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Judith Stelfox, community volunteer, dies

When her son's New York National Guard 69th Infantry Regiment was tapped to go to war in Afghanistan four years ago, Judith Stelfox said she had to do her part, too.

So the West Islip resident volunteered with the unit's Family Readiness Group, helping to pack donated supplies to send to her son's unit overseas, and offering a shoulder to lean on for other mothers, spouses and children of the deployed.

"She was, like, my right hand," said Beth Delli-Pizzi, the principal organizer of the group.

Stelfox, 60, a 1970 graduate of North Babylon High School, died Sunday at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. She succumbed to symptoms of Lou Gehrig's disease, said her son Spc. Lawrence Stelfox, 29, of West Islip.

Friends described Stelfox as a woman with a big voice and boundless energy, which she poured into community activities, family and athletic pursuits. She coached both boys and girls soccer while her sons were in school, and played in an adult league herself until her illness began to take hold last year.

"She was amazing," said Mimi Herger, a former West Islip resident now living in Indialantic, Fla., who played with Stelfox on the West Islip Kickhers, of the Long Island Ladies Soccer League. "She was at the school board meeting, at soccer games that weren't even of her kids'. And she was always there for her kids and for her husband."

Family readiness groups are military-sponsored volunteer organizations set up to help soldiers and their families cope with military deployments and separations. Networks of volunteers typically organize parties and other morale-boosting activities, keep an eye out for individuals who are struggling, and pass along information about unit casualties.

Lawrence Stelfox said the care packages sent to his unit in Afghanistan provided an emotional lift. When a heater failed while they were camped in a frigid mountain range, items that his mother sent were a godsend.

"I remember telling my mom, 'We can never use all the hand warmers and toe warmers you're sending me,' " he said. "But, oh yes, we did."

Other survivors include another son, Thomas Stelfox, of Brightwaters, and sisters Laura Krance, of Indian Harbor Beach, Fla., and Carole Savarese, of Palmyra, Va. Her husband, Thomas Stelfox, died last October.

A wake will be held Saturday from 2 to 4:30 p.m. and 7 to 9:30 p.m. at Boyd-Spencer Funeral Home, West Islip. Services will be held at noon Sunday at Ascension Lutheran Church, Deer Park.

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