Judy Johnston: Calandar Girls

Written by David Green.

By DAVID GREEN

What Judy (Oxenger) Johnston saw standing behind the dahlias in Mary June Augsberger’s garden wasn’t just a somewhat naughty photo for some friends. She saw the beginning of the Clear Lake Calendar Girls project.

Judy, a former Morenci resident who married her high school sweetheart Gary Johnston, explained that last winter she and some friends watched the movie “Calendar Girls.” It tells the story of some older women who posed naked—but discretely hidden behind flowers—for a fund-raising calendar.p.calendarjudy

One member of the Clear Lake, Ind., group of friends said that they could do the same thing—to raise money for the island.

Ah, the island.

Kasota Island is a mere 1.64-acre piece of land sitting in Clear Lake, but it’s property that lake residents love dearly. It’s threatened by private development and a large fund-raising project is underway to buy the island and preserve it for public use. More than $1.6 million is needed.

The calendar project was put on hold—it was the dead of winter, after all—but one day this summer it all came back to mind.

“A friend asked that I take a picture of her perfectly formed dahlias,” Judy said, “and she being 74 and less inhibited than us younger folk, dropped her top and stood behind the dahlias while I snapped a few shots.”

As soon as Judy previewed some frames on the back of her camera, she knew the calendar girl project was underway.

It was Judy’s turn next. She was as dedicated as anyone in the effort to save the island, so off came her top and another image made for the calendar. She posed seated in her kayak, behind a strategically place oar.

Since then, almost a thousand photos have been taken of more than 75 women—almost all over the age of 50. The photos easily tell how much fun the women had in the endeavor, Judy said.

Hats, life jackets, wakeboards, an oversize watering can—the models employed a variety of props to hide enough bare skin to keep the calendar teasing but tasteful.

The success of the calendar project has gone well beyond expectations. The proof copy alone netted $2,600 at an auction. Almost $38,000 was raised through the initial set of orders which brings the island-saving effort to $921,000.

Judy, a 1972 Morenci High School graduate, works as a registered nurse. Photography is just something for her spare time. She’s still busy with the project, however, as orders continue to flood in from around the tri-state area.

She detects a variety of interests behind the orders—women over 50, land preservationist and skin buffs—but the motivation doesn’t matter to her.

“We are selling calendars,” she said.

• To place an order, contact Johnston by phone (260/495-4427) or by e-mail (clearlakejj@verizon.net).

– September 13, 2006 
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