Even in her final months, Judy Monaghan's political spirit never wavered.
She urged doctors, nurses and anyone else she encountered to vote, period. And, she made it clear who she supported: Obama for president and her friend Bob Kerrey for the U.S. Senate.
“She just never quit,” said longtime friend Anne Boyle.
But her body did.
Monaghan, whose battle with cancer began in 2006, died Tuesday of acral lentiginous melanoma. She was 66.
A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday at St. Margaret Mary Catholic Church.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, Judy Buddi went to Creighton University and graduated in 1968, the same year her hero Bobby Kennedy was slain. She married Tom Monaghan, an attorney who later served as chairman of the Nebraska Democratic Party and was U.S. attorney for Nebraska during the Clinton presidency.
The couple have three children.
For decades, their home west of the University of Nebraska at Omaha was a frequent gathering spot for Democratic Party leaders and hopefuls in Nebraska. It was there they met Kerrey, a then-young aspiring governor in 1981. They forged a long friendship, and Kerrey was among the last to wish Judy farewell.
“Judy was one of those rare people that always gave, so you always, you always felt like you left with more energy and optimism after you spoke with her than you did before,” he said.
Judy Monaghan has a long resume of public relations and political work that includes working for the Archdiocese of Omaha and for Gross and Marian High Schools. She ran a consulting firm with expertise in governmental relations, lobbying, public relations and grassroots networking.
While living in Kosovo during her husband's assignment there as a director of justice, Monaghan taught American government classes and consulted members of the Kosovo parliament.
She worked on Kerrey's various political campaigns and was his staff assistant in 1989, in his first year as a U.S. senator. She also directed Jim Exon's U.S. Senate campaign.
She was the state director for Hillary Clinton's 2008 presidential bid, and at the Democratic National Convention that year, she held the unusual role of being whip for both Clinton and then-candidate Barack Obama.
It was a position — to bridge and bring peace to both camps — for which she was well-suited.
The Douglas County Democrats presented her with a mentoring award at the 2011 Eleanor Roosevelt Luncheon.
Her record of service includes volunteer stints at some two dozen community agencies. She served on the boards of the Junior League, Henry Doorly Zoo and Girls Inc. She was president of the Omaha Press Club.
In 2006, Monaghan discovered a lesion on the bottom of her foot, according to daughter Kalen Daniels of Evanston, Ill. At the time, it didn't appear that the cancer had entered her blood stream, so the lesion and surrounding cells were removed. In 2011, a tumor was found in her abdomen and she was diagnosed with malignant melanoma.
She declined aggressive treatment, a decision that Kerrey called “heroic.”
In July, she attended the J.E. George Independence Day parade with her family and walked to Memorial Park for costume and float contests.
A month later, a scan showed a cancerous legion in her brain. This resulted in paralysis and led to her decline, Daniels said.
Monaghan received hospice care in her home, and friends and family spent time there in her final weeks.
She died at home in the early hours of the new year.
“She was a part of everything I did,” said her husband of nearly 44 years. “She helped me lead a meaningful life, and she led an even more meaningful life. She was a wonderful grandmother and a wonderful mother.”
Boyle called Monaghan “amazing.”
“There was never a task she didn't undertake where she didn't give it everything she had to make good things happen,” she said. “She had a wonderful sense of humor. She was so vibrant, she made you feel good. It is a terrible loss.”
Other survivors include her son, Thomas Monaghan of Omaha, daughter Meegan Griggs of Omaha, and six grandchildren.