Judith Bickley Altman, age 79, passed away, on March 26, 2022, at Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, after a long, courageous battle with Multiple Sclerosis and its complications. Judy was born to parents, Ernest Herman Bickley and Edna Roth Bickley, in Philadelphia, PA, on March 18, 1943. She grew up in Warrington Township, PA, and graduated from Central Bucks High School. She began her career as a registered nurse after graduating from Allentown Hospital School of Nursing in Allentown, PA in 1964.
After graduating from nursing school and spending a short time nursing at Philadelphia area hospitals, Judy moved to Charlottesville, VA, where she was employed as a registered nurse in the ICU & CCU units at the University of Virginia Hospital. In 1972, while visiting his daughter, Lynda, in Charlottesville, former President Lyndon B. Johnson suffered a massive heart attack. He was treated in the hospital’s Coronary Care Unit, which Judy had been instrumental in establishing and where, as Head Nurse, Judy led the nursing staff in providing care to President Johnson during his treatment at the hospital. She served as Head Nurse in the Coronary Care Unit for several more years before she was promoted to Staff Development Nurse, where she was responsible for training new nurses, and for the continuing nursing education of nurses, in five different nursing specialties at the hospital.
Judy left nursing for several years to care for and raise her two young children. After her children were school age, she returned to nursing, first as the School Nurse at Jefferson School in Tracy, CA, and later as a registered nurse in a pediatrician’s office in Sterling, VA. During her tenure as a school nurse in California, Judy was diagnosed with chronic progressive Multiple Sclerosis in May 1987, at age 44.
Even after being diagnosed with MS, Judy was active in her children’s school activities and in the youth confirmation programs at her churches in California and later in Oak Ridge. After moving to Oak Ridge, she became an avid fan of Oak Ridge High School football and soccer and of University of Tennessee football. She was also a diehard fan of Atlanta Braves baseball.
She lived at home for 17 years until her constantly worsening debilitating condition exceeded the capability of her family and her professional home health care providers to continue to care for her at home. In May 2004, she moved to Briarcliff Health Care Center (now Diversicare of Oak Ridge), where she was a resident until her passing.
Judy enjoyed her years of residency at Briarcliff/Diversicare. In fact, she thrived while living at the nursing home: She served five terms as President of the Resident Council at Diversicare; she was a card-carrying member of the Briarcliff Red Hat Society; she regularly attended church services at Briarcliff whenever they were offered, Sundays or otherwise; and she continued to watch and root for her favorite sports teams on television. She was also an ardent cheerleader for her favorite Jeopardy contestants, and she was renowned at Briarcliff as a legendary cutthroat Bingo player. Judy was a social butterfly and never met a stranger. When a new resident came to live at Briarcliff she would have a nurse wheel her to their room with a Bible track on her lap, tell them how good God is, and invite them to receive Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. She never complained, and her love for others and unwavering faith-inspired everyone who knew her. To know Judy was to love her. She particularly looked forward to visits from her grandchildren and their parents.
In 2016, she was honored to be named to Who’s Who in Tennessee Nursing Homes. She was nominated for this honor by Vikki Kelley, Activities Supervisor at Diversicare of Oak Ridge. In the text supporting the nomination, Ms. Kelley wrote, “Judy has a positive outlook on life, and her friends in school called her, ‘Smiley.’ She has faced several health challenges, but it has not altered her sunny disposition or happy outlook on life…She states, ‘I love people, and I love helping them. I feel like I am a voice for people here who are unable to express themselves.’ Judy enjoys staying active…Judy states the secret to her happiness is trusting the Lord and keeping a positive attitude. We are very fortunate to share our home with Judy.”
She entered eternal rest peacefully in her sleep with her husband of 51 years holding her hand at 12:15 pm, Saturday, March 26. She fought the good fight, finished the race, kept the faith, and is now healed and made whole wearing her crown of righteousness dancing on the streets of gold smiling down on us.
Judy was preceded in death by her father & mother; her mother-in-law, Elizabeth Stanger Altman; her father-in-law, Willard Delos Altman; her brother-in-law, Gene Thomas Altman; and her son-in-law, Courtney Travis Gallaher.
Survivors include husband, Dr. Willard Davis Altman, of Chester, SC; two children, Christina Altman Gallaher and Jason Willard Altman (his wife, Kristy Lynn Altman), both of Knoxville, TN; sister, Reverend Faith Bickley Hill (Don), of Brookhaven, PA; sister-in-law, Brenda Allen Altman of Clarksburg, MD; three grandchildren, Jackson Willard Altman, Karson Landon Altman, and Cassidy Grace Gallaher, all of Knoxville; a niece, Deborah E, Spence, of Arlington, VA; and a nephew, Scott Altman, and wife, Neressa, of Clarksburg, MD.
Judy had several special friends and caregivers during her long illness at home and at Briarclff/Diversicare of Oak Ridge. These special friends include Alice Scott, Ann Siemsen, Betty Lou Alspaugh, and Lula Bartholomew of Oak Ridge; Roberta Rhyne of Kingston, TN; Carol Brundage of Fort Mill, SC; Frank Linginfelter of Maryville, TN; and Mary Bailey, of Knoxville, TN.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations in Judy’s honor be made to the First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge https://fumcor.org/give/ or the National Multiple Sclerosis Society www.nationalmssociety.org/Donate.
The family will receive friends from 11 am to 12 pm Saturday, April 9, 2022, at First United Methodist Church of Oak Ridge. A memorial service will follow at 12 pm with Rev. Jenny Caughman officiating. Online condolences may be left at weatherfordmortaury.com.