If you haven’t seen her, then it’s almost certain you’ve heard her voice. Some might wonder what was more tragic – the length of her life, or the way it ended. Or maybe the real tragedy was the lost potential that laid before her.
If she were alive today, she would be 35 years old and possibly making a great life for herself either continuing to grace the silver screen with her talents or working an honest trade job or raising children of her own with a loving husband by her side.
But none of this was to be for Judith Barsi, born on June 6, 1978 in San Fernando Valley, Los Angeles California.
Judith’s parents both were Hungarian immigrants, fleeing Communist rule. They met in California where they married and had Judith. Maria, Judith’s mother, immediately began prepping her daughter to be an actress. In no time, Judith stared in over 70 commercials and made guest appearances in several popular TV shows such as Punky Brewster, Cheers, and The Love Boat.
At the age of 10, the year of her death, she stood only 3 feet and 2 inches, and was given hormone injections to encourage her growth.
Her father, Jozsef, was a raging alcoholic, and all this time, while his daughter grew toward stardom and fame (bringing in an estimated $100,000 a year by the fourth grade), he grew jealous. He acted out abusively toward Judith and her mother, and after the police determined there was no proof of abuse to lead to an arrest, she – Judith’s mother – decided to no longer press charges.
Due to her father’s continued behavior however, Judith began to put on weight, and began acting out by pulling out her eyelashes and plucking her cat’s whiskers. She broke down in front of her agent one day while auditioning for her voice-over roll as Anne-Marie for Don Bluth’s All Dogs Go to Heaven. Judith began getting help by a child psychologist who reported her alarming findings to child protective services.
Maria assured the CPA that she would be divorcing Jozsef shortly and there was no need for them to take Judith away. But she put it off, claiming that she didn’t want to lose her house and belongings that Judith’s wealth had acquired for the family.
July 25, 1988 was a sunny day. Los Angeles carried on with business and shows, and Judith, like every other kid that summer day, was seen riding her bike. She had just completed filming for her role as young Carol Seaver for the hit show, Growing Pains. A future as bright as the day lay ahead of her with her first major motion picture animated film scheduled to be released in November, and the next one still in development to be released the next year, it helped that she was a favorite of Don Bluth, as he reportedly said that he had planned to continue employing Judith for future roles.
Had she seen Ducky merchandise yet? You might remember Ducky as the green Saurolophus (or “duck billed” dinosaur) that she voiced in the Spielberg-produced hit, Land Before Time. (“Yep-yep-yep!”) And oh, how people would dote on her for her role as the adorable Anne-Marie in All Dogs Go to Heaven.
But she would not be there to receive such praise, or to go on staring in movies for the renowned animated film director/producer team.
Instead, she parked her bike in the garage and ate dinner at the usual time and went to bed for the last time in her life. Her father cut her sleep short by shooting her in the head where she lay. He shot his wife as well, but sulked around the house for two days before lighting their bodies on fire and then shooting himself in the head with a .32 caliber pistol.
We mourn the lives of those cut short, and we stew over lost opportunities. But I ask you, if you’re still here, alive and breathing… what are you doing with your life? No one can escape the certainty of danger in this world, but you can certainly make the most of your life each day you’re given.
And you really should do just that. Because you never know when your last bike ride will be.
What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. James 4:14
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