Judy Kern Fazio developed an interest in politics as a young woman concerned about Sacramento labor issues and went on to work in national fundraising for the Democratic Party while supporting her husband’s political pursuits.
The wife of former Rep. Vic Fazio, D-West Sacramento, Judy Fazio died Aug. 7 of a heart attack at the couple’s vacation home in Currituck, N.C. She was 71.
“She was a very strong woman,” Vic Fazio said. “You need to be in the environment in which a member of Congress operates.”
She managed the home and a career, becoming a self-taught gourmet cook while working in various positions in Washington, D.C.
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Judy Fazio was born Nov. 13, 1943, in St. Louis to Mable and Jacob Neidhardt. She moved to California as a young girl and attended Sacramento City College.
Her daughter Kristie Kern said her mother was drawn to local politics when Sacramento Fire Department employees were involved in a labor dispute with the city in the late 1960s or early ’70s. Her first husband, Robert Kern, was a Sacramento firefighter who was active in labor issues.
Kern said her mother was a volunteer for Phil Isenberg’s Sacramento mayoral campaign. An opponent of the Vietnam War, she also supported George McGovern’s presidential bid.
She and Vic Fazio met when he was running for the state Assembly, and she worked in his California district office after he was elected to Congress in 1978. They were married in 1983.
After moving to Washington, D.C., she remained active in national politics, working in development and fundraising for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and the Center for National Policy. Before her retirement in 1998, she worked for Arter & Hadden, a Cleveland-based law firm with offices in Washington, D.C.
She was a very strong woman. You need to be in the environment in which a member of Congress operates.
Former Rep. Vic Fazio
Vic Fazio, who retired from Congress in 1998 and is a senior adviser with the law firm Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, said his wife was an effective fundraiser. “She was persistent,” he said, but she had a good-natured approach that persuaded people to give, whether to a political campaign or charities.
Kern said her stepfather’s love of good food led her mother to pursue gourmet cooking, studying cookbooks and starting with Italian cuisine. She described her mother as the consummate hostess. Entertaining at the couple’s Arlington, Va., home, she was noted for serving up fine meals and lively conversation.
She described Judy Fazio as a voracious reader. “She consumed books,” Kern said, recalling a recent visit to a bookstore with her mother. “We were walking along the shelves, and she was saying, ‘I’ve read that. I’ve read that. I’ve read that.’ ”
She recently got a Kindle, Kern said, so she wouldn’t have to pack books with her when she traveled.
Fazio said his wife enjoyed traveling and handled all the planning for a trip the couple took to Africa last year.
She also was an artist and lover of art. Kern said that her mother, as a young woman, did oil painting and batik, and sold her work at crafts fairs on Sacramento’s K Street.
Fazio said he his wife loved to shop for art together. “We would go to Smithsonian craft shows and she would know many of the artists,” he said, noting that she enjoyed getting to know the artists as much as their art.
Fazio said his wife’s death was unexpected. “She did 150 jumping jacks every morning,” he said. “She told people she would live til she was 95, and I don’t think anyone disagreed with her.”
In addition to her husband and daughter Kristie of Virginia, Judy Fazio is survived by her son Kevin Kern and stepdaughter Dana Fazio, both of Fair Oaks, and three granddaughters. She was preceded in death by stepdaughter Anne Noel Fazio.
Fazio said a memorial service will be held Sept. 10 in Virginia and a gathering is planned in Sacramento sometime this fall.
Contributions in memory of Judy Fazio may be made to the Anne Noel Fazio Scholarship fund #111829 at UC Davis, UC Davis Advancement Services, 1460 Drew Ave., Suite 100, Davis, CA 95618, or online at give.ucdavis.edu/Go/annefazio; the Yolo Basin Foundation, Home of the Vic Fazio Wetlands, P.O. Box 943, Davis, CA 95617, http://yolobasin.org/; or Doctors Without Borders, P.O. Box 5022, Hagerstown, MD 21741.