Josh and Judy Weston, seen here at Montclair State University. (COURTESY HILARY JOEL)

By ERIN ROLL
For Montclair Local

Judy Weston was, along with her husband Josh, a huge supporter of science education in Montclair, along with many other facets of educational and cultural life in the township. 

But Weston was also, according to friends and neighbors, an extraordinarily kind person who even went so far as to have a can of soda or a cup of hot cocoa waiting for the mail carriers when they delivered mail.

Weston died in October 2020 at the age of 87. 

On Aug. 10, the Montclair Township Council voted to have a section of Watchung Park turned into a garden dedicated to Weston’s memory. 

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The resolution for the garden, which passed unanimously, had the backing of Second Ward Councilor Robin Schlager. 

Angelo Sigalis, the postal worker whose route included the Westons’ home for many years, and neighbor Ellie Meeks decided to found the Friends of Judy Weston, which is spearheading the garden project, Schlager said. 

The initial plans were to dedicate the garden on Oct. 9, which would have been the one-year anniversary of Weston’s death. But Schlager and Josh Weston confirmed that the garden is now expected to open in the spring, so as not to conflict with a memorial event planned for Oct. 9. 

The Westons have lived in the area of Watchung Park since moving to Montclair in the 1950s, and Watchung Park was a favorite place to go for a walk, often after going to pick up bagels at Sunrise Bagels on Watchung Plaza. 

Schlager said the plan as of Aug. 13 is to plant a tree in the park. “The town arborist will help select the best spot for the tree and help with what would be the best species of tree to thrive in that spot,” she said. A memorial plaque will also be set up next to the tree. 

Josh Weston said the design for the garden is still a work in progress, but it may have features such as benches for visitors to sit on. He also noted that one of the couple’s sons is an architect, and is likely to be involved in the project. 

Schlager said the township will work out all of the logistics, financial details, and design elements in partnership with the family and the Friends of Judy Weston. 

In 2000, the Westons started the Weston Science Scholars Program, which allows Montclair High School students to participate in laboratory work at Montclair State University. More than 800 students have taken part in the program since its inception. 

The Westons also sponsored and funded Montclair High School’s robotics program, the high school’s 3D Innovation Laboratory, and the STEM lab at Buzz Aldrin Middle School. 

They were also donors to the Montclair Art Museum, the Montclair Film Festival, Mountainside Hospital, and the Montclair Ambulance Unit. 

At the meeting, council members noted the Westons’ long history of service to the community, in voicing the township’s support for the garden. 

“We’re all so supportive, as honestly we know, the whole family has been supportive of Montclair over the years,” Mayor Sean Spiller said. 

Fourth Ward Councilman David Cummings noted that his own son had also participated in the Weston Scholars program. 

Third Ward Councilor Lori Price Abrams noted that her daughter participated in the Weston Scholars program. She also knew the Westons through Temple Ner Tamid.

Usually, she said, when someone passes away, there is a lot of emphasis on major philanthropic projects that the person may have been involved in. 

“But really, down to the details of making sure, you know, the mailman or something, she was able to thank him in certain ways,” Abrams said. 

Cummings, also a former member of the Board of Education, recalled that the Westons were a regular presence at board meetings. He also recalled that many of Montclair’s superintendents relied on the Westons for their expertise when it came to finding out what the schools needed for STEM education. 

“They were the kind of supporters that you really, really wanted, because everything they did was about the students and education,” he said. “It was just pure philanthropy at its best, and they never asked for anything in return.” 

Editor’s note: Josh Weston has also offered Montclair Local Nonprofit News a challenge grant: $15,000, if 20 or more individuals donate $10,000 to the organization. The grant offer is not contingent on coverage of any specific topics in Montclair, including those involving Weston.