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April 09, 2011


James Bearden

In the summer of 1987 I moved from CA to Santa Fe, NM and I, too, got work as an extra on Kenny Rogers' The Gambler III. I met Bill on the set out in Galsteo and we got on pretty well in between the filming. Later, I visited him in his woodshop and was amazed at his level of skill and his creativity and his 'feel' for the work. Really beautiful stuff. Some chests had barked aspen posts for legs which he bolted then lashed with leather in a way that concealed the bolt. He would use sanding sealer and fine steel wool to get a great finish that felt velvety and alive. Once, I went by his and Elaine's house on Candelaria St. He, they, insisted that I have some fried trout that he'd caught that afternoon. He cooked them and served them- head attached. They were great. After eating, I commented on the baby (?) grand piano in the living room. I asked Elaine if she'd play Claire de Lune for me. She did- beautifully. That may've been the bitterly cold night that he loaned me his little pick-up so that I could make a trip to Taos- my car being 'iffy'. Later, I told Bill that I had had to split some kindling using a claw hammer. He gave me a Plumb hand axe for next time. I still have it. I do photography and I would take my camera to the movie set. I photographed Bill there. He liked them and asked for more copies which I printed and he was generous in paying me. I'd bet that copies are still in your family's collections. Sometimes, I visited him on the Santa Fe Opera grounds where he set up to sell his furniture. Santa Fe was cliquish and didn't necessarily welcome people from outside into their business scene- as I recall- making sales difficult. My point: in my 68 years I haven't met another such as the noble, knobby, tall, sweet Bill Judkins. He was kind, generous, warm and real. I would take nothing in exchange for having known Bill and Elaine. I met the girls but didn't get to know them well. I used to abbreviate my signature and write Jas- for James. They, Bill and Elaine, kidded me and called me the literal Jas or Jazz. I left Santa Fe with nothing but respect and affection for those folks. When I think of Bill, I remember his knobby handshake, his claim for being peripherally related to A Lincoln (easily believeable when looking at him) and that he had a faint aroma about him- of pipe smoke, sawdust and sweat. I am sad to know he has passed- but finding and reading your post, for me, he came to life again- as he was in those days in Santa Fe. I hope the very best for Elaine and the girls.

Natalie Thiele

What a fascinating man, and an interesting photo. How lucky you and he were to have each other in your lives.
I think you and I must have nearly brushed by each other at one time or another. I went to school with Andy Stuart, got my first skis from Ski Hut, worked for Narsai, and played Shakespeare, kick in the rear.


oh lordy!
you have the most interesting family,
i must say!


i love this part,
how you intervened
in the Happiness Department--->
'''I introduced him
to my junior high drama/English teacher.
They married...'''

i hope your family was LARGE
with TONS more interesting folks...

{{ can't you just imagine how
some semi-distant cousin might describe you
waaaaaay far into the future!

'''and she made Cool*Art
outta old pieces of tin...'''}}


Willard sounds remarkable Jenny! Like a perfect person to me and you take after your Uncle.! I'm truly sorry for you loss and for the loss his family is experiencing. Your tribute is a beautiful~
Thank you
and bless you!


I knew Bill for almost 20 yrs being his daughter's friend since high school days. He was a truly kind, and caring person with a great sense of humor. I too, have some of these older pics. They're great! We will miss you wild Bill. xox


You life is FULL of interesting family...it is obvious these wonderful characters fed your character.

You should share this story with StoryCorps, as Rebecca said you are very good at this and your uncle deserves to be immortalized. What an incredible man!!

So sorry for your loss but thank you for sharing him with us.


Oh my gosh, that is a terrific portrait of your uncle. It has a bohemian, surrealist look to it. Like a Salvador Dali portrait. Your uncle sounds like a true character. What an interesting life he led. What an interesting person he was to everyone in his life. Goshdarnit, I wish Willard King Judkins was my uncle! :)


this morning ....quiet..snow falling, NPR was sharing the Story Tellers. those who offer their time and attention through hospice to be the encourager's and receivers of end of life stories. it was so moving...this act of incredible kindness, regard, compassion.

my husband turned to me and said quietly, you would be perfect at this. it touched more than any complement.

i see too that you are the receiver and teller of a life story so touching you have given us a slice of one so exquisite.

thank you friend. your warmth and witness embraces the dualities of life with a mirror that reflects the boundless sky.

love and comfort to you.

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