Judith Thanh-Xuan Sipress
10/07/1973 - 12/16/2023
Obituary For Judith Thanh-Xuan Sipress
After a multiyear battle with breast and liver cancer, Judy Sipress passed peacefully at her group home on Shady Grove Road in Eau Claire. She passed in the early morning of December 16, 2023, Hebrew date 6 Tevet 5784.p. She was first surrounded lovingly by group home staff and then by her brother Neal Sipress and her father Mort Sipress. She is also survived by her other brother, Matt Sipress and many friends.
Judy Thanh-Xuan was born in South Vietnam on October 7, 1973. She was adopted by Mort and Sylvia Sipress in the U.S.A in January 1974. A few months later she was diagnosed with infantile spasms and substantial cognitive disabilities. Judy was always a loving and smiling girl and woman who brough great joy and warmth to all who had contact with her through her 50 years. Moreover, her parents were continually involved with advocating for people with disabilities throughout her life. Sylvia was especially active in the Association for Retarded Citizens, including as President for two years, and as a member of the Wisconsin Council for Handicapped People. Mort was especially involved in political advocacy for people with disabilities. Judy’s conditions especially influenced her parents’ advocacy activity. Both her parents taught Political Science at UWEC for more than 30 years.
Judy began receiving services from the Eau Claire School District at age 3. This continued until she was 21 as required by state law. Administrators and teachers would readily hear two voices of advocates whenever there was any decline of services.
Judy was very much involved in the community through most of her life. When she was eight years old, she began participating in Special Olympics. This lasted with great enthusiasm throughout her childhood and adult years. Especially notable were the frequent times that she earned the right to go to the state tournaments in bowling, track and field, basketball skills, and bowling. At age 8, she also began attending Camp Friendship, mostly for 5-day summer sessions. Camp Friendship in Clearwater, MN serves people with disabilities. We could observe her joy with camp when picking her up. We would ask her if she wanted to stay longer. She would say “no” but we would then ask if she wanted to come back next year and there was always a resounding “yes!”
A truly crucial activity for Judy was REACH. This program was for people with disabilities. Participating in job training skills is central but so are developmental activities. Judy would go to REACH every weekday from 8:45 am to 2:45 pm. Going to REACH was always a highlight for her. A well-trained staff would work closely with both developmental and job-related activities. About 8 years ago they proposed letting her work at a job site shredding paper. At first, Judy worked slowly at the site. She would be paid at a subminimal level. Over the first five years, she gradually increased her speed and accuracy. After 5 years of shredding two hours a week, she could shred faster, to the minimum wage level, and received a raise to the minimum wage. Judy showed that she could learn, and she could reach the minimum. Disabled people can learn and perform at a more “normal” level, it just takes them a little longer to get there.
Judy was also active in her Jewish community. She frequently attended services and at a service finale she had a unique role. She would go up to the arc where the holy Torah scrolls were kept. She would open the arc. The congregation would rise and sing about the glory of God. This role was created by Rabbi Yosi Gordon and continued under Rabbi Shoshana Dworsky. Later after the service she would tell various people proudly “Judy opened the arc!” Her Hebrew name is Yehudit Teshurah. Sylvia’s Hebrew name is Devorah Rawchul and Mort’s is Mordechai. When called to the Torah, Judy would be called Yehudit Bat Devorah Rawchal (Judith daughter of Devorah Rawhchal).
Judy Sipress will be sorely missed and always remembered. She was a great example of how to work with other people and how to be kind and sharing towards others. Her memory will be a blessing.
Funeral services were held at Temple Shalom in Eau Claire on Wednesday, December 27, 2023, conducted by Rabbi Shoshana Dworsky. Rabbi Shosh was temple Shalom’s Rabbi for ten years, and she returned to Eau Claire to conduct the funeral. Smith Funeral Chapel assisted the family with arrangements. Contributions in lieu of flowers may be sent in Judy’s honor to the REACH foundation (Regional Enterprises for Adults and Children) 2205 Heimstead Road, Eau Claire, WI 54703.
Servicesby Obituary Assistant
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