[GSBN] The saddest news...

strawnet at aol.com strawnet at aol.com
Mon Dec 26 14:16:53 CST 2011

Dear friends andcolleagues, I have very sad news to pass on. Our inspired and inspiring friend,colleague, leader, mentor and more, Judy Knox, lost her battle with cancerearly Saturday morning. Here is an excerpt from a message from her brother Timthat we received this morning: 
On Christmas Eve we heard the heartbreakingnews that Judy has finally lost her battle with cancer.  Matts and Judy'sdaughter-in-law Donna were with her when she died peacefully at 1:45 am onSaturday.  Philip had been helping out for several days and he and hischildren were all in the house.  We understand that she had gone downhillvery fast in the previous two days – she had been having great troublebreathing and she and Matts had been considering a hospice, but then thingsspiraled downwards. 
Forthose of you fortunate enough to have met Judy over the years, or who know whatan extraordinary human being she was, you will recognize the enormity of theloss, and at the same time what unimaginably good fortune to have had her inour lives and work for all these years. I first met Judy and Matts in 1991though I had been hearing about them for a couple of years prior to thatmeeting. They changed my life in innumerable ways. 
Ratherthan try to find words to describe her this morning I realized that I couldshare an excerpt of the "Straw Bale DEtour" column I wrote for theWomen's Issue (#61) of The Last Straw journal - TLS being one of Judy's manycontributions to the world – about some of the women who have been instrumentalin creating and shaping the straw bale revival. This is the part related toJudy: 
It is not a DEtour to take thetime to honor at least a few of the women who have helped lead the modernemergence of straw bale construction. It is, however, a very risky thing to dobecause I know that I leave out some who are worthy of mention, people whoeither never came to my attention or have slipped through the ever-more poroussieve of my memory. So apologies in advance to those not mentioned here, and pleasetrust that I have real gratitude for you and your contributions. I will name afew who I know helped open the door for many others who have been drawn intothe realm of straw bale and natural building. 
I can't imagine starting withanyone other than Judy Knox, who I’m quite certain is responsible for thehumane and generous character of the straw bale revival. Judy came to aleadership role in the straw bale revival somewhat unwillingly, seeing it as adistraction from what she saw as the larger work she had been engaged in – acoherently integrated set of activities around the rights and well-being ofchildren, community empowerment, education, micro-economics, internationalrelations, environmental stewardship and more. When the New York Times put anarticle about straw bale building and Judy and Matts Myhrman (her husband andco-conspirator in their little business that emerged from all this, Out OnBale) on the front page of a section of the Sunday Times, the world (literally)beat a path to their door with a flood of mail arriving daily and the phoneringing off the hook for months. As a result of the depth and breadth of herexperience and her commitment to action in service to larger ends, once sweptinto the strong and rising current of the revival, she realized that they wouldnot soon return to their former lives. 
In her unique and powerful way,she saw straw bale construction as a vehicle to empower people, especiallywomen, to go, as she put it so clearly, "from 'I can't' to 'I can!'"And it was her attention to the human and personal potential of this movement,that shifted the revival to being much more than about a building technique ormaterial, or a more environmentally responsible way to build. It was all ofthat, but she also nurtured a foundational aspect of the revival, helpingpeople see what they were capable of doing. She has always been on the lookoutfor champions—a champion of champions—seeking to pull people into their fullestpotential. She certainly had a big influence on me. 
The structure of the Out On BaleWorkshops, which I was fortunate to be invited to attend and eventually toteach, paid as much attention to the process, and the possibilities emergingfrom the workshop participants, as to the importance of sharing the mostcurrent and best technical information available. As a result of Judy's focuson process, those workshops became a safe place for everyone to explorepossibilities about their own capacities and for each participant to sharetheir deepest feelings about what was most important to them. This was alsoabout building people and community. And thus the straw bale community wasseeded with a communitarian spirit and a generosity rare in building circles.Judy and Matts made it clear that this was a building system that was part ofthe commons.
The Last Straw grew out of a vision ofhaving a vehicle to expand that community and enable those of us in it andcoming into it, to take responsibility for guiding what we were creating withour ever-growing collective knowledge, which occasionally rose to the level ofwisdom. While Matts was tirelessly, inquisitively, brilliantly, and,thankfully, often hilariously exploring and working on the physical andtechnical and historical details, Judy was attending to the health andwell-being of the movement and all of us who were involved with it. Judy'sinitial and essential framing of the revival in terms of community and personalpotential carried forward and out as straw bale construction echoed out intothe rest of the world. I know how deeply her focus on these things affected methen and how it resonated in me and became part of who I am and how I do what Ido in the world, a gift for which I am profoundly grateful.
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