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Obituaries » Judy Acker-Smith

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September 6, 1956 - May 26, 2021

To celebrate the life of a wife, mother, teacher, coach and friend, a Celebration of Life will be held at Kalamazoo College's Stetson Chapel on Saturday, July 24, 2021, at 10:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be directed to fund a memorial flower garden that will be created, in honor of Judy, to serve and inspire the entire community. For more information, please visit the family's CaringBridge website at Donations via check can be directed to Rick Smith (memo: "Judy Inspirational Garden"), 7202 Angling Road, Portage, Michigan 49024 or via cashless donation through Venmo (@Judy-Inspirational-Garden).

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Judy Lynn Acker-Smith, age 64, passed away on May 26, 2021 after a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. Judy will be dearly missed by her family, friends and the many lives she touched through her coaching, mentoring and volunteering. She was a well-known and impactful tennis coach, a dedicated and passionate life-long volunteer, and a loving and devoted wife, mother, grandmother, daughter and sister.

Judy was born September 6, 1956 in DeKalb, Illinois, the daughter of George and Nancy (Clouston) Acker. She grew up in Kalamazoo, Michigan and was the oldest of four girls.  From a young age, her parents instilled in her the importance of kindness, integrity and a relentless work ethic.  Judy attended Kalamazoo Central High School from 1971-1974 where she met the love of her life, Rick Smith.  Judy and Rick married on July 14, 1979 at Stetson Chapel in Kalamazoo, Michigan.  While in high school, Judy was a tennis star, captain of the cheerleading squad, and achieved a 4.0 G.P.A.  During her sophomore year, when girls’ tennis was not yet a high school sport, she played #1 singles on the Boys’ Varsity Tennis Team. During her junior year, when girls’ tennis became a high school sport, she played on the girls’ team in the fall and the boys’ team in the spring.  During the inaugural girls’ tennis season, she helped the team capture the State Championship, and individually won the Girls’ State Singles title.  During her senior year, she was forced to choose only one tennis team.  Judy elected to play #1 singles on the Boys’ Varsity Tennis Team, was named co-captain, and qualified to play in the Boys’ State High School Tournament that year.

Upon graduation from high school, Judy attended the University of Florida from 1974-1978 and remained a standout both in the classroom and on the tennis court. She earned a Bachelors’ Degree in Physical Education and graduated with a 3.98 G.P.A. Judy was a Collegiate Singles Champion, an All-American, a National Collegiate Doubles Champion, and the 1978 Lady Gator Athlete-of-the-Year.  In honor of her incredible accomplishments, Judy was inducted into the University of Florida Athletic Hall of Fame in 1993.  She was also inducted into the Kalamazoo Central High School Hall of Fame in 2003, and the Western Michigan Tennis Association Hall of Fame in 2020.

After college, Judy began her career as a tennis and fitness instructor. For over 30 years, Judy taught tennis in the community through private and group lessons, summer camps and the Kalamazoo College Tennis School.  She taught thousands of kids to play and love the game of tennis using creative and fun teaching techniques. Judy used her patience, positivity and endless energy to motivate and empower her students to be the best they could be both on and off the court.

In addition to coaching, Judy devoted much of her time to volunteering.  Judy was passionate about playground safety and helped plan several community-built playgrounds in Portage, Michigan. She was also a member of the Portage Athletic Foundation from 1997-2004, serving as Co-President in 2000-2001. She led the initiative to build multi-purpose gyms at both Portage High Schools and worked tirelessly on planning, fundraising and constructing the state championship signs located at two entrances to the City of Portage.  She had the extraordinary ability to inspire and bring people together through her leadership, enthusiasm and persistence. To acknowledge her many years of hard work and dedication to the community, she was honored with the Portage Rotary Club Community Service Award in 2006 and the Carl Latora “Huskie Pride” Award in 2007.

Beyond her numerous athletic, academic and professional accomplishments, Judy was a supportive and loving mother to her three daughters: Kristalyn, Ashley and Shannon. She supported every aspect of their lives and was their best friend, hero, teacher and biggest fan. All three daughters were high school multi-sport standouts that went on to play Division I softball – each following in their mother’s footsteps by accumulating multiple accolades. Judy was especially proud that each daughter was recognized academically as the Scholar-Athlete-of-the-Year at their respective university and each daughter earned Academic All-American honors.

Judy lived life to the fullest and with no regrets. She was a constant ray of sunshine with an inviting smile who found joy in helping and motivating others to succeed. All who knew Judy would agree that their lives were better and brighter because of her. Her legacy will continue to live on in the countless lives she positively impacted.

She is survived by her husband, Rick Smith; their daughters, Kristalyn (Mike) Musselman of Tecumseh, MI, Ashley (Keith Dauper) Smith of Denver, CO, and Shannon (Graham) Myers of Nolensville, TN; grandchildren, Kohlee, Maycie and Kaden Musselman; Adelyn, Zachary and Lucas Dauper; and Brayden, Easton and Cole Myers; mother, Nancy Acker; mother-in-law, Annette Smith; sisters, Cindy Acker, Sherry Acker, and Gigi Acker; several cousins, nieces and nephews; and an abundance of friends.  She was preceded in death by her legendary father, Coach George Acker.