Kula Member Spotlight: Judy McClure

Hello! My name is Judy McClure, and I’m a Midwesterner—born in St. Louis, lived in the four central states until we moved to Cedar Rapids when I was in 4th grade. I attended Iowa State and have been in Des Moines since the mid-1970s. I live in an 1895 late Victorian house in the Sherman Hill Historic District of Des Moines, which I rehabilitated from a condemned 5-plex on two floors into a 3-plex on three floors (including the attic) in 1985. I married for the first time in 1988 when I was 41 to Des Moines native Jon White. He was a fun, good-hearted man who died suddenly overnight in 2007 while on a canoeing and camping trip in Arkansas with 60+ of his closest friends. I continue to be thankful for our many friends through these years of adjustment.

I worked as an architect in private practice and also for the State of Iowa reviewing projects with historic preservation tax credits. After early retirement in 2002, I worked with my husband’s home inspection business as office manager and moved into being a private consultant in Historic Preservation. Also since 1994, I have been a dress hat retailer in the front parlor of my house. I retired from my preservation consulting business a few years ago and since COVID I have changed how I do hat sales by bringing hats and caps out to my front porch any day by appointment only—so it feels freer and like being in semi-retirement now. My current challenge is finding and mentoring someone who wants to be the next hat seller in Des Moines in about 4-5 years.

I am part Cherokee (a tiny 1/32nd). I love that part of my heritage. Currently, the Oklahoma tribe is redressing their history of having held Africans as slaves before, during, and after the Trail of Tears by making the descendants of their Freedmen into tribal members, among other forms of reparations. That’s awesome! I also contribute modestly to political candidates nationwide and organizations I admire, such as the Lakota People’s Law Project in support of the Water Protectors fighting against DAPL, plus other groups fighting against pipelines across Iowa land.

I got started going to yoga with Mary when a friend of mine invited me to join her at Chair Yoga when it was held at Covenant Presbyterian Church. I expected to improve my health, balance, strength, and flexibility by going and that has pretty much panned out for me – or at least I’m maintaining these attributes as I’ve gotten older and my knees have gotten louder. One way that my practice has evolved over the years is that I make more use of alternative ways of physically moving, thanks to Mary’s always thoughtful way of suggesting modifications to us for our practice. The use of the Zoom format has allowed me to easily attend other classes beyond just the Chair Yoga I started with; so now I do Strength and Balance class and sometimes the Mixed-Level Hatha, as well. Gratefully, with community time before and just after livestream classes, I can feel connected with my classmates. That’s emotionally important in this time of COVID, and as we are kind and caring people, it is a great community to which to belong.

Mary provides the mental and spiritual benefit of helping students understand the purpose of being in a pose to assist and strengthen the body’s muscles and joints, the value of breathing in different ways, and the importance of taking time to be self-nurturing. What I appreciate about this practice, despite bodily changes due to my knees and a tender shoulder, is with Mary’s way of coaching in Zoom classes, I can continue to maintain flexibility, strength, and balance using alternative ways to move that are more accessible to me. Every time I turn my head while driving to look over my shoulder, I recognize that I can do that so well due to our yoga exercises.

This year to celebrate my birthday, I took an almost-impromptu trip to the island of Kauai on my own. It’s a place I’ve been to several times before with friends now passed, and I loved returning. This time was wonderful in entirely different ways—both low-key and warm during the first week of January. It was nice to visit familiar places and see a few new ones, just hanging out. Plus I did two Zoom yoga classes with Mary and my classmates while I was there!

Judy doing a modified "tree pose."
Me doing my modified “tree pose.”
Judy playing the West African drum
A few years ago I learned how to play the West African drum called a djembe. I was part of a group that played Healing Drum sessions once a month. I’m takin a break from all this, sadly. I did enjoy it and the community and what is called entrainment—out of one’s head and feeling the connection while creating music together.
Me conducting business in my hat shop.