Born Julia Mary Miller in Snyder, Texas, Oct. 20, 1937, she was the fifth of six children, five daughters and one son born to Charlie Miller and Zadie Mae Bills, whose parents homesteaded and founded the R.N. Miller Ranch in Borden County in 1900. After graduating from Snyder High School, she attended Arlington State (UTA) where she met and married Charles Witty Allen.
Founder of The Learning Tree School, Judy Allen was a teacher of young children for more than 50 years. She is co-author of "Cultural Awareness for Children," a teacher's resource book used in universities throughout the U.S. and abroad. She also used her book and programs to teach workshops to other schools and teachers.
"Miss Judy" was beloved by three generations of students, who learned about the many cultures unique to Africa, Mexico, Russia, China and many other countries. Her programs included an African study that had the children create a full African market. She helped them understand this beautiful culture by helping children create authentic African art, foods unique to Africa and students performing a play of an African folktale.
Many of the studies would include performances of a folktale from a particular country. Each school year would start with a play of a folktale from Russia with beautiful costumes and scenery. It was amazing to watch children so young performing on stage with confidence and pride. Miss Judy would teach children words and phrases of the languages from the different countries to use in their performances.
The month of December was devoted to teaching Christmas around the world. The children were taught about all the different traditions and celebrations by other countries and cultures.
Included in her curriculum were programs teaching children about the great artists of the world, and ended with a full art museum with "masterpieces" created by children to represent famous art and paintings from artists such as Van Gogh, Matisse, Monet and Picasso. The school year always ended with a study of Texas, cowboys and ranching life, and a performance of an always memorable cowboy play! This was Miss Judy's heritage, she was very proud of it and wanted to teach her students about her own "culture."
Her unique gift of planting seeds of curiosity with children, teaching them to respect differences in one another and celebrate other cultures is what makes the legacy of The Learning Tree so special. Her enthusiasm for teaching children and making learning fun was a true gift.
Everyone involved with The Learning Tree remembers her excitement every year of the first field trip: Going to see the assembly of Big Tex at the State Fair of Texas! Another special moment for students was getting to ring the school bell on their birthday, or for a special event such as becoming a big brother or sister. At the end of each school year, the younger students would sing to the departing graduates the song "I Think You're Wonderful." Every Learning Tree performance or event ended with Miss Judy asking students and attendees to stand and sing "God Bless America."
Along with her devotion to teaching, Miss Judy was passionately involved with Orphan Outreach, a non-profit based in Plano, Texas. Orphan Outreach's mission is to restore hope for orphaned and vulnerable children. As a member of the Center for US/USSR Initiatives, she taught in schools in the former Soviet Union and in Lithuania for two years, and presented at a seminar at the Teachers Pedagogical Institute in Vilnius, Lithuania. Teachers from Japan came to the Texas area in 1986 and chose The Learning Tree as one of two schools they visited for their early childhood programs. In 2006 she began her mission work of volunteering and working in orphanages in Russia, China and other countries, helping to establish the Foster Grandmother Program at a children's hospital in St. Petersburg, Russia. She also visited schools in Venezuela, taking supplies and helping teachers with cultural awareness curriculum. She purposefully took each of her grandchildren on an international trip so they could experience a different culture together.
She was preceded in death by her sisters Jo Taylor and Jean Duke and her brother, Charles Conoway. She is survived by her sisters Lou Alice White of Mansfield, Texas, and Linda Jones of Atlanta, Georgia. She leaves behind her children, Chuck Allen (Lori) of Aledo, Dandi Mehringer (Eric) of Mansfield, and Jeff Allen of Dallas. Also surviving are her grandchildren, Nikki Durtschi (Glen) of Dallas, Katie Weiss of Mansfield, Ben Allen (Chelsea) of Fort Worth, and Sam Allen (Mandy) of Cresson, along with seven great-grandchildren; all who loved their "Gwag" dearly.
A visitation at Blessing Funeral Home in Mansfield, Texas, will be 4-6 p.m. Sunday, April 10. Burial will be at 3 p.m. Wednesday at Snyder Cemetery.
A Celebration of Life will be conducted soon so that her many students and their families from throughout the years will be able to attend. A patriotic American and a proud Texan, the family asks that attendees wear red, white or blue to her memorial service. Announcement of the memorial service/celebration of life will be listed on The Learning Tree Facebook page.
In lieu of flowers, a donation in her memory to Orphan Outreach, www.orphanoutreach.org/honoringjudy, would be appreciated, or to a children's charity of your choice.
But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints
"Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself that where I am you may be also".
*A Celebration of Life/Memorial Service will be at a later date (but soon), please watch for announcement on The Learning Tree Facebook page.*
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