Obituary of Judy Fish
April 7, 1946 – January 25, 2023
Born on April 7, 1946, Judy died unexpectedly on the evening of January 25, 2023 in Tucson, AZ at the age of 76. Over the course of literally just a few heartbeats, she departed this earth as a devoted and loving mother, grandmother, wife, educator, and a friend to many—but Heaven gained an angel for eternity. Judy Darlene Elsberry was born in Arlington, VA but grew up in Dalton, GA where many of her relatives still live. She was an only-child and was “Daddy’s beloved little girl” for life. When she was in middle school, her family moved to Birmingham, AL, during the days when Birmingham was a segregated steel-mill town. It was there that she and Linda became BFF’s (“Best Friends Forever”), a friendship that also remained for life. When it was time for college, she and Linda headed off to attend Auburn University, where Judy would meet and marry her first husband, Dale Fish. Judy was an Auburn fan for life, and to her dying day would watch Auburn sports and shout “War Eagle” at the top of her lungs. After getting married, Judy moved with Dale to Tucson, where she earned her Master’s degree in Education from the University of Arizona.
Judy had a long and rewarding career as an English teacher in TUSD, a career that spanned almost 30 years. She taught English at Naylor Middle School, Santa Rita High School, and finished her career at Tucson High. While at Naylor, she also earned a Graduate Certificate in Gerontology from the University of Arizona. As a final project for one of those courses, Judy developed an after-school program that she called “S.T.A.R.S” (Senior Tutors for At-Risk Students). She personally recruited senior adults to work with and mentor Naylor students, giving struggling students a chance to be more successful in the classroom. In the process, it was the senior adults that benefitted as much as the students did.
During her first marriage, Dale and Judy had 2 children (Doug and Brian). After the end of her first marriage, around 1982 Judy met a young graduate student at the U of A named Mike Nofziger. Fun fact—they met in an aerobics class and Judy asked Mike out on their first date. They got married in 1986, when the boys were 10 and 14—instant family for Mike! For Judy, there was never much discussion about which last name she wanted to keep. As she said “Nofziger is too hard to pronounce and spell, so I’ll keep the name of Fish.” It was an obvious choice—in her then-teaching career, many of her Hispanic students already affectionately knew her as “Miss Pescado”!
Mike and Judy were married for 36 years. They were both faithful members of First United Methodist Church and then Desert Skies Methodist Church here in Tucson. While at First United, Mike and Judy joined United Methodist Marriage Encounter (ME). Over many ensuing years, they developed close and deep-seated friendships with other couples in ME, all working together to make good marriages even better. While at Desert Skies, Judy formed a monthly at-home fellowship group that she called “Dinner for 8.” What began as a way for 8 church members to meet over dinner quickly became, in a very real sense, a ministry that brought together many more folks in the church, developing much deeper friendships than a Sunday service ever could. It was also at Desert Skies that Mike and Judy took part in many years of Bible study together.
Over the years, Judy and Mike enjoyed many road trips back to Ohio and the Southeast, to visit and share time with their families. After the first couple of these trips, Judy decided that it was time for all of her family to visit Tucson. She organized the “Elsberry Cousins’ Reunion” and sent out the invite for all to travel to Tucson—we would host. To Mike’s surprise, almost 10 people made the trip! It was the beginning of many more Reunions back in Georgia. Because of Judy’s “reunion” idea, Mike got to know her family as his own, developing close friendships that continue to this day.
Judy is preceded in death by her parents Ralph and Lou Emma Elsberry, and is survived by her first husband Dale (Sandra) Fish, son Doug Fish (Heather; grandchildren Caroline, Benjamin, and Kieran), son Brian Fish (Kerry; grandchildren Zackary and Eli), and husband Mike Nofziger. A memorial service will be held on Saturday, May 13 at 3:00 pm, at Desert Skies United Methodist Church (3255 N. Houghton Rd., Tucson AZ). The service will also be streamed online at: https://desertskiesumc.online.church as well as on Facebook and the “Desert Skies UMC” YouTube channel. To honor Judy and in lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, or to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Judy Fish, please visit Tribute Store