CORNWALL, Ontario – Judy Bobka had your back.
The iron lady of local Conservative politics, including time spent as president of the local PC association, was plenty of things in Cornwall. Most recently she led the Cooper Marsh Conservators and also spent time as the chair of the Cornwall Community Police Services Board in the 1990s.
She was a mother, grandmother and wife.
But for thousands of local students, those fortunate enough to attend her beloved Cornwall Collegiate and Vocational School, she was a teacher and guidance counsellor.
And if you needed anything, Judy Bobka had your back.
“Mrs. Bobka”, as so many former students still refer to her, passed away at the Cornwall Hospice Thursday. She was 75.
I called several former students of hers when I got the news. Their reactions ran from grief to shock.
“She did things that were over and above what you would normally think would come from the average teacher,” Peter Hood, a former student and peer helper under Bobka’s tutelage in the early 1990s, told me.
“I can remember when the Ontario Winter Games came to Cornwall, she was the one who suggested to me that I should go and work for them,” he said. “She put me in touch with the person who was doing the hiring.
“She did things like that all the time.”
If there was anyone from CCVS who planned to live forever, it was Mrs. Bobka. She had an energy and drive that transcended the years that all too quickly tick by on the calendar.
I ran into her last summer, trying to rush from one assignment to another on a Second Street sidewalk.
She bent my ear for the better part of 20 minutes, with her thoughts on local politics, the state of the media that cover Cornwall, and life in general.
Mrs. Bobka took time for her students, past and present, despite the fact that she had retired years before.
On another occasion when I was still a student at CCVS I can recall a meeting between her, me and my mother in her office. The most recent report cards had been issued, and yours truly had once again proved that late night TV and studying do not mix.
I tried to play it off like I was having a difficult time understanding the subject matter at school, when the truth was that I was simply too lazy to put the work in when the playoffs were on.
The discussion centred on whether I should move from the so-called “advanced” classes to “general.”
As my mother put it: “Maybe it’s best if he come down a level.”
Mrs. Bobka was having none of that. “It’s taking a different route,” she corrected.
Of course she saw right through my line of B.S. I spent exactly three periods in the general class and realized that was not where I belonged.
Not long after returning to the advanced class she tapped my shoulder while walking down the hallway.
“I knew that’s where you belonged all along.”
It’s fair to say Mrs. Bobka knew that I needed a wake-up call that no one but myself could offer.
I’m going to miss her.