came back I suppose. We began to talk and devise a plan. We talked about designing a “red herring”. Talk about doing one thing, but then do another. I said to Judy that I think I have a great “red herring” to offer. I told her that we could tell everyone our plan for tomorrow would be to repeat the march today. The spy would tell the Massey Clan and the Massey Clan would send even more than they did today, but we won’t show. We began to devise the plan. The temperature the next day was to be in the mid 90’s. We would let them stand in the sweltering heat, waiting for us. After a couple hours of waiting their energy would be draining and then we would come driving down the road. I had a giant Hornet’s nest on my property and we figured we could take it down after dark that night and put it in a garbage bag. By late afternoon the next day those hornets would be super pissed off. I would drive slowly by the Clan and Judy would untwist the bag and throw it out the window. I never saw Judy laugh as hard as we were devising that plan, never seen her more happy. She laughed for a while and then said, Oh God, we could never do that, but it’s sure fun thinking about it.
    We were never serious about it. It was just a good way to take a break.

  6. Mari-Lynn Evans says:

    Judy Bonds was a true Appalachian heroine, and she was my friend. Like so many others, she inspired me and she changed the course of my life. Without her, I would never have spent the last 4 years of my life making films about and working to stop MTR. But, that was her power and her gift. I will never forget the first time I met Judy. We were filming THE APPALACHIANS and she came to be interviewed about women’s issues. It wasn’t long before Judy began to tell me about the horrors of MTR. And after I left, she called me until I finally came back home and made COAL COUNTRY. Judy lit a fire in my soul and for that I will be forever grateful. I will miss calling her when I need advice, or just a good laugh. I will miss her voice but I know, as she did, that now there are thousands of voices because of her. In her memory, I will continue to fight the good fight to save our beloved Appalachia. I will fight and then I will fight harder.

  7. Scott Parkin says:

    I remember the first time I really spent time with Judy. RAN organized an action at Powershift 2007 with her and friends from DC and the coalfields. At the action, 300 youth and coalfield residents shut down a Washington D.C. Citibank branch (Citibank was a major funder of coal and mountaintop removal at the time.) Judy and other coalfield residents went in the branch to talk to the branch manager before our march arrived. Later she gave a rousing speech to everyone there about being the future and leading our movements for clean water, clean air, clean energy, and an end to mountaintop removal. I spent a lot of times at camps, conference, marches, actions and just hanging around with Judy at the CRMW offices or in quick moments between events. I think when they write “The People’s History of the 21st Century, Judy will figure prominently in the chapters about coal, mountaintop removal and Appalachia.

  8. Adam Hall says:

    I remember sitting in on a staff meeting once. There were a lot of ideas being thrown around, but the one thing that I can remember most was Judy saying “We got to stay focused. We got to keep our eye on the prize,” I’ll never forget it. Those words are now etched into my brain until the day I die. When it was confirmed Judy was sick, I wanted to make sure her and her family were doing okay. I remember the volunteers say “The family asked for us to go see her.” I complied until I saw her out one day out on the porch as I was driving by. I had to stop. We talked for a little while about business, then of course how my dad was. She always could make you laugh. Eventually I sneaked over 2 more times. My last trip we went on about an hours long conversation (it turned into a debate) on biscuits. It will be one of my biggest regrets to know I never was able to get that pan of biscuits to her. I loved Judy for her way to connect with anyone that would lend an ear. She was not just a voice of the mountains she was in a lot of ways the mouth. Able to speak without fear, able to speak for those who wouldn’t, and able to speak clear and true. Thank you Judy Bonds for touching my life.

  9. Dave Cooper says:

    We have lost a great leader in the struggle to end mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.

    Julia “Judy” Bonds
    Photo by Mark Schmerling

    As many of you have heard, the fearless West Virginia coalfield leader Judy Bonds passed away on Monday, January 3 from cancer. She was 58.

    There will be a memorial service next Satuday, January 15 at a location to be determined (probably Charleston, West Virginia). Updated information on the memorial will be posted here as soon as the details are finalized. I hope that you can attend this service. If the hotlink above doesn’t work, go to:

    I am encouraging everyone to make a donation in Judy’s memory to Coal River Mountain Watch, so that the work of this great organization to end mountaintop removal can continue. You can mail a donation to the Coal River Mountain Watch office at PO Box 651, Whitesville, WV 25209. Make checks payable to “Coal River Mountain Watch.” You can also donate on line here.

    The Washington Post did a very nice story about Judy, and you can read it here.

    And there is a wonderful collection of stories, photos and essays about Judy here.

    Judy was a fierce fighter for the people, the culture and the land of Appalachia, as well as a huge inspiration to me personally. She changed the course of my life. I admired her tenacity and her grit. She was tough and fearless.

    Judy was a strong supporter of the mountaintop removal road show, and I was honored when she came on several road show trips with me, in addition to hundreds of other speaking engagements she has done across America over the past decade. Judy knew that it was going to be very difficult to win this battle in Appalachia – we had to take our message about mountaintop removal nationwide.

    And I believe that we have succeeded. Mountaintop removal is now a national issue, not just a regional issue, and it has entered the mainstream consciousness. For example, the plot of one of 2010’s best selling novels, “Freedom” by Jonathan Franzen revolves around mountaintop removal mining in Wyoming County, West Virginia. There is even a cerulean warbler on the cover of the book – a bird that is endangered by mountaintop removal.

    Judy’s vision and determination has been a large part of our success.

    Judy spoke about the importance of the road show in 2003. These quotes were taken from an early version of Jeff Barrie’s great film “Kilowatt Ours”

    “What we’re gonna do is … let America know what’s happening in West Virginia … We’re not going to be your sacrifice for cheap energy any longer!”

    Speaking at the KFTC Flyover Festival near Hazard, Kentucky in 2003:

    “I’m not saying what we need to do, I’m saying what we’re gonna do … we’re gonna come together, and we’re gonna beat this! We’re gonna travel across America – and the people that they consider to be ‘ignorant hillbillies’ are going to educate America about what’s going on!”

    Goodbye Judy, you will be greatly missed.

    Dave Cooper

  10. David Novack says:

    I met Judy 6 years ago at the first demonstration to protect the kids at Marsh Fork Elementary. It was my first film shoot with MTR activists, having already covered all the “industry” material I knew I needed for the film.

    Judy’s short stature belied her awesome power. She had an ability to deliver a message on point, with fervor, and still have a smile in her eyes beyond the anger. That’s how she was with friends in the crowd – an example of loving strength. Judy rallied the crowd and then turned to me to say, “this is a war, and it’s only the beginning. You and all those other folks with cameras and microphones, you have a job to do in this war. I hope you do it.”

    Judy then marched with Bo onto the bridge, over the Coal River that she loved so much, and towards the security guards demanding that the coal operators come talk with them. Of course, none came so Judy and Bo held their ground until they were put into a police car and taken away amidst cheering crowds.

    This was my introduction to MTR activism, my welcome wagon from a breed of humanity that has had uniquely fertile ground in Appalachia, my baptism into our shared responsibility to bring MTR’s demise no matter who we are, no matter where we live. The introduction came with fervor, with anger, with purpose, with tears, and with smiling eyes and cheers. It came from Judy. And I hope that I, “and all those other folks with cameras and microphones” do a job of which Judy will be eternally proud.

    Cheering crowds.

    Over the years, I’ve seen Judy’s army of neighbors grow from a few dozen in the Coal River Valley to many, many thousands around the world. Judy will always be loved by the growing masses who have cheered her work and who now cheer her journey on.

  11. Joyce M. Barry says:

    The last conversation I enjoyed with Judy was in April 2010. I traveled from my home in NY to WV to visit family, and conduct additional interviews with women involved in the movement to end mountaintop removal coal mining. I hadn’t seen Judy since my previous visit to WV in August 2009, and we were trying to arrange our schedules during a very busy week for both of us. Judy was free on Friday of that week, but I had plans to spend the day with Maria Gunnoe in Bob White. I was free the next day, Saturday, but Judy was busy filming with the Goldman foundation, and overseeing the installation of security measures at Climate Ground Zero’s Rock Creek home. “Oh, shoot,” Judy said when we both realized a visit wasn’t going to work out for us on this trip. I told her I didn’t know what I was going to do without my “Judy fix” and promised to let her know when I was back in the mountain state. My first conversation with Judy was seven years earlier, in 2003, while I was a PhD student working on a dissertation on the impacts of MTR on communities in West Virginia. Like others who are a part of this amazingly strong and diverse movement to end MTR, I have many memories of Judy, but can only share a couple in the confines of this blog space.
    In June 2006, with a new digital tape recorder in hand, I sat down with Judy on a small couch in the CRMW office – a couch by the window that sunk in the middle. We practically sat on top of each other for an hour as she patiently and energetically answered every question I threw at her. I was incredibly nervous. As an Appalachian, a West Virginia expatriate, a woman, and a person committed to environmental justice, I greatly admired her. In fact, I adored her. Because of this, I had difficulty maintaining a cool, academic detachment. Shortly after sitting down, I gushingly told her that she was the “Erin Brockovich” of the coalfields, to which she smiled and reminded me that she was just one among many who care about this issue, and who work tirelessly to end MTR. Over the course of our conversation, we touched on many topics, and Judy shed tears when she talked about the time commitment involved in being a community activist, expressing guilt for being away from her daughter and grandson too much. I tried to comfort her by pointing out that she is part of something larger, more significant, historical. I told her that her family probably understood, and if they didn’t today, one day they would. I said that one day a lot of us would look back on this time, and be happy that we took a stand, and spoke out against coalfield injustices and the indefensible, egregious practice of MTR. At the end of the interview I shared a quote with her by the great Howard Zinn, who said that in this world of conflict and injustice, a world of “victims and executioners,” it is imperative that we align ourselves with the victims, not the executioners, and if we adopt a neutral stance in the face of injustice, we are more closely affiliated with the “executioners” than the “victims.” Judy agreed, and said that for her there wasn’t a “neutral” position when it came to MTR. She wiped her eyes, and thanked me for the questions, telling me that she liked how they focused on community activism and what it means to be an environmental justice activist. I’ll forever cherish this interview.
    In November 2008, during a presentation with Vivian Stockman in my Gender and Environment class at Hamilton College, Judy passed out a bag of coal to students, instructing them to “rub it on your face if you don’t think coal is dirty.” She did this while proudly wearing her “Save the Endangered Hillbilly T-Shirt,” (and military fatigues) passionately telling her audience the social, cultural, political and environmental meanings behind the T-Shirt slogan. She charmed these students, who live far away from the coalfields of Appalachia, and never heard of mountaintop removal before this presentation. Later that night she and Vivian gave a moving public presentation to the campus at large, where Judy informed the audience that when it comes to MTR, “I draw a hard line in the sand, and I don’t cross it.” Here, too, she made it clear that she consistently aligned herself with the “victims” and not the “executioners,” in the face of social and environmental injustice. As Vivian, Judy, my partner, Anne, and I were walking back to my car after the event, Judy said, “I think Joyce is homesick….when are you coming home?” She was right. Seeing these West Virginians in my New York community made me realize just how homesick I was. Anne and I traveled to WV one month later and were invited to Judy’s house where we drank root beer, talked national and environmental politics, and met her daughter, Lisa, and beloved dogs, Dixie and Dusty. Anne and I were both honored to be guests in her home, and to spend time with Judy out of the office, and off of the lecture circuit.
    In the time between seeing Judy and visits to the mountain state, I emailed her when I learned of yet another political failure to stop MTR, or when I read threatening posts on comment boards where enraged people, or “Neanderthals,” and “knuckle-draggers,” as Judy called them, threatened to kill her. I always worried for her safety. In her emails back to me she brushed it off saying, “I’m being as safe as I can be,” and “thanks for your care.” Thanks for your care, Judy. Thanks for “stepping out,” shaking us up, educating us, bringing us together, and keeping us focused on the most important parts of this battle: to end MTR, and to work for the use of alternative energy sources. Nobody can replace you, but we will continue in your honor, in your name, in your memory, knowing that you will guide us every step of the way.

    Joyce M. Barry, Clinton, New York.

  12. Chuck Nelson says:

    It’s hard to talk about a great friend as Judy was, and now realizing I won’t get to see that smiling face, like I’ve experienced for the last 40 years. I remember sharing time with her throughout all the establishments that use to be located in Whitesville, as we were growing up. And I don’t care to mention, that Judy was beautiful lady, she was an easy 10, and I had a crush on her, even though she never knew this. I remember traveling to Beckley on weekend, to this club called the Roaring 20’s, where her, and Debbie Jarrell, and some of Judy’s cousins, would meet and have some of the best times of our lives, partying, and dancing to the wee hours of the morning. And Judy was a heck of a dancer, with her shimmering smile, and just glowing from head to toe. But what this great lady taught me, came a few years later. She taught me the true meaning of what friends, and family, and the tightness of community really meant. My wife Linda and Lisa worked at the bank together, and Linda would always tell me some of the fun, and conversations, that her and Lisa had. Lisa’s world revolved around her mother, and her son Andrew, and Judy’s world revolved around them. But Judy’s trust and love for her family and friends, was unconditional. Her family, her sister that passed a couple of years ago, Lisa, her daughter, Andrew, her grandson, Ernie, her brother, and her relatives, Wayne Williams, Burr-Head Williams, just to name a few, and her friends and home place, meant everything to her. But she showed just as much compassion for her neighbors , community, and anyone she came in contact with, and everyone that knew her, and talked with her, left with a lesson that she was instrumental for. I will miss you, and look forward joining some day long the mountain tops, and make that journey, down into the valley’s, where we will be surrounded by the mountain ridges, who make us who we are.

  13. Eric Blevins says:

    The spirit of Judy Bonds will live on in the hearts of so many people fighting for justice in the mountains of Appalachia and elsewhere. Her fearlessness was and continues to be a huge inspiration to me.

    The first time I saw Judy was on a TV screen in the film Kilowatt Ours when I was a student activist, but my earliest memory of her in person was when she came to the 2006 Earth First! Rendezvous in southwestern Virginia at Little Stony Falls. It was there that she told us about a great t-shirt idea, for a shirt that would say:


    Judy sure was radical.

    Fight harder, it’s what she wants.

  14. willie says:

    my strongest memories of judy right now are very simple. just seeing her in crowds at demonstrations and conferences and camps; and finding her to say hello and give her a hug and exchange a few words about how strong the movement is and much we all love each other and delight in how we make a fools of big industry people (and how they make fools of themselves). It was always so clear that Judy loved everyone and that for all the hell that the coal industry put her through, sharing fellowship with others filled her with joy. I also remember a handful of times when judy and i were on opposite sides of strategic or philosophical rifts. and she sure wouldn’t pull her punches in explaining her perspective on the situation or whatever the particular disagreement was but there was never any doubt that she loved and respected me anyway. and as soon as the meeting or accidental impromptu meeting was over, it was time to again delight in the fellowship of our movement.

    i know we’re all really missing judy and we always will. we are all so much stronger for having known her. i’m so thankful that i knew her.

  15. andy mahler says:

    Heartwood mourns the loss and celebrates the life of Julia “Judy” Bonds, Hellbender, defender of the Appalachian Mountains, community organizer & activist, and fearless opponent of mountaintop removal.

    We first met Judy in 2003, the year she won the Goldman Prize and recognition as the most outstanding activist in North America for her absolute commitment to ending the devastation of her beloved Appalachian Mountains. Accompanied by Patty Sebok and Janice Nease, Judy attended the Heartwood Forest Council held at Camp Blanton, in Harlan County Kentucky, along with the likes of Cynthia McKinney, Granny D, and Woody Harrelson, to deliver a keynote address. Judy inspired and motivated the attendees with her fierce dedication and her passionate commitment to justice, and she touched our hearts with the deep love she felt for the mountains of home. Judy reminded us of the fundamental connection that binds us to the places we love. She reminded us why the Appalachian Mountains hold a special place in our hearts — the oldest mountain chain on Earth, they are also the ancient source, seed bank, and sanctuary in those storied hills and hollers of the temperate deciduous forests that for millenia have blanketed the eastern half of our continent. And those forests have produced one of the most vibrant cultures and communities anywhere on the planet. Judy was proud of her “hillbilly” heritage and she wore it as a badge of honor. She won the hearts of all who heard the power and the passion in her voice and knew the love she felt for those mountains.

    Judy again provided a keynote address in 2006 at the combined Heartwood Forest Council/Summit for the Mountains, held in Ripley WV — at that time the largest ever gathering of activists and organizers dedicated to stopping the obliteration of mountain communities and culture under the onslaught of mountaintop removal. The first scenes shot for what would become the feature film “Coal Country,” by Mari-Lynn and Phylis Geller, in which Judy played a central role, were filmed at the 2006 Forest Council, where Judy rallied the assembled company to the cause.

    At this past year’s Heartwood Reunion, Judy was honored with the Heartwood Hellbender award for her extraordinary dedication to defending the mountains of home. The last time I saw Judy was in Nashville, Tennessee, just before she received the diagnosis that would cause her to withdraw from her duties at CRMW and attend to her own well-being. We were there for the NRDC sponsored “Music Saves Mountains” concert featuring such musical luminaries as Emmylou Harris, Dave Matthews, Patty Loveless, and Kathy Mattea, but it was Judy along with fellow mountain defenders Maria Gunnoe, Larry Gibson, and Teri Blanton who were the event’s true stars.

    Judy was not a large woman, but she was fierce. She had a burning passion for justice and the heart and spirit of a mama lion. She gave so much of herself and dedicated her life and breath to defending the mountains she loved. In the movie Coal Country, Judy famously remarked, “I just want to go home.” and now she has. Wherever rivers run free and forests grow tall, wherever people gather to defend the places they love or celebrate the simple joys of home and community – fellowship, music, and food – Judy will be there and she will be smiling.

    We love you Judy and offer our deepest sympathy to your family, and our utmost respect, gratitude, and appreciation for all you have done.

  16. Dana Kuhnline says:

    Judy was so many thing to so many people. This is part of my version of her.

    “I want you to notice nature, how geese are in flight and they form a V in a leadership role…The lead goose, when he gets tired of flapping his wings, he drops to the back and the next goose comes up front. Without stopping, without fussing, without whining. He becomes that next leader, he or she, that’s what we have to do.” -Judy Bonds, PowerShift 2007

    Judy Bonds passed away last night. She was a key leader in the fight against mountaintop removal coal mining, in the global fight against climate change and in the fight for environmental justice for communities across the US and the world.

    She was a good friend and a hero; I love her funny jokes, her generosity, her bullheaded stubbornness, and how considerate she was. I miss Judy explaining the best way to walk down a steep mountain without stumbling, the best way to make pintos, and the best way to make a major corporate bank stop funding mountaintop removal, and Judy making us watch and re-watch a spoof version of the “All the Single Ladies” music video. She was a strategic genius, a fierce warrior, a truly brilliant thinker, and a nice, funny, loving person.

    Another thing Judy was, was gorgeous, with her movie star brown eyes, and everyone declared that when the movie was made about her life, of course Sally Fields would play Judy.

    Judy was dedicated to a just society; she saw the struggles for justice as interconnected. She saw straight through appearances and took people for who they were, and what they could contribute. She welcomed you, and everyone.

    This summer when Judy and her family learned how sick she was, everything was full of life and green and long sunny days, and now, suddenly, cancer. Musicians came and played for Judy in the hospital, and the riot and laughter and foot stomping delighted her roommate and got everyone kicked out, except Judy of course.

    I spent the rest of that day staring through tears at percentages and third stage lung cancer on the internet, the porch swing creaking back and forth, and it felt like everything in the city and the mountains all around us was hoping and hoping.

    We got the call late at night, already in bed, and the news kept us pinned down to the mattress, laying lungs to lungs. I thought about our breathing, the swelling of air in our chests, and all the other people who held a piece of Judy, laying in bed with eyes wide open, thinking of her, hearing her voice.

    Oxygen is something that is denied to so many people because of coal; particulates ruin lungs. The whole cycle, the coal fired power plants, the thick air where mountains are blown up for coal, the dusty hollers where coal is processed, and, of course, the lungs of those digging it out. And coal is taking our lungs and now our whole atmosphere, through climate change. I feel outrageously privileged for the ability to pull air into my lungs. And I feel outraged.

    When coal takes your lungs, it begins to take your ability to yell and holler, to sigh and laugh and make jokes, but it doesn’t take your voice. When asked if she had any words to share with the thousands gathered to stand against mountaintop removal in DC this past September, Judy asked everyone to “Fight Harder.”

    Sometimes people accuse activists of being against everything, instead of standing for something positive. To me, Judy was always an example what we are fighting for, what we want, what we deserve. Dignity, health, heritage and an earth to live on, the simple and sacred bonds of family.

    “Your heart is a muscle the size of your fist – keep loving, keep fighting” is a quote I have seen attributed to Dalia Sapon-Shevin. In my memories of Judy, she is always doing everything with her whole heart, and she is fighting hard, yes, Judy was incredibly tough and fierce, but what made her so tough was her blazing love, and the diamond hard vision she shared with all of us, of what was worth fighting for.

  17. Matt Wasson says:

    Back in 2002, Judy was the first person to take me to a mountaintop removal site. The power of her story and her conviction changed the course of my life. I have no doubt she had the same impact on dozens of other people through the years.

    A year later, after she won the Goldman Prize, Judy donated $5,000 of her personal money to Appalachian Voices for our work on mountaintop removal. This was among the first significant donations we ever received for work on the issue and it is part of what allowed us to ramp up in the face of some skeptical Board members who felt it was a dead-end effort for the organization. Without Judy’s influence, we may have taken a very different course.

    Judy is, without question, a genuine American hero. Someday there will be a memorial to Judy on the road to Marfork Hollow, and generations of Raleigh County residents will be damn proud of it. But we need to finish her work first, and renewing our commitment to the people and mountains of Appalachia is the best way I know to honor her memory. Let’s get it done.

    With the greatest love and respect for Judy and the indomitable spirit of the people of the Coal River Valley with whom she worked,

    Matt Wasson

  18. Jon Gensler says:

    My tribute from the Gazette:
    On Jan. 3, 2011, we added Julia “Judy” Bonds to the list of heroes who have laid down their lives in defense of our rights, our futures, and our heritage as Appalachians and Americans.

    As a U.S. Army officer serving over the past decade of war, I have seen my share of sacrifice and laid too many friends in our most sacred and hollowed grounds. They lived and fought to preserve our liberty on battlefields far from home. Many of them died at the hand of our rampant fossil fuel addiction, by an American hand unwilling to step away from the gas pump. By roadside bombs paid for with blood-soaked oil money. Yet the courage and honor of these men and women remain untarnished, and their actions in life have secured their place in what modern Valhalla exists.

    Judy’s spirit will surely join them in those heroic halls.

    Judy’s fight was not in the barren mountains of Afghanistan or the wasteland deserts of Iraq, but in the broken and devastated Appalachian mountains of our own backyard — HER own backyard. She was a coal miner’s daughter, and a true Appalachian. As the founder of Coal River Mountain Watch, she planted the seeds for the grassroots movement to end the atrocity of mountaintop removal coal mining. Never backing down or putting varnish on her words, she earned the ire of many in the coal industry, and had her life threatened time and again for speaking out about what she saw around her. For her commitment and passion, she was awarded the 2003 Goldman Environmental Prize.

    Now, after years of living in the cloud of deadly coal dust that follows our lust for cheap, dirty energy, she has finally succumbed to the cancer that lays in wait, prematurely, for so many of our Appalachian brothers and sisters. But while the coal-fired death has eaten away at her body, the cleansing flame she has lit in others will live on.

    I first met Judy Bonds in person at the Music Saves Mountains concert in Nashville last spring. I felt awe at the power of her presence: such a small woman in stature, but a giant in heart, in purpose, and in life. She has inspired so many of us to fight harder, to shout louder, to march longer in the struggle to save our mountain communities. Judy embodied all that is grand and worthy and noble about us mountain people, us “hillbillies.” She chose to lead when politicians and business folks cowered. Armed with the truth (and slightly less occasionally, her rifle), Judy has challenged the status quo in West Virginia, in Eastern Kentucky, and throughout Appalachia like few before her.

    As we briefly chatted about the mission before us, I recognized the mettle and temper of a true warrior. Now, after her banner has fallen, it is up to those thousands she left behind to pick it up and carry forward.

    Nearly 100 years ago, Mother Jones said amid an earlier struggle, in these same mountain towns, that we must “pray for the perished, and fight like hell for the living.” Judy’s life echoes this sentiment perfectly, and in facing her own demise, she only urged us to “fight harder.”

    I, for one, am ready. We know that the fight has only just begun. Thank you, Judy, for showing us the way.

  19. Amy Potts says:

    I met Judy in West Virginia where I went for my spring break to write about Mountaintop Removal and take pictures of the area as well as the protest outside Governor Manchin’s office for the Marsh Fork Elementary School. I could tell how passionate she was about protecting the mountains and the people she cared for. Though I may be from Georgia, my ancestors lived in the mountains of Appalachia and it pains me everyday to think of what goes on. I hope that we all remember her and what she fought for, for we must now continue the fight.

  20. Rich Reardin says:

    In the past two years, I got to know Judy Bonds through my work administering the Coal Country blog, the Coal Country website, and through working with our good friend Mari-Lynn Evans, and other mountain folk through my radio programs. Mainly I got to know Judy by email, and only met her once in Nashville, TN. at the “Music Saves Mountains” concert last May.

    Ultimately, we got to know each other through the cause of stopping MTR, and during our only face to face meeting, her eyes sparkled. When I walked up to her, she had a concerned, tired look on her face as she waited for a taxi. But when I introduced myself, she absolutely lit up, and gave me the biggest smile and hug. I knew her from the movie, and photos, but she only knew me through my work with the blog, website, and emails… Her eyes sparkled for me with a light that came from the compassion she had for everyone, and the honor she held for those she felt were fighting the same fight. That light came from her love for the Appalachians, and for the hope that she held for the future. Judy hugged me, and in a quick moment that I’ll never forget, told me that she was proud of me for what I was doing. She was a small woman, but I felt like I was meeting someone very important. Like meeting Abraham Lincoln, or Martin Luther King. There was a shy sort of magnetic solidity to her that is hard to explain. She never wanted to be an activist, she just wanted to sit in her backyard with her dogs, and smell fresh mountain air. I think that’s what she shared with those true patriots of change in this country… fighting because she had to, and not because she was paid to, or wanted to be in the limelight. I told her I felt the same about her, and soon the event whisked us away from each other, and back into what we were doing.

    Judy didn’t look very well when I met her that day, and I thought it was probably because of the amount of traveling and work she was doing, and it was not too long before she was diagnosed with cancer. But cancer didn’t stop her from her work, she stayed active for as long as she could. She asked that none of us reveal publicly that she was sick.

    She never said so, but I know she suffered greatly, and never complained. Nor did she make her illness known for sympathy. I’m sure she knew that her words would speak louder after her death, and so she continued to speak out as long as she could stand.

    Being the administrator of the Coal Country blog, I got to see all kinds of mud slinging about the issue of MTR, people hiding behind avatar names and always saying that there was no pollution, that the chemicals in the slurry ponds were “safe”, and how blown out of proportion the activists like Judy made it seem. Maybe now those who wrote those things should go and stand over Judy’s early grave, and tell her personally (and posthumously) just how blown out of proportion it is.

    Once in a while Judy would write me a little blurb about those comments, but never wanted to go on the blog, because she wouldn’t “stoop” to the level of arguing with “nitwits”, as she would put it. “Besides,…” she said, “they’re probably paid by the coal companies to flood the blog with their BS.” Judy was always pretty straight forward in her language, and her feelings.

    As the years went by, I would listen to her various speeches, and you’d always see her photo when there was something going on when it came to a protest about stopping MTR. I’ve heard pro-coal company people call her “that bitch”, and it’s no wonder that she felt she had to protect herself, as she was continually threatened. And the biggest threat she spoke about ultimately killed her… living close to an out of control coal mine. She always said that she cared for the miners, but hated the corrupt and greedy coal companies. A sentiment that is mostly overlooked, because it’s so easy to blame an activist as wanting to take away jobs. I still can’t understand how anyone can fault someone for being frightened and sick. Well, we all know now that she wasn’t kidding. This was a personal battle that she fought to the bitter end.

    Judy talked constantly about water, and how she was scared for kids, including her own. She was not only concerned with the destruction of the mountains, but with the pollution that ultimately cut her life short, along with many, many others in the Coal River Valley, and many other places in this country. There is certainly sadness attached to her untimely passing, but more than that, there should be anger. She is more than a casualty, she is a martyr. If you look up the definition of martyr, you’ll see that it is described as:
    # noun: one who suffers for the sake of principle
    # noun: one who voluntarily suffers death as the penalty for refusing to renounce their religion

    Judy’s religion was Appalachia, and it’s people. We should never forget her, and continue to rally around her cause. I will.

  21. Gray Russell says:

    In February, 2009 I convinced my wife to take a detour on our winter break – driving from New Jersey to North Carolina – to stop for 2 days in West Virginia and explore some of the communities impacted by MTR. I wanted to witness what was going on, and to become more familiar with the people and the areas that supply us with coal. On our second day there I contacted the CRMW office and Judy Bonds invited me to stop by. We drove in from Charleston and I met Judy and Lorelei Scarbro in their storefront. They explained that there was a demonstration that afternoon at Marsh Fork Elementary School, and that their office had been graffittied the night before. Despite the disruption and phone calls from state troopers, and our arrival during her lunch-break, Judy took the time to show me maps, explain about the sludge ponds behind the school, and load me up with t-shirts, bumper stickers, and written handouts. She spoke to me in a passionate but powerful way, and she inspired me to help spread the word back in NJ. Upon our return, within 1 week, I spoke at a local climate conference focusing on fossil fuels; I talked about what I had seen and heard in W. Va, and used photos and maps Judy gave me to explain to this community group about MTR, and the opportunities advocated by CRMW. I asked for donations, we passed a CRMW hard-hat around, and we raised some money and sent it right down to their offices. I have done so twice since then, and every time I speak I show photos of Judy and Lorelei. She was a simple but persuasive person, sweet but potent. I salute her, and I am grateful for my memory of that day, and CRMW’s continuing work.

  22. dennis mchale says:

    wow!!! great memories and stories. i came to meet up with Judy in such a different way than many of you out in the coal states. as much as i’d have liked to have ‘honkey tonked’ with her when she was young-as noted in a memory-we came to meet one another over a question of approval. the non-profit i work with in the SOCAL Santa Ana Mountains has been fighting to stop a Vegas casino builder & owner from building 12 custom homes in our pristen canyon valley. although this developement is in no way a MTR site or if approved will use anthing close to the explosive force values know to explosive experts a Horshomas, the developement includes 6000 to 8000 sq ft homes on property with endangered species, native peoples gathering sites, historic 1st settler use, water issues and with enough soil removal-that if piled up would equal a 100 meter mountain top removal site in Appalacahia. all this for a family with direct ties (we’re to say assumed) to organized crime to build a ‘compound for the family’. anyway i digress-my group was trying to come up with plans to raise moneys to help in litigation and the cake walk money was running out. i said; ‘let’s have a ball and we’ll call it the Tree Huggers Ball’ (seeing how our activism is in the Red-est part of all of California, there was a bit of Judy in our spirit picking that name, i’m thinking). this property although a puzzle piece in the Ed Wilson: North American Wildlife Corridor, the developement had gotten a free pass from the governing powers to build. so like noted above we needed money to preserve it. in a google search of the words Tree Huggers Ball, we found an event put on in WV with the same title-back around 2004 or so and had featured entertainment by one of the ‘Back Street Boys’ and included a fly over by Senator Clinton of MTR sites (what happened with that Lady). anyway, we wanted to make sure we did not steal anyones thunder and in fall of 2005 i called CRMW offices to see if it would be ok to use this name. I GOT JUDY ON THE PHONE! everyone that has commented here on this blog knows how that 1st contact with Judy was-truely amazing– ain’t even good enough words. not only could we use the name but Judy Bonds would be our guest speaker. her and Patty would come out and be our guests. crap, my mouth was hanging open when i hung up the cell phone. Judy Bonds was the 1st guest speaker at the 2006 Tree Hugg’rs Ball (we changed the name a little). dang just writing about it now-i’ve got a big sh…oops can’t say that, grin on my face. friends we got Judy-isms like “Rapture Rushers”; “Diddling Moron” (i think that was George Bush) and “We are the ones we have been waiting for” forever in our brains. double dang-just wish i could recall them all-‘cus i was a fan right there. now I’ve met some folks before, Senator Barry Goldwater, John Wayne at the department of motor vehicles, President Jimmy Carter at a Habitate of Humanity build and some blues and rock stars and some smart hippies in my day but that Judy Bonds, she’s a Corker!

    fast forward to 2010, after hearing Devil Dan Blankenship’s debate with RFK Jr and the crack about ‘how his company and way of life enriches Sunday School Teachers’ (i paraphase); i called Judy and asked when the next big MTR happening was, as we had contuinued to talked on the phone some and e-mail quite a bit since 2006. she told me come out this spring to the Appalachia Voices gathering in D.C.; that although she would not be there that i should go there and “Give ’em hell, Dennis”. i went, brought along my 16 year old daughter to see national activism at work, and hooked up with some other Californians. we were the California contingency. just flat out fun walking into our elected officials offices and telling them like Judy (sort of-well maybe a little) “what are YOU going to do about the Clean Water Restoration Act and the Applachia Restoration Act”. we knocked on some doors spoke in some ears, shook some hands but better than anything was the folks there, just like family; Terri, Carl, JD, Matt and Lonnie-like family. great time indeed-if those of you who are reading this blog have not been-you gotta go-THIS HAS TO STOP, “Bombing the Mountaintops Off” as Judy and many others call it, is the stupidest business since-well since the word stupid!

    i’m sorry i’m rambling on so, anyway; Judy hooked up my little group this year with a ‘Coal Country’ preview; we met Mari-Lynn and Phylis and their team at the Grammy Theater, she got us a copy of the full preview dvd and we showed it 3 times here in the SOCAL; here, in the Red-est part of the state. proceeds were sent to CRMW. with a guest speaker needed for the 2010 Tree Hugg’rs Ball we asked Judy– after her moving her schedule around a bit she said ‘see you then’. i’m sorry to say in a fit of ‘cheapness’ i did fly her out; with, way to many plane changes and on the red eye. she didn’t complain ‘much’ and when we visit again i’m sure this might be a topic! sorry again Judy. we do have a u-tube video of that talk if anyone wants to let Vernon know-we’ve passed it along to him. Judy’s call to our children can be heard strongly as the theme-for you see as she gave us the message-well the cancer was gitt’in right after her-but you don’t see it-it’s crazy to think about it now. she only talked of a slight cough that she was having a tough time shaking it and APOLOGIZED for not being something-i don’t know more? how can that be! Mary Anne has told you about Judy’s amazing sophisticated understanding of environmental issues not just MTR, WV, Appalachia her passions–i’ve read, listened and talked to some folks about these issues as well and i’m full amazed at this ‘little hillbillie’s’ understanding knowing her background. again amazed is not word enough. as an example, on the last day before Judy would fly out of California, we had lunch with Chay at Laguna Beach on the outside patio of the Laguna Beach Hotel, she commented: “ 5 years this will be underwater”. we talked about Dr. Hansen, ocean acidification, the background carbon continuation, carbon sequestation, reforestation and the huge amount of ‘reinvention’ needing doing, as she dipped her toes for the 1st time in the Pacific Ocean. we talked about solar energy the good the bad projects she knew of, wind energy and how this could save Appalachia. these things as well as living local, family and a fried green ‘tomaders’ recipe (which no one wrote down; dang it!).

    anyway, here you go-as we were going to the airport on the LA freeway-she told me there wouldn’t be any cars here soon, just bicycles and it will not be grey and brown (it was June in LA) but green all over. she told us “Being a Tree Hugger is the price you pay for living on the Earth” & “From One Holler to Another” about our commitments to one other.

    sorry for the length
    thanks for listen’in
    Dennis Mc Hale
    Tree Hugg’rs Ball
    Canyon Land Conservation Fund
    ps; sorry for the spelling

  23. I first saw Judy when I filmed a protest in 2005 outside the coal plant next to the Marsh Fork Elementary school. What I saw and heard through the viewfinder was amazing. I used this 30 seconds or so in the open of my film. I thought about interviewing her in depth and for more back round but I never did. That thirty seconds said it all why bother with a talking head when she had already delivered the goods in her impassioned speech. The element that struck me was that is was a prayer I was filming. A prayer that in a few phrases went from the hollows of Coal River to a call for action that encompassed the entire world.

    During Q&A events after film screenings I often quoted two of Judy’s phrases that stuck with me.
    “you cant eat drink or breath money” and “there’s no such thing as clean coal its all got somebodies blood on it”

    The next time I saw Judy was at the 2008 Wild and Scenic film Festival in Nevada City California. I made the usual mistakes angering the big green people. By Saturday night I was surprised to learn we would win a prize. Judy and I sat next to each other in the oldest theater in the United States. I told her during the ceremonies I was a little nervous about getting up there. She looked over and said “just give em a little twang that always works”
    So that’s what I did and she was right.

    I believe Judy is right there with all the great women leaders around the world who fight injustice. She continues to inspire me to keep working.

  24. Catherine Turner says:

    I only actually spoke to Judy Bonds once, but she left a lasting impression on me. The occasion was a Hansford, WV, town meeting to discuss the impending decision to route coal trucks through our town instead of on the highway. Needless to say most citizens opposed this plan. Judy attended several of our meetings and offered her help in getting us “ready for the fight”, the outcome of which was the coal trucks did not come through our town. I was very impressed and grateful that she would travel so far to help us. Judy Bonds is truly a hero and inspiration to me.

  25. Lane Boldman says:

    The Cumberland Chapter of the Sierra Club Mourns Loss of Environmental Justice Leader Judy Bonds. Here is the Chapter’s official statement:

    It is with great sadness that the Cumberland Chapter mourns the loss of one of the great environmental justice leaders in Appalachia, Judy Bonds, who has inspired generations of community activists in the coalfields of West Virginia, Kentucky and beyond.

    Judy (Julia) Bonds was a coal miner’s daughter and the executive director of Coal River Mountain Watch. Born and raised in the Appalachian mountains of West Virginia, Bonds was a formidable community leader against a highly destructive mining practice called mountaintop removal that has ravaged the Appalachian mountain range and forcing communities, some of whom have lived in the region for generations, to abandon their homes. It was Judy’s tireless work that was largely the inspiration for growing a small, grassroots campaign within the hollows of West Virginia and Kentucky into a national movement to stop radical mining practices.

    In 2001, Bonds and her family became the last residents to evacuate from her own hometown of Marfork Hollow, West Virginia, where six generations of her family had lived. Marfork had been virtually destroyed by mountaintop removal mining, which involves completely blasting off the tops of mountains so that huge machines can mine thin seams of coal. Mountaintop removal mining completely annihilates streams and forests, and causes extensive flooding and blasting damage to homes. The pollution from mining and the toxic chemicals used in the preparation of coal for market have been linked to rising asthma rates and other serious respiratory ailments, particularly among children, including Bonds’ grandson. The catalyst for her activism, she says, was the day her grandson stood in a stream in Coal River Valley with his fists full of dead fish and asked, “What’s wrong with these fish?”

    Mountaintop removal mining has also been catastrophic for Appalachia’s waterways. Thousands of miles of Appalachian headwater streams have been completely buried, and hundreds of thousands of acres of the world’s most diverse temperate hardwood forests have been obliterated by this practice.

    Bonds, a former Pizza Hut waitress, became an icon for the movement to stop Mountaintop Removal Mining in Appalachia- winning the international Goldman Environmental Prize in 2003. Her dedication and success as an activist and organizer made her one of the nation’s leading community activists confronting an industry practice that has been called “strip mining on steroids.”

    “A decade ago the cost of coal on Appalachia communities was not something people outside the region cared about. Judy was one of those heroic figures that began to change that, she became a voice that could not be ignored – someone who could stare down the CEO of Massey Energy and also reach the hearts and minds of Americans across the U.S.,” said Lane Boldman, Chair of the Cumberland Chapter’s Mountaintop Removal Committee. “In 2000, one of the worst environmental disasters in US history released over 250 million gallons of coal sludge in Martin County, Kentucky. Back then, disasters like that would barely be a blip in the news. But Judy Bonds and other citizen activists have played a critical role in changing that. In 2003, when Bonds was awarded the Goldman Prize the plight of coalfield residents was brought to national, and international, attention. Within a few years – due to the work of Bonds and many others – an unstoppable movement had been born. Judy’s role in this worked helped changed the tide and we will continue to carry on her legacy and a vision for a healthy, prosperous Appalachia ”

    Judy became on of the first in a long line of honored environmental heroes in the coalfields, including Larry Gibson, Maria Gunnoe, Bo Web, Teri Blanton and others who inspired the growth of new organizations and movements devoted entirely to stopping destructive mining. Judy told her story in countless films as books, most notably “Coal Country” and “On Coal River”. Such media attention came at a price to her personal safety, as she was the recipient of continual threats from the coal companies. Judy once said, “The right to mine coal here ends where it endangers our health and safety. You may have your job tomorrow, but what do you tell your kids? That you wasted the future of these mountains?”

    On a personal note, there is no one I have admired more. I first met Judy a decade ago, at the Cumberland Chapter’s Activist Weekend, when few outside of the coalfields had ever heard the dark secret known as MTR. Thank you, Judy, for bringing light into our hollows and our world.
    -Lane Boldman

  26. Teri Blanton says:

    I don’t remember when was the first time Judy and I met all I know is we were Sisters the bond was there the love was there the respect was there. My Sister will surely be missed.

  27. I heard about the plight of the Appalachian people through a poet called Ruth Grimsley (Sheffield UK) who wrote about the Massey Mine disaster where 29 men died in April 2010 and I wrote a song called ‘Bright Appalachian Morning’ . . . More recently T. Paige an Appalachian musician, wrote a song called ‘Beautiful’ which is a tribute to Judy Bonds a woman who inspired him and many others . . . his version of it is on YouTube and is sung with passion . . . You should take listen!

  28. The Eyes of Judy Bonds… (I see her eyes, I always will)

    Faith-filled eyes upward looking to God for strength;

    Compelling eyes inspiring us to rise up to fight for right;

    Fierce eyes piercing into the heart of a nation that has lost its soul to money and comfort;

    Sparkling eyes dancing with joy at the warmth of a friend’s hug.

    I see Judy’s eyes in my mind’s own eye. Judy’s voice goes along with her eyes. Never to forget.

    I see Judy’s narrowed eyes, her forehead pinched, as she hammers at the rogue coal industry and its political lackeys.

    I see Judy’s thoughtful eyes. Questioning, pondering, strategizing, responding.

    I see Judy’s flashing eyes, jutted jaw set like flint, in the face of personal threat. “I look’em in the eye. Don’t ever back down!”

    I see Judy’s soft brown eyes, love-filled, compassionate. A mother’s eyes. A mother to many of us who are birthed into a movement for the mountains and the life thereon.

    I see Judy’s grinning eyes light up as she spots me in the crowd. And I feel like going to the ends of the earth to fight for Judy’s cause….which now becomes our cause.

    The eyes of Judy Bonds still looks at us. Hopes for us. Expects from us. Trusts us. Loves us.

  29. Rhonda Roff says:

    It is hard to know what to say here. Judy was a beautiful person and a fierce comrade in our battle against coal. We participated together at the 2007 Climate Convergence in NC, an example of a small crowd to which she gave her all. It is easy to feel small in this fight, but knowing people like Judy, and being able to reach out to her for support, helps keep you going strong. I know I speak for many when I say she will continue to keep us going in spirit. Rhonda

  30. Gary Epling says:

    Finding Our Heroes

    We don’t pick our heroes
    and that’s probably a very good thing.
    We’d certainly would have chosen Goliath
    instead of David to be our king.

    If you knew of Judy’s reputation
    and you met her for the very first time,
    her sweet and loving nature
    belied what you would expected to find.

    We vision our heroes strong and tall
    but Judy was a different kind of breed
    She could only be measured by her depth
    and a tremendous resolve to succeed

    Many make the decision in life
    to take a stand or defend a right
    for only God knows where he planted that seed
    to make the defense of others
    ones own personal creed.

    Judy remembered the times when all was fine
    and the mountains had little to fear
    and then came the dying squirrels and a bunch of 3 eyed dear

    She kept away until one day she was
    given an unmistakable sign.
    Her grandchild came caring the fish
    that would forever change the times

    2- heroes

    The streams use to run clear and cold
    That’s what we remembered them to be
    Now they run black and gold
    and our leaders would fail to see

    She took pause to listen to God
    “Judy these hills belong to me.
    Every valley, seam and mountain.
    every flower, stream and tree.”

    She took up God’s call to save the land
    and gave It her heart and soul.
    But some things aren’t meant to be
    She would never get to grow old

    Her life became a difficult one
    with many bidding her ill will
    but she carried on and lived her song
    to stop the valley fills.

    Now Judy is with God in heaven
    where the mountains are untouched and high
    She’s left us with a job to finish.
    As we bid her good bye

    We still probably can’t pick our heroes
    but once they are gone
    we should give thanks to God
    and Promise to carry on.
    gary epling

  31. sallie hannah treadway says:

    Her grandfather(my father) ended up working 52 years in the mines, he died from black lung. Judy’s father worked for years in the mines, he died from black lung. Judy’s brother and my brother worked in the coal mines but that is the only thing they knew. If you didn’t want to work in the coal mines back then you had to leave the state for a job and once you are born in THE MOUNTAIN STATE it is always in your blood and you always want to come back home. I KNOW I DID.

  32. Michael Heiman says:

    There’s an ancient Jewish saying of condolence– “May her memory be for a blessing.” This
    translates as… May your memory of her encourage you to do good deeds. With Judy as our inspiration, may there be be a flood of good deeds! In loving memory: Candie Wilderman, Michael Heiman, and the dozens of Dickinson College students whom Judy and her staff have inspired.

  33. Farewell Judy Bonds. Your tireless efforts to raise awareness of coals’ dirty secrets led to significant changes in policies and improved the lives of many people. During your visit to Alaska in 2008, you inspired and motivated us to fight to keep our coal in the ground. Some of your stories lifted our spirits and made us laugh, others made us weep. Underneath it all your energy and power to believe in each human as a source of infinite wisdom and potential to change the world moved us deeply. We will hold you in our hearts and whenever things get hard or we feel defeated, we will look to your endurance, your courage, the sureness of the path you walked, your kind and generous being and we will continue to “fight harder”. You will be missed.