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Judy McGinn, Librarian With a Love for Home, Dies at 78

This obituary is part of a series about people who have died in the coronavirus pandemic. Read about others here.

Judy McGinn, a librarian in Athens, Ohio, was hyper vigilant about keeping safe during the pandemic. A cancer survivor, she sequestered herself in her house for most of the past year. On the rare occasions when she went out, she masked up and stayed socially distant.

On Jan. 22 she received her first does of vaccine. But by mid-February, before she had received her second dose, she came down with a cold, according to Heather Denbow, a family friend. And then she tested positive for Covid-19. She grew sicker and was hospitalized on Feb. 22. Ms. McGinn died two weeks later at 78.

It is unusual but not impossible to catch the virus after receiving the first dose of a double-dose vaccine, health authorities say. A single dose is about only 80 percent effective in warding off Covid-19, studies show; that is why people are not considered fully protected until they receive the second dose.

Ms. McGinn had been a whirlwind of domestic activity for much of her life. She was a competitive gardener. She loved making home improvements, doing jigsaw puzzles, cooking, and sewing quilts, including some for cats. She videotaped every episode of “Star Trek” and cataloged each by star date.

She also had a fondness for all things Canadian, having lived in Kincardine, Ontario, on Lake Huron, for part of her girlhood. She turned an entire room in her Athens home into a shrine to Canada, with framed photos, tchotchkes and a throw blanket with the Kincardine plaid as well as a handmade quilt with a maple leaf.

At Christmas, she hosted a big all-day party and served a variety of elaborate homemade cookies, including layered Nanaimo bars. She started her baking in August, after convincing her husband that they needed a second full-size freezer in which to store her goods for this annual event.

Judy Rae Brooks was born on Dec. 30, 1942, in Pontiac, Mich. Her father, Raymond Orley Brooks, was a mechanic. Her mother, Viola Mae (Collins) Brooks, was a homemaker.

The first member of her family to attend college, Judy studied education at Eastern Michigan University, graduating in 1964. She briefly taught high school biology before joining the Peace Corps, which sent her to Ozamiz, a port city in the southern Philippines.

There she met Richard Bernard McGinn Jr., who had finished his Peace Corps service but stayed on to teach Tagalog to the new trainees — including Judy Brooks. Peace Corps rules forbade teachers and trainees from dating, but romance blossomed, and the two were married in 1970.

They moved to Hawaii, where she earned a master’s degree in library science in 1972, then to Indonesia, where Mr. McGinn, a linguistics scholar by then, conducted research on the disappearing language of Rejang.

After settling in Ohio, Mr. McGinn taught linguistics at Ohio University in Athens, and Ms. McGinn went to work as a librarian, first at the Athens County Mental Health Center and then at the Athens Public Library. Her husband died in 2018.

Ms. McGinn, who was treated for breast cancer in 2003-4, is survived by her daughter, Colleen Rae McGinn; her son, Andrew; a sister, Linda Brooks; a brother, Bill Brooks; a half sister, Mary Lou McLane; and a granddaughter, Mairéad McGinn.

Throughout the pandemic, Ms. McGinn and Mairéad met almost daily on Skype to read together. Among their favorites was the Ivy & Bean children’s book series, about two unlikely playmates.

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