It’s the boundless love and volunteer work of one Lake Havasu City woman who has brightened the dark days and impacted the lives of countless U.S. military veterans and homeless in need in this area.
“I know most of the veterans in town,” said Judy Lacey, 79, who has spent the past decade connecting veterans with specific resources. “Being able to help veterans is probably the one thing in my life that has brought me the most joy. If there’s any small thing that I’m able to do to help make a vet’s life better, that’s the biggest fulfillment in my life.”
Lacey’s tireless volunteer work was visible in Havasu’s veteran community and homeless individuals with her full-time volunteer involvement in efforts such as Run to the Wall, Lake Havasu Military Moms, Patriot Guard Riders, Veteran’s Resource Team, Havasu Homeless Network, Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 975/Mohave County, and Veterans Treatment Court.
“It’d be better to say what she hasn’t done for the veterans because she’s done everything there is,” said Dirt, who is a local veteran. “She’s just an amazing woman, she just supports the vets for everything. She’s a great friend. I’ve known her for 12 years. I think I’ve struck up a good friendship with her and she is a very good person.”
Lake Havasu City Military Moms president Cindy Ritter looks to Lacey as a mentor.
“Judy has done so much for our veterans in this town that it’s unbelievable, it’s going to take an army to fill her shoes,” Ritter said. “She’s given me a lot of knowledge and she’s sent me places that have made my heart really warm because I’ve been able to help so many people. I want to continue to do that. There’s a lot of grateful, grateful people in this community. She is a great, great woman.”
Joan McDermott, friend of six years, said Lacey has been the mainstay for the Veteran’s Resource Team in this community.
“Over the years, I’ve discovered that you could always count on Judy,” McDermott said. “She was involved in so many things.”
Lacey’s passion is helping veterans but it’s the Vietnam veterans that really draw her in. This all started in 2003 when 65-year-old Lacey was invited to Run For The Wall. The annual motorcycle pilgrimage is from California to Washington, D.C.
“It was a movement to put pressure on the government to keep searching for and bringing home the remains of P.O.W. and M.I.A.s that were left in the other countries during the wars,” Lacey said. “That appealed to me, helping with something that was such a noble cause.”
Halfway into the trip, Lacey was hooked. She had met so many veterans and heard so many stories of returning Vietnam vets being disrespected, spat on and called unmentionable names.
“There’s so many people who don’t understand what veterans go through, if they’ve been to war, there’s these demons that nobody is doing anything about,” Lacey said. “That just made me feel more than ever that I wanted to do something to help them heal.”
Since, Lacey has found many ways to help including penning a 60-page Resource Guide for local Veterans Treatment Court; compiling up-to-date employment information and emailing to about 50 Veteran Treatment Court partnering agencies; coordinating a small group of women who use plastic grocery bags to weave sleeping mats for the homeless.
“It takes about 700 bags and 25 to 40 hours to crochet a mat,” Lacey said. “I carry a few mats in the trunk of my car and when I see a homeless person, I stop and offer one to them.”
Lacey also is the editor for Run For The Wall newsletter, and has written the biographies of veterans who were nominated for the Arizona Veterans Hall of Fame. Four of those bios now belong to four inductees.
Lacey has lived in Havasu for 11 years. She is from Southern California. Lacey has seven children including four girls and three boys. She has 18 grandchildren; nine great-grandchildren; and three great-great-grandchildren.
Lacey’s grandfather was a U.S. Navy Captain in the Spanish-American War in 1898. She cherishes childhood memories of hearing his war stories.
In California, Lacey worked as a Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office; a legal secretary and proofreader for Southern California Edison; and an editor and proofreader for the California Credit Union League for 20 years.
In retirement in Havasu, she wrote stories for The Arizona Independent, wrote River Scene Magazine’s Veteran Spotlights, and also contributed veteran stories to local newspaper Today’s News-Herald.
Lacey was honored Thursday with a visit from more than 100 members of local veteran’s organizations, Mayor Mark Nexsen, other city officials, individuals and family members. The group gathered at her house to say thank you.
Lacey lost her battle with cancer early Saturday morning.