I've worked in magazine journalism for 25 years now. I was in my early 20s when I started, and so was nearly everyone else I worked with at the time. Journalism—especially magazine journalism—was then and still is largely a young person's profession. Now, more than two decades later, I am near the top of the chronology on our staff. But I always took comfort that my partner on the art side, design director Judy H. Neighbor, was of similar vintage.

Judy just reached a milestone this past April that I'm staring down in a couple of years: The Big 50. The way I look at it, this is an age when you finally know a little something about what you're doing. But you're not too set in your ways to shake it up and try something different. You have some confidence in your improvisational abilities and a desire to skirt the comfort zone once in awhile.

I and our staff were looking forward to doing more experimenting with the magazine, and we knew Judy would embrace with gusto whatever challenge we could cook up.

But I'm afraid we won't be taking that journey together. Judy died suddenly just a few weeks ago. She finished work on our May awards issue, headed home for a lovely weekend with her family, and on Monday we received the shocking news from her husband that she was gone.

A blood clot and heart failure. ... Everyone always needs to know how, even if we can't ever understand why or why now.

The colleagues who shared in her kindness, talent, and expertise are bereft. She was the guiding light of all the “R” magazines, design director of not just ra, but of REMODELING, UPSCALE REMODELING, and REPLACEMENT CONTRACTOR. She was the original designer of ra, and the design guru who helped shape the company's launches of ECOHOME and COASTAL CONTRACTOR and reshape many of its existing titles.

None of us ever had to worry about how a magazine would look when Judy was at her Mac. Even when deadlines for multiple magazines collided, she was unflappably upbeat and good-humored. She earned the loyalty and admiration of everyone who relied upon her. And we all did. So very much.

One of the responsibilities Judy most enjoyed on the magazine was directing the covers. She gave her photographers wide latitude and gentle guidance—with often truly wonderful results.

More than anything, these great faces, captured in time, make me think of her.

Comments? E-mail: S. Claire Conroy at cconroy@hanleywood.com.