Judith L. Colligan, Howard County activist

Judith L. Colligan, Howard County activist

Judith L. Colligan, a Howard County activist whose work included putting an end to human trafficking, aiding city children through Agape House and founding a meditation group, died Jan. 19 of heart failure at her home in Columbia. She was 71.

"Judy had lots of energy and was very, very vivacious," said Ruth Ellen Hellyre, a Columbia resident and friend of 35 years. "She was always considerate of other people and very dedicated to acting on what she believed."


"Judy died at the top of her game and with her boots on. And that's what she would have wanted," said Normale Doyle, a retired Social Security Administration computer systems analyst and neighbor. "She was sending emails a couple of hours before she died."

The daughter of a stockbroker and a businesswoman, Judith Lynn Carter was born in Newark, N.J., and raised in Summit, N.J., where she graduated in 1959 from Summit High School.

She earned a bachelor's degree in English literature from Upsala College in East Orange, N.J., in 1963.

She taught briefly in New York City public schools and was married in 1968 to George H. Colligan III, a federal government worker. They moved to Columbia in 1973 and later divorced.

She taught aerobics in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and managed the Oakland Mills Village Center in Columbia for several years.

From 1985 until her retirement in 2008, Ms. Colligan worked in sales for Wright Line LLC, an office furniture company.

"She was just not in sales, she was a consultant who educated people, and our clients adored her," said Cathy A. Adams, who had been Ms. Colligan's supervisor. "Judy was one of the most beautiful people I ever worked with. If there were more like Judy in the world, it would be a much better place."

In addition to her professional life, Ms. Colligan became active in numerous organizations and was determined, friends said, to expend her energy helping those in need.

"Judy didn't sleep much. In order to keep up with all of her activities, she became the master of the power nap. She'd take one every five or six hours," said Ms. Doyle.

For nearly 20 years, Ms. Colligan had been involved with Agape House, a Christian children's ministry in Southwest Baltimore.

"I think Judy mentored about a dozen girls and even established college funds for some of them," said the Rev. Edward G. Robinson, Agape House president and chief executive officer. "She very quietly worked with our children. She always made sure they were exposed to cultural events and even took them over to Washington."

Ms. Colligan had served on the organization's board and development committee.

"She was a catalyst for all of us and got us connected to Kittamaqundi Church, her church in Columbia," he said. "Even though I'm ultraconservative and Judy was far left, we always worked well together. I'd call her four of five times a week. I never met anyone like Judy."

He added: "She was very kind and gentle. She was an inspiration, and her death leaves a vacuum here."


Ms. Colligan also volunteered for the past eight years at 2nd Saturday Cafe, a local Columbia music venue that donated its profits to Agape House.

"I could always trust her when she gave her word. You knew she meant what she said and did what she promised," said Ms. Doyle. "She was warm and loving and a welcoming soul to our food team at 2nd Saturday, and recruited volunteers to support us."

Ms. Colligan was a co-founder of the Columbia Non-Violence Communication Group, whose goal was practicing and teaching nonviolent communication.

For the past several years, she had worked with the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition, a group that works with victims of human trafficking, and was a co-founder of HoCoAGAST, Howard County Advocacy Group Against Slavery and Trafficking, where she lobbied in Annapolis and conducted human trafficking seminars at churches and before community groups.

At the time of her death, she was preparing for Human Trafficking Lobby Day.

In an email, the Maryland Rescue and Restore Coalition wrote that "Judy was an inspiration to all of us as she brought light to a very dark topic, and did so in a way that continually encouraged others and built alliances."

Ms. Colligan was an active member of Kittamaqundi Community Church. In 1995, she founded and served as leader of the Columbia Mindfulness Group, where she taught meditation.

For many years, she also served on the board of the Bhavana Society Meditation Center, a Buddhist monastic community in High Point, W.Va., where she went for weekly meditation sessions.

"Judy was a very compassionate and flexible person, and that fits into our situation. She was full of joy and very far-sighted. She always wanted to help people," said Bhanta Gunaratana, a Buddhist monk and friend of 20 years.

She enjoyed following politics, ballroom dancing and performing in community theater.

"Judy was an activist, a social justice proponent, a seeker of truth, a crusader for compassion and a friend to the underdog," said Ms. Doyle.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. Sunday at her church, 5410 Leaf Treader Way. At her request, her ashes will be spread at the Buddhist monastery in West Virginia.

Surviving are a son, George H. Colligan IV of Portland, Ore.; a daughter, Dana Lynn Colligan of Samara, Costa Rica; a brother, Russell Carter of Fredericksburg, Va.; and a grandson.