Mommy Dearest

The fight between socialite Judi Wolf and her brother has turned into the mother of all family feuds.

After Betty moved to Denver and married Paul Milstein, Letty moved, too, to stay close to her sister. She met Paul's brother, Jules, who immediately fell in love with the petite, dark-haired beauty.

Unlike the Lippmans, the Milsteins were impoverished Jews who had emigrated from Russia to England and subsequently to the United States. Gregarious as he was poor, Jules was a charmer--but certainly beneath Letty's perceived social class. For six years he wooed Letty, promising to work himself to the bone in order to keep her in the manner to which she was accustomed.

In 1939 Letty finally consented to marry Jules. On July 11, 1942, Judith Ellen Milstein was born.

As he had promised, Jules worked hard to support his wife and child, giving up the outdoors and sports activities he'd enjoyed as a young man and putting in more hours to build a contracting business. Whatever money he didn't spend on his family he invested in Denver real estate. Year by year the Milsteins' financial outlook improved.

For the first twelve years of her life, Judi Milstein was a beloved only child, raised by a mother who considered her family a cut or two above the masses. Judi learned ballet and classical music and the fine arts that young ladies of good upbringing should appreciate. If she had inherited her father's pleasant, peasant face rather than her mother's more delicate lines, Judi was still a pretty girl with dark brown hair and eyes.

Then on September 10, 1954, Letty and Jules had a baby boy, John--and the sibling rivalry from hell was born.

"I had more toys," John says, looking back at what he believes are the root causes of the rift with his sister. By the time John was a toddler, Jules's hard work had elevated the family to the upper middle class. Not rich by Judi's current standards, but certainly comfortable.

Letty was a sheltered wife and mother. Jules had built her a large home, which she filled with select pieces of art and furniture. She had a housekeeper and a nanny for John. There were weekly trips to the hairdresser and season passes to the symphony. The Milsteins were in good standing at the local synagogue--not overly religious, but moral people who knew right from wrong. Bad things did not happen in the Milstein household.

Judi attended East High School. A picture in the 1958 Angelus yearbook shows the senior preparing to compete as a finalist in the school's annual Wolcott Sight-Reading contest. In the event, each girl was handed a book to read, cold, in front of judges who evaluated the contestant's ability to recite using the proper expression. Judi didn't win, but her penchant for drama would become apparent later in life.

In the East High library's lone copy of the Angelus, next to Judi Milstein's photograph is a notation that she would be attending the University of California at Berkeley as a philosophy major. Judi stayed at the California school for two years before deciding that she wanted to study Spanish at the University of Madrid in Spain. But that was an ocean too far away, and instead her parents sent her to the University of Mexico in Mexico City.

There she met Issac "Zack" Chayet Volchansky, five years her senior. Zack was an attorney who'd just graduated from Harvard with a degree in international law. The two made a good-looking couple. He stood a little over six feet, with heavy masculine features, dark skin and a mustache. Judi was six inches shorter and curvaceous, with a wide, perfect smile.

Judi and Zack married in Denver on April 15, 1962. After spending some time back in Mexico, they returned to Colorado and lived in the Milsteins' basement before Jules bought them a modest brick home on East Fourth Avenue near Monaco.

The house was in a nice middle-class neighborhood filled with professional people who kept their lawns neat and their homes tidy. Several doctors lived in the area, including Dr. John Denst. He lived across the street with his wife, Dorothy, a registered nurse.

Judi and Zack's first child, Edward Lance Chayet, was born on January 5, 1963. His grandmother Letty cared for him while Judi pursued a teaching degree with a Spanish specialty from the University of Denver. And Letty continued to babysit her grandson--as she would the two who followed, Victor in 1966 and Marco in 1971--when Judi landed a job at Graland Country Day School, a private academy that teaches students from many of Denver's richest and most influential families.

John Milstein, a young boy at the time, recalls his sister complaining about how some of the parents of the students treated her "sort of like the hired help, and she resented it," he says. "I think that's where Judi saw what she wanted--and part of what she wanted was to be on top of that society."

When Zack and Judi decided to move to a bigger home soon after Marco's birth, Jules and Letty moved into the Fourth Avenue house. John was leaving for college; they didn't need the larger home anymore.

But the Milsteins still had plenty of nice things, drove a Cadillac and were regular contributors to the symphony, where their names were engraved on the backs of their seats. And they soon became fast friends with their neighbors, particularly the Densts.

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