Judy Bailey is casting her eyes over the names of the New Zealanders who gave their lives in battle, etched into the walls of the World War I Sanctuary at the Auckland War Memorial Museum. When she turns around to speak, there’s a slight catch in her voice.
“This is a whole generation of young men, lost to us forever,” she says. “It’s incredible when you think about it. So many with their lives ahead of them, just gone.
“They went off thinking they were going on the adventure of a lifetime – and one by one they ended up as white crosses.” When the former newsreader presents Maori Television’s Anzac Day coverage this week, it will be the sixth time she’s done it in seven years, but remembering those who fought for our country still never fails to move her.
She finds it especially emotional to think about the mothers who lost their sons.
“I can’t imagine the heartbreak all those women must have gone through, sending off their boys all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, and then one day getting a telegram in the letter box or a knock on the door,” says Judy (60), who is mum to sons James (33) and Sam (29), as well as daughter Gemma (25).
She points out that as well as the Rolls of Honour engraved in marble walls of the museum’s World War I Sanctuary and the World War 2 Hall of Memories, there are memorials in all our cities and towns that serve as poignant reminders of the toll the conflicts took on Kiwi families. Judy says it is a privilege to be part of the TV commemorations.
“I love it. It’s a challenge – real seat-of-the-pants broadcasting. It is always a bit nerve-wracking, but it’s so good to be involved because it is such a worthwhile thing. We should never forget.”
These days the Anzac Day broadcast is one of the few TV jobs Judy takes on. After reading the news on TV One five nights a week for 18 years, she’s enjoying doing other things with her time, and only does TV work if it is something she strongly believes in.
Ask her if she misses reading the news and her answer is instantaneous: “Oh no, not at all. I enjoyed it while I did it. “What I do miss is being part of a team – collaborating with others was great, but as for being on the telly every day, I don’t miss it a bit.”
While it may have been nearly eight years since she was last a regular fixture on our screens, viewers certainly haven’t forgotten her.
“I do get people coming up to me and saying, ‘Aren’t you Judy Bailey?’ – and they are very kind. I suppose I was a constant visitor in their households for so long. It was such a privilege and I loved it, but I’m loving where I am at now. Things change.”
She is now working on writing projects, doing a bit of public speaking, as well as making the odd TV appearance – and spending as much time as she can with her grandchildren.
She’s not known as Nana or Grandma, but Ju-Ju – a name first used by oldest grandson Harry (6) and picked up by Sadie (3) and Mila (20 months). One-month-old Hudson will
no doubt follow suit.
The other thing keeping her busy is charity work, particularly for the Brainwave Trust. Judy has supported the organisation for many years, which raises public awareness about how a warm, responsive relationship with your child has a physical impact on brain development and the sort of adult they become. And she will continue to be involved for as long as she can.
“I couldn’t do something if I didn’t believe in it and I certainly believe in this – it’s something I can put my heart and soul into.” She’ll also be putting her heart and soul into the Anzac Day broadcast. “It’s a long day, but I’m extraordinarily lucky to be a part of it,” she says.