A woman with an exceptional sense of style and a passion for the arts, Judith Hendricks died unexpectedly in Battery Park City on November 18, at age 78. She is survived by her husband, jazz legend Jon Hendricks, 94, and their daughter Aria Hendricks.
Married for more than 56 years, Judith and Jon Hendricks met when Lambert, Hendricks and Ross, the extraordinary jazz group that Jon formed with Dave Lambert and Annie Ross in the late 1950s, was booked for a three-week gig at Birdland. A student of dance at the time, Judith worked at the famous jazz club, selling cigarettes. Jon noticed her right away. “She was attracted to him, but would not give him the time of day,” Aria said, laughing as she retold family lore.
“On the last night of his gig, he invited her to a party at his place after the show, and she agreed to go. Of course, she gets there and no one else is there.”
The Hendricks home soon became the place where everyone went after the gig, and spontaneous jazz salons would continue through the night. “There was always lots of food, music, people,” Aria recalled.
In 1983, they moved to the newly opened Gateway Plaza. They split their time between Battery Park City and Toledo, Ohio, where Jon was the Distinguished Professor of Jazz Studies at the University of Toledo.
Not only were they married for more than half a century, but Judith and Jon “worked together 24/7,” said Aria, describing her mother’s nurturing management of their home life and her father’s career.
Even in his 94th year, Jon has been singing at a New York club every now and then because Judith continued to arrange for him to sit in on gigs. Last week, on March 8, 2016, Jon received the Bistro lifetime achievement award.
A devotee of the nontraditional path, the unexpected moment and the candid comment, Judith Hendricks cut a striking swath through Lower Manhattan, usually arm in arm with her husband. “Her thing was never to fit in with the crowd,” Aria said. “Always be an individual.”