Judith Blankmeyer of Lynbrook, a dedicated teacher of hearing-impaired students in Valley Stream's schools for 15 years, died at home of complications from cancer on Sept. 3.
Blankmeyer, 58, who used her maiden name professionally, grew up in Glen Head and found her future accompanying her parents Judith and Edward -- a secretary and a custodian at the Mill Neck Manor School for the Deaf -- to work.
"She became fascinated by the beauty of moving hands among the deaf children, and was captivated by the silence of animated conversation," said her husband, Gerald Verhey, who is himself hearing-impaired, in an email. "She began to learn the language from them."
His late wife, Verhey recalled, never received formal training, and was mostly self-taught. "The children loved her involvement and in turn, she loved being part of their lives," he said. "The experiences planted the seeds for a lifetime of work."
After graduating from North Shore High School in 1975, Blankmeyer earned a bachelor's degree in social work from Seton Hall University in 1981 and a master's degree in special education at Columbia Teachers College.
She met Verhey, her husband for 27 years, while working at the Mill Neck school. In the Valley Stream district, she worked mostly with hard-of-hearing students who did not know sign language, but also aided deaf students in the classroom.
Warren Cooper said Blankmeyer signed classes for his son, Justin, a 2011 graduate of Valley Stream South High School, for six years, spent time afterward going over the material, and supported the family in meetings with the district.
"She hand-held and spoon-fed him," said Cooper, whose son has now graduated from college with a degree in landscape architecture and is working for a firm in Long Island City. "He couldn't have gotten through without her. She embraced him like a son. She really, really did."
In earlier stages of her career, Blankmeyer worked with the hearing-impaired at schools in Farmingdale and New York City. A swimmer and gifted athlete, she practiced aerobics at Sky Athletics in Rockville Centre, and finished third in her age group in her first 5k at a Fly With the Owls race on Long Island.
She was also an animal lover, her husband said, the owner of several dogs -- the last was Mia, adopted from the North Shore Animal League -- and the kind of "compassionate" person who couldn't stand seeing any injured creature, even a bird or squirrel, suffer.
"Whenever she came across an injured animal, large or small, she would bring it to the nearest veterinary hospital so that it would receive the care needed for recovery," Verhey said.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by her sons, Daniel, Peter and Timothy, all of Lynbrook; and two brothers, Mark Blankmeyer, of Centerport, and Edward Blankmeyer, of Convent Station, New Jersey.
She was buried Monday at Locust Valley Cemetery.