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Sunday, January 23, 2022

Judd Herberger: A Tribute to the Scottsdale Philanthropist

Judd Herberger is known to Arizonans for his generosity and support of the arts. It is through his legacy that the arts in Arizona have thrived and grown in a diverse and exciting way.

Judd Herberger is known to Arizonans for his generosity and support of the arts. It is through his legacy that the arts in Arizona have thrived and grown in a diverse and exciting way. Herberger felt that it was very important to nurture the next generation because as he once stated, “If the arts aren’t healthy and flourishing, where are the audiences going to come from?”

Herberger and the love of his life, Billie Jo, contributed to and enriched the arts and culture scene in Phoenix and Scottsdale. As avid supporters of many organizations including the Herberger Theater Center, ASU’s Herberger College of Fine Arts, Arizona Opera, Phoenix Theatre, Valley Youth Theater, Arizona Heart Ball, Ballet Arizona and others, this dynamic duo has been a force in the community.

Herberger passed away October 27 at the age of 79. We would like to honor Judd Herberger with this tribute by giving insight to a well-respected philanthropist who was loved and admired by all.

Green Living magazine had the honor to speak with his beloved wife, Billie Jo.

Judd & Billie Jo Herberger at Soleri Bridge at the Scottsdale Waterfront celebration of the annual Canal Convergence Public Art Festival sponsored by Billie Jo & Judd Herberger. Photo by Sean Deckert

GL: As a family, you have contributed so much to worthy causes – why was this especially important?

BJH: Our families were part of a long tradition of contributing to the community and giving back. We both grew up in households where we had the luck to watch our parents’ continuous involvement and passion for our society, and they were part of my life in California, and with Judd here in Arizona. Years later, when we found each other as one, Judd and I created our own version of it, by extending ourselves to support those organizations and groups that were looking for support or needed help to continue their mission.

The world of arts and expressions of art became our main purpose, but at the same time we found ourselves creating momentum to organizations that are fundamental to the growth and wellness of our own community…and beyond. When you do not know anything different, you follow what you were taught as a kid and with that, you learn to continue those traditions. I am devoted to continuing the legacy of our families as I did with my late Judd and now I, myself, will carry the legacy and the tradition.

GL: What is a favorite memory that the two of you shared?

BJH: We were lucky to have found each other. Our life together is the best memory of it all, from the breakfast at the Shahrazad, which is our boat in Marina del Rey, to the late nights in our balcony on the Waterfront in Scottsdale, where we were able to enjoy the immense creativity of our artists during the annual Canal Convergence. Every single moment is to be remembered, and every single minute of life was a joyful celebration of our love for each other and our love for expressions of art.

GL: Both of you have a love for the water; tell us about his thoughts on protecting the environment.

BJH: Judd was an incredible reader and knew much about many subjects, one of them being the environment. He watched hours and hours of National Geographic TV shows, read many articles in magazines about science and wildlife. He was an avid reader, so he read many books about the ocean and ocean life. He observed the animals and wild ocean life during our holidays on the Shahrazad and that love for the sea inspired him to study the science of navigation, as the captain of our boat.

Judd Herberger captains his own boat “The Shaharazad” in Marina del Rey during a cocktail reception years ago. Photo courtesy Herberger Family Archives.

He always talked about learning from Mother Nature, and always had a word of wisdom for anyone who wanted to talk with him about the importance of saving the wildlife, and the environment. He used to say: “Always trust the specialists, believe in those who are experts and thank them for giving us light and knowledge in front of the unknown.” Those are incredible words of wisdom from a man who loved the ocean and ocean life, a man who learned how to fly and a man who loved planet earth. He dearly loved the sea and was eager to engage in conversations about ocean wildlife. We shared that love for the ocean, life on the coast and beach living, so you know, I will forever be his “Surfer Girl,” but I also will forever be Captain Judd’s “Mermaid.”

GL: Tell me about his love for the arts?

BJH: We both shared our life loving the world of the arts. The world of arts became our way to live life with the purpose of being part of something greater than us, something happy and magical. We decided early on that our give back to the community would center
around the ability of helping others to create real, but unreal moments that make us all dream and become part of a fairy-like moment. He loved the arts in all shapes and forms.

Billie Jo and Judd Herberger attend the annual Festival of the Arts at the Herberger Theater Center in 2019. Photo courtesy of the Herberger Family Archives.

Our home became our own gallery, our own museum, filled with objects designed from all over the world and paintings and sculptures by many artists. He loved that I always filled the room with music, all the time, which is another expression of art. He wanted to be part of it all. One year, Bobb Cooper, who is the creative artistic director of Valley Youth Theatre needed to have a trained dog to be part of their summer production of “Annie, the Musical,” so he contacted us, and they cast our little dog, Chelsey, to be part of the production. Judd was elated! He was the stage mother for her, and he was able to be backstage every evening of the play and was able to share the behind the scenes with all the actors, musicians and techs that were part of the production. It was a joy for him and a memory he never forgot.

GL: What were a few words of wisdom that he would always say?

BJH: Judd had many ways of leaving some sort of teachings when he spoke to us. When he was in conversations with anyone, he made sure that a message we both shared was understood, one way and another. He wanted everyone to know that in the face of life and as Billie Jo would say, “Hold everything with an open hand.” We believe in allowing each day to be a gift, each person, each minute of it all to be a gift and never put a clamp on anything or anyone.

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