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'She was remarkable': Community remembers Judith Alix

Tara Jeffrey The community is mourning the loss of one of the most influential philanthropists in Sarnia-Lambton following news that Judith Alix passed away, Saturday.
Judith Alix, left, shares a lighter moment with Deborah Hook, former project manager, withdrawal management services at Bluewater Health, following the announcement of a $1 million donation to the hospital foundation from the Judith and Norman Alix Foundation. (Glen Ogilvie file photo)

Tara Jeffrey

The community is mourning the loss of one of the most influential philanthropists in Sarnia-Lambton following news that Judith Alix passed away, Saturday.

“Judith was remarkable,” said Kathy Alexander, executive director of the Bluewater Health Foundation, a cause dear to both Judith and her late husband Norman, whose $1 million donation in 2014 was the largest individual gift in the foundation's history.

The Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery is celebrating its 10th anniversary. (JNAAG photo)

“Judith and Norm shared a story about a young woman they witnessed in the hospital emergency department who was in distress related to drugs,” Alexander recalled. “They wanted to do something to help and they did something so special, that has saved and is saving lives.”

Norm Alix, who started Steeplejack Services in 1977, died June 8 at the age of 75, just days before the hospital could formally recognize his generosity.

The money was designated for an endowment fund to help fight addiction, specifically, the hospital’s withdrawal management program. The Alix foundation also donated towards the new ACCESS Open Minds project for local youth.

“Judith and Norman changed the landscape in our community with respect to donations and conversations around mental health and addictions,” Alexander added.

The Judith and Norman Alix Foundation was established in 2011, but the couple had begun giving back to their community long before that.

“Norman and Judith spent most of their lives in Sarnia. It’s where they worked and where they raised their family,” the foundation’s website reads. “Grateful for the many years of happiness and prosperity they enjoyed here, they wanted to give back to the community they’d always called home.”

In 1989, after learning that a second ice surface was needed at Sarnia’s Clearwater Arena, the Alix’s stepped up with a $275,000 donation to make it happen.

“They’d heard from others in the community that demand was now so great for rink time that many young children were having to practice at times as early as 4 a.m.,” the website adds. “To the Alix’s this project was personal. Their sons had grown up playing hockey at Clearwater Arena, so they knew it well."

The donation allowed the arena to create what’s now known as the Red Rink and to upgrade Sarnia’s rink facilities for hockey or lacrosse and ball hockey.

In 2008, the couple donated $475,000 towards construction of the Dow Centre for Youth, a new facility for Sarnia-Lambton Rebound and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sarnia-Lambton, where the building’s north wing was officially named after them.

More than $4 million has been donated to various projects throughout Sarnia-Lambton over the years — from the arts, local sports, healthcare and more. Other notable donations include funding for synthetic turf at Norm Perry Park (now Alix Field), ongoing support of St. Joseph’s Hospice, and of course, $1.5 million toward the Judith and Norman Alix Art Gallery.

“Judith and Norman's generosity will live on across the community, through the gifts that they made and through the continued and important work of the Alix family and their foundation,” Alexander said. “Judith and Norman gave to a variety of causes and charities but all with the same intention. They wanted to help make a difference and they truly did."

Warden Kevin Marriott also expressed condolences on behalf of Lambton County Council. "Whether it was through her career as a registered practical nurse, or her life with her family and her husband Norman, the generosity of Judy and the Alix family has touched the lives of nearly everyone within our community," he noted. "The Judith & Norman Alix Art Gallery, the local hospice, the Hospital Foundation, Lambton College, and countless smaller community projects, such as the Kineto Theatre renovation and the Forest Curling Club, are a few of the examples of local groups benefitting from their generosity."

Judith Norman passed away at St. Joseph’s Hospice at age 80, according to a Smith Funeral Home obituary.

She was passionate about her love for horses, dogs, art, music, sports and photography,” the tribute reads. “She was a great cook and was famously known for her Yorkshire pudding and assorted fudge bakes.”

“On a more personal note,” Alexander added, “She had twinkly eyes, and spoke directly from the heart.”

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