Julie Tisch, Inverness gardener and painter, 1941—2010

07/15/2010

Longtime Inverness resident Julie Tisch, a member of the Garden Club and master faux painter, passed away in her sleep last week in her Bisbee, Arizona home. She was 69. Over the last week, Julie’s daughter, Suzanne, received dozens of emails from neighbors and friends saying how much they will miss the perpetually beaming and joyful woman that gave life to the homes she painted, the plants she tended and the people she knew. 

“Part of what was amazing about my mom was how everybody gravitated to her,” Suzanne said. “She was caring, loving and charismatic. She always saw the bright side of everybody.”

Julie was born in St. Louis, Missouri on January 1, 1941 to Blenda Björk and Richard Tisch. Blenda was an aspiring oil painter and Richard was an accomplished engineer that specialized in airplane hydraulic systems. After her parents divorced in 1946, Julie and her mother moved to Ishpeming, a small iron-mining town in northern Michigan. There they lived with Julie’s grandmother and uncle, who ran the town’s funeral parlor. Blenda became a hostess at the historic Mather Inn. 

Julie loved growing up in Ishpeming, where her Dalmatian, Toby, was her constant companion. Her friends were the icemen that delivered fresh slabs each morning, the policeman that switched on the streetlights every evening and the city workers that shoveled sand onto the sleet-covered sidewalks. 

“Snow was more than a word; snow was art, backdrop, adversary and playmate,” Julie later wrote. “Walking alone to school, my boots crunching, hearing the ice song of a thousand tinkling bells. The ice, which had formed overnight on all the many tiny branches, was falling as the sun rose. Every branch shining with the ice; a sparkling morning of light and sound.”

When she was 18, Julie met a striking young Marine named Bill Higgins, who had recently returned from Japan. The couple married shortly after Julie’s graduation, and moved out to San Louis Obispo. “They just threw a spare can of oil in the back seat, and off they went,” Suzanne said.

Over the next three years, Julie gave birth to Michael, Bridget and Suzanne. Bill delivered fresh linen to restaurants and hotels along Pismo Beach, while Julie took classes at California Polytechnic University, where she majored in English literature and eventually earned a teaching credential. She took a position at Santa Margarita Elementary School, and taught at several other schools in the district.

Julie loved to take her family on cross-country road trips in her old Volkswagen Vanagon. “She was a great mom,” Suzanne said. “She was the mom all my friends wanted as their mom.” But after a few years, Julie needed a change. She and Bill had divorced, and teaching elementary children had lost its appeal. Two of her friends offered Julie a job at their wallpaper, house painting and cleaning company in the Bay Area, so she moved her family to Berkeley. 

One night at a friends’ party, Julie met a young Inverness contractor named Bill Bailey. She was dating someone at the time, but Bill made a lasting impression on her. After Julie broke up with her boyfriend, she re-introduced herself to him. They took a job together refurbishing and painting a home, and fell in love. Bill remained her companion until she passed away. 

Julie moved into Bill’s home in Inverness, where she helped raise his two daughters. She remained a painter, and specialized in faux painting—a highly technical method that replicates other materials, such as wood or marble. Gardening was always a big part of her life, but she was able to devote more time to it after retiring ten years ago. “It was her real passion—she always had a garden,” Suzanne said. “She would go buy the most interesting plants she could find at the nursery, and see if she could make them live.” 

Many people remember Julie for her large and beautiful garden. “Every time I water the garden or deadhead a pansy or admire the green stillness of the leaves, I think of her,” said her neighbor, Barbara. 

Julie’s ability to nurture life carried over to all aspects of her life. “Much like her gardens, her relationships with family and friends flourished,” wrote her son, Michael. “She was an extraordinarily caring and loving person who had many ‘best friends.’ Her spirit will live on until the last days of all who knew her.”

Three years after Julie was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, she and Bill moved to their home in Bisbee, Arizona to enjoy the sun and spend time alone with each other.

 

Julie is survived by Bill Bailey; her brother, Tom Tisch; her three children, Michael Higgins, Bridget Rees and Suzanne Young; her three granddaughters, Sarah Medick, Nicolette Young and Jessica Medick; her great-granddaughter, Gianna English; and  Bill’s daughter, Sylvia Wheeler.