Women of Influence: Judy Noyes

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Every year, the Colorado Springs Business Journal honors 12 exceptional women as “Women of Influence.” This year, the newspaper honors 13.

Judy Noyes is no longer with us, but we can all learn from her exemplary life as a businesswoman, a mother, a civic leader and a fierce advocate for positive change.

In 1959, Judy and Dick Noyes moved to Colorado Springs and opened a bookstore in a Tejon Street storefront across the street from Acacia Park. The Chinook Bookshop, named after the downslope wind that brings sudden warmth to the city as winter gives way to spring, quickly became a city institution.

It wasn’t just a bookstore. It was a community treasure, a place of refuge and friendship, always renewed, always the same. Children were introduced to books at Chinook, worked there as teenagers, then later returned with their own children.

And Judy was always there. She understood the three maxims of successful businesses: know your customers, know your staff, know your community.

The Chinook was more than successful. It remained open 45 years, becoming one of the leading independent bookstores in the country. Dick served twice as president of the American Booksellers Association, and Judy’s reviews of children’s books were published in the New York Times.

Judy wasn’t content to recommend books and know interesting people. She worked to advance progressive ideas and projects. She sought to transform downtown, move the city forward and better her corner of the world.

She served on boards of the Chamber of Commerce, Pikes Peak Library District Foundation, Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, Urban Renewal Authority, Downtown Partnership and Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region. She helped create the original Downtown Action Plan, served on City Council for three years, then on the Charter Review Commission.

Judy’s gentle demeanor concealed an inner strength and toughness. Those who underestimated her did so at their peril.

“I was opposed to Judy’s position on an issue before us,” recalled Robert Shonkwiler, who served on the Urban Renewal Authority with Judy. “And I was kind of going on and on, and she cut me off, said she’d heard enough, and brought it to a vote. She knew she had the votes. She was tough.”

She created the downtown Art on the Streets project in 1998, and saw it succeed spectacularly, continuing today.

Judy died on the day of the summer solstice this year, two days before the “Super Moon” rose in the east. The outsized moon lingered in the sky for two nights, disappearing with the dawn.

At 5 feet, Judy wasn’t outsized —but her life was. Her light shone on the city for more than a half-century; her depth, passion and quality should inspire us all.

— John Hazlehurst