Celebrating Chatham County Beekeeper and Conservationist Judy Pick

— Written By
Judy Pick teaching kids about honey bees and beekeeping

Judy Pick teaching kids about honey bees and beekeeping using an observation teaching hive at 4-H Camp in 2015. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Long-time Chatham County beekeeper, conservationist, and volunteer Judy Pick passed away on February 6, 2021, at age 79. Judy left a lasting legacy with her volunteer work and relationship-building and inspired many beekeepers in North Carolina.

Judy Pick was one of the first people I met when I started working with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Chatham County Center over 20 years ago. My work as an Agriculture Agent meant I worked not only with farmers but also beekeepers. I first encountered Judy at one of the monthly meetings of the Chatham County Beekeepers’ Association (CCBA). Judy was one of the founding members of the CCBA back in 1980 and served as its Treasurer for many years.

Judy made quite an impression on me when I met her and slowly got to know her. She was the same age as my mom and I just thought it was so cool that she was a beekeeper! She started keeping bees in the late 1970s and there were not that many women beekeepers back then. She was soft-spoken yet loved teaching others and sharing her passion and enthusiasm for beekeeping with folks of all ages. She was also great at inspiring and recruiting others to help with beekeeping outreach activities. These activities included the 8-week Beekeeping Schools and annual Pollinator Day Celebrations that Extension and the CCBA teamed up to conduct, both of which involved lots of planning meetings and preparation in addition to the event. It also included CCBA activities like bottling honey to sell at the state fair to raise money for the state association and other outreach activities.

From Peggy Wilson, Chatham County beekeeper:
I have many fond memories of Judy. She was truly a gentle but strong spirit and contributed so much to beekeeping, both county- and state-wide. She was a long-time treasurer of CCBA and was one of our founding members. Sometimes we would have lively discussions at our beekeeper meetings and generally, Judy was pretty quiet but when she did speak up, people listened because they really valued her opinion. We’ve all lost a good friend and beekeeper.

In addition to all her volunteer activities with the Chatham County Beekeepers, Judy also worked with the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association (NCSBA) to create the Honey Bee Exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo in 2009. She helped manage the volunteer calendar for the Honey Bee Exhibit for years – not a small feat given that NCSBA beekeepers volunteer over 2,500 hours annually for the exhibit! The NC State Beekeepers’ Association awarded Judy the McIver-Haas Lifetime Achievement Award in 2015 for her years of service.

From Ray Wise, Chatham County beekeeper:
Judy was truly an inspiration to me. When I was a new beekeeper many years ago, Judy became a quick friend and I had the pleasure of working on many projects at CCBA with this wonderful lady. She encouraged me and many others to support the Honey Bee Exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo. I completed 10 years in the Zoo program and I owe it all to Judy. I will miss her smile and always positive attitude as will many beekeepers throughout North Carolina.

From Toy Lambeth, Volunteer Services Coordinator at the North Carolina Zoo:
Judy poured her heart and soul into the Honey Bee Exhibit at the North Carolina Zoo. From the planning phases to recruiting and training beekeepers – she wanted everything done right and didn’t mind putting in the work. She took a lot of pride in the investment the North Carolina State Beekeepers Association made in the Zoo. 
It was a joy and a pleasure working with Judy and learning from her. I’m thankful for the friendship we developed over the years. She was a delightful lady with so much passion, energy, enthusiasm, and a precious smile. Judy leaves a legacy that will follow her for years to come and will be greatly missed.

From Linda Hardison, Honey Bee Exhibit Volunteer at the North Carolina Zoo:
She was indomitable and dedicated to the Honey Bee Exhibit at the Zoo. For years she helped manage the volunteer calendar for the exhibit. Judy really wanted the public to learn about the Honey Bee through the exhibit, but it was also extremely important that the volunteers felt connected and comfortable with what they were doing and how they did it. She felt strongly about that connection and worked hard to make it happen. The foundation that she built there enabled the NCSBA and the NC Zoo to develop and maintain a good working relationship. She really put her heart and hands into this project. She was small but mighty. It was a privilege to work with her on the Honey Bee Exhibit Committee for NCSBA, but even more, it was my privilege to know her as a friend.

From Janno Lewis, Honey Bee Exhibit Volunteer at the North Carolina Zoo:
Judy was great at coming up with new ideas about how to educate the visitors to the Honey Bee Exhibit at the Zoo. She always managed to make a special connection with them which helped them learn about honey bees and pollination.

Not only was Judy a champion of the honey bee, but she cared about all creatures. Judy and her husband Jim were dedicated to conservation stewardship and native grass restoration to attract wildlife at their land outside Pittsboro. They were regular attendees at Cooperative Extension forestry workshops and any educational program devoted to conservation or the natural world. Judy was also one of the founding members of the Chatham Conservation Partnership and I always enjoyed seeing her and Jim at the quarterly meetings.

I had the good fortune to work quite a bit with Judy over the years. I have many fond memories of working with Judy for our 8-week Beekeeping School, Pollinator Day, 4-H Camp, and other outreach presentations we did together in the community. I also worked with her to help provide photos for the Honey Bee Exhibit at the NC Zoo over the years. In 2009, the Chatham County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension awarded her Outstanding Friend of Extension in recognition of her many years of volunteer service. Judy was also a valued member of my Beekeeping Advisory Committee for years.

From Dr. David Tarpy, NC State University Apiculture Specialist:
Judy was a real inspiration and valued member to the Chatham and greater North Carolina beekeeping communities. Her spirit will live on in our beekeeping culture, but she will be surely missed.

From Jennifer Keller, NC State University Apiculture Technician:
My memories of Judy go back to when I was starting as a grad student. I remember feeling rather out of place because back then, female beekeepers were definitely the minority (except for the spouses of the beekeepers). Judy was one of the few, and seeing this petite woman, full of enthusiasm about bees, fitting in with the rest of the beekeepers made a big impression on me. She was always smiling, enthusiastic, and eager to pass along her passion of bees and beekeeping to others. She was always very supportive to me and the whole NC State University program. And she made the best pound cake!!!!! Judy would always pack me up an extra piece of her pound cake after Chatham County beekeeper meetings because she knew that I enjoyed a piece with coffee in the morning for breakfast.

I wanted to share some of the many photos I have taken of Judy over the years. It is a bit bittersweet looking at them but I am grateful for the many memories I have of this wonderful woman and will continue to be inspired by her passion, dedication, and service!

Judy Pick teaches aspiring beekeepers

Judy Pick (in pink hoodie) teaches aspiring beekeepers about assembling frames at the 2017 Beekeeping School at the Chatham County Agriculture & Conference Center. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Judy teaches some young beekeepers

Judy teaches some young beekeepers at the 2011 Beekeeping School. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Beekeepers Maggie Frantz and Judy Pick teach

Beekeepers Maggie Frantz (purple shirt) and Judy Pick teach during the 2015 Beekeeping School. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Beekeepers Ray Wise and Judy Pick teach about the basics of beekeeping

Beekeepers Ray Wise and Judy Pick teach about the basics of beekeeping at a Pollinator Day celebration. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Judy and Jim Pick at a Pollinator Day display in Chatham Marketplace

Judy and Jim Pick at a Pollinator Day display in Chatham Marketplace in 2012. I created the display and Judy brought the observation hive which was a big hit with customers! Photo by Debbie Roos.

Judy returns the frame from the observation hive to the CCBA Apiary

Judy returns the frame from the observation hive to the CCBA Apiary at CCCC after Pollinator Day. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Judy returns the frame from the observation hive to the CCBA Apiary

Judy returns the frame from the observation hive to the CCBA Apiary at CCCC after Pollinator Day. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Kids looking at bees

For several years Judy and I teamed up to teach about pollinators for the 4-H Camp at Northwest District Park in Silk Hope. Judy brought her observation hive and I talked about bee forage and the kids potted up pollinator plants to take home. This was in 2017. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Kids looking at bee hive

The kids really enjoyed looking for the queen and learning about honey bee behavior from Judy. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Honey bee exhibit at NC zoo

In 2017 the folks at the NC Zoo asked for my advice in revamping the bee garden at the Honey Bee Exhibit. Since Judy was a long-time volunteer for the exhibit at the Zoo I invited her to accompany me. I offered suggestions for increasing the diversity of plants, lengthening the bloom season, increasing the number of plants attractive to honey bees, and adding more native plants. Pictured left to right are Horticulture Supervisor Steve Thornburg, Volunteers Robert Smith, Judy Pick, and Linda Hardison, and Horticulture Technician Stacy Garnett. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Bee cage

In 2012 Judy and I teamed up to do a pollinator program for Chatham Conservation Partnership. Judy started the program with a session in the bee cage where she opened up a hive for folks to see. Then I conducted a tour of Cooperative Extension’s Pollinator Paradise Demo Garden in Pittsboro. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Judy getting a plaque from Glenn Woolard

In 2009 Judy was recognized as the Outstanding Friend of Extension by the Chatham County Center of N.C. Cooperative Extension. County Extension Director Glenn Woolard gave Judy the plaque at a dinner celebration. Photo by Debbie Roos.

People in woods

Judy was a founding member of the Chatham Conservation Partnership (CCP). In April 2015 the CCP conducted a program on salamanders that included a field trip to Donnelly Hardpan outside Siler City to look for salamanders and other critters. That’s Judy in the red coat up front on the left. Photo by Debbie Roos.

Judy examines findings from a dip net at the bog

Judy examines findings from a dip net at the bog. Photo by Debbie Roos.