Saving animals was her calling
By LOGAN NEILL, Times Correspondent
About 150 people gathered to remember a
wildlife worker whose life was cut short in a
Published January 16, 2006
[Times photo: Will
Jim Jablon, center left, spreads Judy
Schwartz's ashes over Jenkin's Creek at
Linda Pedersen Park while Schwartz's
husband, Irv, center right, holds the
urn. Irv's sister, Florence Schwartz,
left, and Jim's wife, Terri Jablon, look
on. No matter how sick an animal was,
Jim Jablon said, "you knew that when it
was in Judy's hands there was always
HERNANDO BEACH - It was fitting that as Judy
Schwartz's friends and family gathered to say their
final goodbyes, a small flock of gulls darted low
overhead. The sight brought a smile to many of the
forlorn faces and the notion that perhaps someone
was smiling down upon them.
About 150 people gathered Sunday afternoon at
Linda Pedersen Park to honor Schwartz, who died Jan.
4 at 60 from injuries suffered in a traffic accident
and was known for her work in rehabilitating injured
wildlife in Hernando County.
"She was such an amazing person," her friend and
fellow wildlife rehabilitator Jim Jablon told the
assembled throng. "No matter how sick or badly
injured an animal was, you knew that when it was in
Judy's hands there was always hope."
Jablon, who organized the memorial, said that his
friend probably wouldn't have approved of the fuss
being made over her.
"She didn't do what she did to gain attention,"
Jablon said. "Helping wildlife was just something
she was driven to do. It was her mission in life."
Schwartz lived most of her life in Pinellas
County, where she and her husband, Irv, owned and
operated several Burger King restaurants. Twelve
years ago, the couple moved to a rural area off
Powell Road, where Judy set up an animal
Penny Boehme, a friend of Schwartz's and a
licensed wildlife rehabilitator from St. Petersburg,
said Schwartz was an expert at patching up
tortoises, hawks and owls that had been hit by cars.
At any given time, she had upward of 50 animals in
her care. Once healed, the animals were returned to
"She treated them as if they were her kids,"
Boehme said. "She would nurture them with love, but
she respected that once they were better they needed
to find their own way back into the world."
At the time of her death, Schwartz had several
animals that were ready for release. As the memorial
service ended, volunteers brought out a Cooper's
hawk and a Red-Shouldered hawk and set them free.
"Seeing those birds made it a little easier for
me to get through this day," Jablon said. "I know
that wherever those birds go, they'll be taking
Judy's comfort and care with them."