Judith Langer Merlin, was equal parts Matriarch, with a capital M, and trailblazing entrepreneur. Born in Pittsburgh, PA, in 1945, the middle of three children, she was raised in Memphis, TN, and spent most of her adult life in Atlanta. She was most recently a resident of Decatur, GA. Growing up as a girl in the 50’s and 60’s, the expectation was for her to be a mother and housewife. There was no expectation for her to know herself as strong, capable, deserving woman. But her life is a story of stepping into just that, and learning how to take care of herself and others in a way that grew clearer and deeper over the decades. All the while, through all of life’s ups and downs, she preserved the tenderness of her loving heart and acted accordingly.
After having four children with the confidence, joy and a superhuman embracing of all that that entailed, she realized she had a calling for something more to give to the world. She had a vision to create a business that would both ensure the wellbeing of children and elevate the status of caregiving. Her relentless work ethic made this possible. She, along with Cary Merlin, started and ran her own childcare agency for more than 30 years and supported a family of six on this income.
She was a pioneer in an industry that brought new found dignity and professional wages to those who provide care for others. Her industry was one that brought more job security and pride to a sea of skilled women, many of whom were women of color and from widely varied backgrounds with limited access and options. She employed dozens of people in her office throughout the years and prided herself on the sense of community she created and the opportunities to educate her caregivers. There were countless picnics, games and award ceremonies.. She was one of the founding members of the national organization APNA (Association of Premier Nanny Agencies) and received many awards and accolades over the years including a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015.
Her greatest joy in life was always children, so being a grandmother (“Bubbie”) was a passion to which she devoted almost all of her time and energy. She spent most of the year travelling all over the country constantly to be with them. She could not bear the thought of missing a birthday, performance, soccer game, or spending a holiday without them. For all of her children, she has been like a third parent to our kids. She does it all: from changing diapers and bathtime (her sincere favorites!) to cooking and cleaning, taking them on trips and experiences, to talking to them about difficult but necessary subjects. Above all she treasured each one and saw each of them for their own brilliance.
She was known for taking in and adoring her in-laws, her children’s friends, her extended family and anyone in her circle, as one of her own. In her desire to love, she always cared and was always tuned in to those around her with great empathy. She helped us all see the best qualities in each other, find the fun and beauty in every event and celebration, and helped us value the part that we all play in each others’ lives.
She grew into a fuller wisdom with age and created a life for herself rich in culture and friendship. She moved to Decatur on her own and made a fresh start for herself. She quickly took up with book clubs, writing groups, dance and improv classes, and continuing education. She started volunteering for local political campaigns. She developed a new network of dear friends and started to look inward and began constructing a memoir. This was an opportunity to understand her life’s story in a new way, with greater presence. The result was a soulfulness that made all of her relationships and interactions more intentional and endearingly heartfelt. She never missed an opportunity to tell us, how much she valued and loved us and our children in all of our uniqueness.
The news of her passing is shocking and devastating to everyone who loved her. She was walking with a friend and was hit by a car while crossing the street near her home, and died from sustained injuries on February 27, 2018. She leaves a hole in the world and in our hearts that cannot be filled. And yet we know that every second of grief we feel is a result of the immeasurable gift we all have received from her life.
She is survived by Cary Merlin; children: Mia Merlin (Alan Rieger), Louis Merlin (Ki-Wing Merlin), Hilary Merlin (Javier Fernandez) and Shana Merlin; and grandchildren: Lily Merlin, Isaac and Sam Merlin, Luna and Felix Fernandez, Sebastian and Maxwell Bownds. She lost her dear sister Carol Katz in 2016 and is survived by her brother Larry and stepmother Joan Langer. In lieu of flowers we kindly request donations in her name be made to Georgia’s Win List, helping prepare women who are running for office for the first time: http://gawinlist.com/ or UNICEF, an advocate for children’s rights globally: https://www.crowdrise.com/o/en/campaign/in-honor-of-judi-merlin