Judy Wong launched her competitive bass-fishing career in the late-1970s, then took a hiatus to focus on raising a family. By the time she returned several years later, Penny Berryman was the star of the Bass 'N Gals circuit.
"When I came back, she was the person we all idolized and the one we aspired to be like," Wong said of Berryman, who died this week at age 62 after a battle with cancer. "Shortly after we met we became friends, and at one of my first Classic championships, my husband and son had come with me, and she came over and introduced herself to them and sat with us.
"That was her – she was a competitor and a true pro, yet she had a heart of gold. And when somebody else won, she was one of the first to come up and congratulate them."
Wong recalled a summer tournament – likely at Bull Shoals – at which the weather was stiflingly hot and the action extremely slow. On her way back to the dock from the weigh-in, she overheard another competitor calling home.
"The girl was telling whoever she was talking to that she hadn't done very well, but neither had Penny Berryman or Judy Wong. The thing that meant the most to me wasn't that she'd mentioned my name, but she'd put me on the same level as Penny.
"It's a shame that people's lives get so busy and we don't take the time to stay in contact with the people we should and keep up with what's going on with them. Numerous times over the last couple of years I'd thought about how I needed to call Penny and talk to her, and now it's too late, and that's very unfortunate for me.
"We need to take more time and spend it with out family and friends."