BY ALBERT AMATEAU | Judith Carroll Kallas, an early associate and later a partner in the Cornelia St. Café, which opened 35 years ago, died in her sleep Friday night March 23 of cardiac arrest. She was 74.
Her husband, John L. Kallas, 89, died two weeks later.
An actress who had worked with Robin Hirsch, one of the cafe’s founders, she was involved in the cafe, which now mounts 300 cultural events each year, from the beginning.
“Judith was with us in spirit from day one, and physically as soon as we made enough money to have someone come in to do the books,” wrote Hirsch in a moving tribute to Judith Kallas.
An actress and singer, she had acted in plays directed by Hirsch and Charles McKenna, a co-founder of the cafe. She also sang with the Metropolitan Greek Choral.
She became the first manager of the cafe, which opened on July 4, 1977, with one room, a toaster oven and an espresso machine. She became a partner in the early 1990s when she invested some money that she inherited from her father in the cafe, helping it to survive a recession, Hirsch said.
Her husband, a World War II combat veteran, was a cartoonist and playwright who worked for many years as an engineer with the Bell Telephone system. He became afflicted with Alzheimer’s about eight years ago and had to move to a nursing home.
“Judith began to devote more and more time to his care and would bicycle up to the home every day to tend to him,” Hirsch said. “We recognized her from the beginning as a beautiful, sturdy and indomitable soul.”
A memorial for both Judith and John took place April 14 at the Friends Meeting House on E. 15th St. at Rutherford Place. Her sister, Gail Orr, and brother-in-law, Thomas Orr, and her niece, Emily Orr, survive.