Aztec's resident champion of the self finds happiness in abundance

James Fenton The Daily Times
The Daily Times

AZTEC — If you're feeling blue this holiday season, Judy Dette has a message for you -- be true to yourself and remember your friends.

Dette hails from New York, talks and walks like a New Yorker, but is nonetheless prone to smile and to say hello.

Somewhere in her 60s, Dette has called Aztec her home since 1972, happily trading in the smog and size of her east-coast origins for sunshine and open spaces.

Trained in art and business sales, she has lived life at full throttle, wasting little time on matters that often preoccupy many.

"That saying, put childish things away -- bulls**t," Dette said. "Bring your life -- your young life -- bring it with you. If someone says something to you, tell them to forget it. Tell 'em, 'I'm living MY life.'"

After going through a divorce from a 30-year marriage to an "administrative, office type," Dette says she believes in daily affirmations, reminders to herself that nurturing her inner 12-year-old is not only a health plan but a means to a richer experience of life.

"I don't think I moved forward after age 12," she said. "Back then, those times were simple. There were no restrictions. You saw a mountain and you climbed it. I'm a mountain climber, always after what's over the next mountain. I'm not saying you should nurture that 'inner child' -- that's a lot of crap. I'm talking about your heart, your hopes and aspirations." Dette has energy many tweens could not summon. Ninety pounds soaking wet, she, along with her lab puppy, Molly, hits Riverside Park every morning to walk along the Animas River with a hodgepodge of ten or so other "dog fanatics" for exercise and conversation.

"Families are boring. This group of people I see each morning in the park are all from different walks of life and we originally connected two years ago through our dogs," Dette said. "We're always talking. It's endlessly interesting, but when you've had enough, you say, 'Thank you and have a nice day' and you're off." These days, Dette is trying to find a buyer for her collection of more than 3,000 comic books, some dating back to the 1950s and purchased as they were released.

"There was something so exciting about superheroes," she said. "They flew, they broke down walls -- they gave me such a feeling of freedom.

"I grew up in Boston in a Catholic family of nine kids. The only thing you ever got new was underwear and maybe a pair of shoes."

James Fenton covers Aztec and Bloomfield for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4621 and Follow him @fentondt on Twitter.