Joan Hudson, former head of Suffolk County’s Office of Women’s Services and a Republican stalwart who helped increase the power and role of women in county politics, has died. She was 84.
Hudson, a Holbrook resident for more than a half-century, died Wednesday surrounded by family at Stony Brook University Hospital. She suffered from long-term heart problems, the family said.
Hudson headed the women’s office for seven years during the administrations of County Executive Robert Gaffney and his successor, Steve Levy.
She was a founder and past president of the Suffolk Federation of Republican Women and later headed the statewide GOP women’s federation. She also served as a delegate at several Republican national conventions — the last in New York City in 2004, nominating George W. Bush.
Islip Town Supervisor Angie Carpenter, who also served as a county legislator and treasurer, called Hudson “a mentor” who was dedicated to “empowering women and increasing their status” in local politics.
“She was one of a kind,” Carpenter said. “She was a genuine, caring person. No matter what she did, it was from her heart. My heart is broken that she’s gone.”
Carpenter said Hudson played a crucial role running phone banks in her 1993 bid for county lawmaker that she won by a scant 41 votes. “We must have had 20 phones going every night, and she got women from all over the county making calls. These were women who came in after work and she made sure she had something for dinner for them every night,” she said.
“She was very old school,” said Marietta Seaman, former Southampton GOP chairwoman. “She knew the nuts and bolts of politics and had very detailed knowledge of how things should run, which made her very influential and highly regarded for her experience. She could be very tough, but she was also kind.”
Her son, acting Suffolk Supreme Court Justice James Hudson of Southold, said her mantra for political success was “Don’t try to make yourself happy, just make other people happy and it will come back to you.”
Born in Manhattan as one of three children, Joan O’Connor was raised in Brooklyn. She was a child model, once appearing on the cover of Woman’s Home Companion.
She was a state baton twirling champ in high school, where she met her future husband of 41 years, Randolph Hudson. They married after he returned from serving in the Korean War.
She worked for the telephone company, setting up switchboards and traveling the country teaching how to operate them. After having their first of two children, the couple moved to Holbrook.
Her husband, who worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory and headed the Brookhaven Industrial Development Agency, died in 1996. Joan Hudson later worked in marketing and started her own consulting firm, Hudson Associates, which did polling and campaign work for GOP state legislative candidates.
As head of the women’s office, Hudson started an outreach program to women in the Suffolk County jail, and put mammography vans on the road. After leaving that job she joined the board of directors of the Carol Baldwin Breast Cancer Research Fund.
Survivors include her sister Patricia Lonigan of Port Richey, Florida; her son Randolph Hudson of Brooklyn; and four grandchildren.
A wake will be held Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m. at Moloney Family Funeral Homes in Lake Ronkonkoma. The funeral will be Monday at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Lake Ronkonkoma. Cremation will follow.