Judith “Judy” Catherine Bacher wasn’t quite 5-feet tall but she stood bigger than life to her six children and her large, extended family. Known as much for her engaging sense of humor as for her compassion, Judy was a friend to many, one who embraced life through challenge and celebration alike.
A longtime resident of Vineburg, Judy died Jan. 7, 2014, in Sonoma from complications of heart disease. She was 84. Judith was born May 4, 1929, in Iron River, Mich., moved at age 2 to San Francisco with her parents, Mary and Charles Niemi. She recalled many adventures living in North Beach, roller skating and playing with her cousin, Phyllis Serafini, who became a treasured lifelong friend. Judy and her family walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on opening day in 1937. Judy moved to Vineburg at age 11, following her mother’s death. She lived with her grandparents, Giovanna and Augustino Tomassini, and before long became acquainted with the family at the neighboring Bacher ranch.
She wasn’t quite 18 when she married Edmund “Ed” Bacher on Feb. 15, 1947. The couple was married 47 years at the time of his death in 1994. The couple ran a successful plumbing business in Sonoma Valley, Ed’s Plumbing, and raised their family on the Bacher ranch. Judy was known as a calm and easy-going mother, taking with stride the many rambunctious moments that came with having six children. She is remembered for one particular meal of fried bullfrog legs, which literally jumped out of the pan. When asked as a newlywed where lunch was, she calmly replied, “On the ceiling!” Despite that episode in the kitchen, she loved cooking and was happiest at family gatherings that brought together several generations of family and friends.
In the early 1960s, Judy and Ed purchased the old one-room Huichica schoolhouse that both had attended in Vineburg. It was hauled across adjacent fields to the Bacher ranch, where it’s served as the hub of family celebrations ever since. Judy graciously welcomed dozens of guests to the schoolhouse, never turning away a last-minute visitor or friends of friends without holiday plans. “Mom treated guests in her home like royalty with her warm and generous smile that would lighten any room she entered,” said her son, Chris Bacher. “She was generous with her time to her family and friends, never expecting anything in return.”
Judy loved socializing, with a quick errand to town extending for hours while she chatted with friends and acquaintances along the way. She enjoyed playing cards, bingo and bunco and attending her sewing club; loved square dancing at the social halls in Vineburg; was known for singing at home and in the car; and could always be found cheering for her children’s many sports teams. She was a member of the St. Francis Solano School Mothers’ Club and was one of the school’s original Hot Dog Ladies who served weekly hot dog lunches to students. She often volunteered as a team mom or chauffeur for school sports and activities. Judy was a longtime member of the local Sons of Italy and a founding member of the local Alzheimer’s Support Group. In her later years, she was an invaluable resource to her two schoolteacher-daughters, helping prepare art projects and classwork.