Thursday, April 24, 2014

Friends gather to honor Julie

Barbara Meixner, Julie Partansky's partner (wearing orange top), and Olivia Bleth, 8, Partansky's grandniece, listen as Davis Public Relations Manager Bob Bowen begins Friday's ceremony dedicating Julie's Garden at the Northstar Pond. Fred Gladdis/Enterprise photo

Julie Partansky loved to spend time at the wildlife pond area of Northstar Park, taking in the night sky, or watching the ducks.

So perhaps it’s only fitting that the area would become a permanent memorial to the former mayor of Davis, who died in 2009 at the age of 61.

Across the bike path from the wooden observation deck there is now a small patio and seating area, surrounded by a garden and full of whimsical artwork, much of it made by Partansky herself and the remainder contributed by her many friends.

Out at the end of the observation deck over the pond sits a bench dedicated to Partansky, where people can sit and enjoy the same sights and sounds that she once did.

Two longtime friends were doing just that on Friday. Bruce MacKenzie and Rodney Robinson had come to the park for that evening’s public celebration and dedication of the memorial, but the two took a moment to make their way out to the end of the deck first and recalled Partansky when they did.

“She was a wonderful person,” MacKenzie said. “She not only cared about all the people, but all of the creatures who live here, too. She was a very compassionate woman.”

Robinson, like MacKenzie, spent many years working with Partansky on political issues and her campaigns for City Council in the 1990s. He knew her from their student days at UC Berkeley until her death from cancer in 2009.

“I was with her the day she died,” Robinson recalled Friday. “I said, ‘Julie, don’t go anywhere … we have a lot still to do.’

“When I hear the leaf blowers, I think, ‘There’s something we didn’t accomplish.’ ”

And though she didn’t succeed in banishing leaf blowers from the city, there was much she did accomplish, noted Ken Wagstaff, her former colleague on the council. Two of her most famous: the toad tunnel under the Pole Line Road overpass and the city’s dark-sky ordinance.

Other achievements included Partansky’s fight against turning Pole Line into a freeway offramp and resisting attempts to cut down trees both in the city and along the freeway. When others disagreed, Wagstaff said, “she didn’t get angry. She listened. Julie handled disagreements very well.”

And this from a person few expected would ever go into politics.

Many of her closest friends, Wagstaff said, probably were surprised that she would put down her paint brush and marimba — she was a house painter, artist and musician — to take up the mayor’s gavel.

Indeed, said her brother Joe Partansky, “her older brother and I were the political ones in the family. We never expected her to get into it.”

But she did, and her contributions are now memorialized in Northstar Park, including on a soon-to-be-erected permanent plaque that will explain the person behind the official “Julie Partansky Garden and Pond.”

The memorial project was pushed by former City Councilman Lamar Heystek and spearheaded by Partansky’s friends Samantha McCarthy and Sandy Weaver, with the cement work done by landscaper Steve Stombler and the garden by Steve Daubert.

Contributing artists included Linda FitzGibbon and Heidi Bekebrede, as well as McCarthy’s daughter, Morgan, and many others.

“It was amazing how people just came out of the woodwork to do stuff,” McCarthy said.

Much was donated along the way; other items came from freecycle and garage sales.

“We didn’t buy stuff, because that just wasn’t Julie’s way,” McCarthy noted.

Not that money wasn’t spent — Stombler, in particular, spent a lot on labor and materials for the memorial. On Friday night, McCarthy told the assembled crowd they were still taking donations to pay him back.

“We’re not leaving until we raise $3,000,” quipped Mayor Joe Krovoza.

Community members also can make donations to the Julie’s Garden Memorial Account at First Northern Bank in Davis.

The patio memorial represents Partansky’s quirky and artistic persona, full of tile stars, question marks and, of course, frogs.

There is statue of a “frog queen,” and more frogs here and there. The question marks, many of them made by Partansky herself, were kind of her symbol in life.

“Her thing was questioning the universe,” said her longtime friend and duet partner Elaine Fingerett.

Fingerett was one of the musicians who performed for the crowd of more than 100 people Friday night; she said she was “sad (Julie) can’t play with us today.”

On hand to celebrate Partanksy — on what would have been her 65th birthday — were numerous family members and friends, most of the current City Council and a few old-time council members as well.

“Julie would have loved this evening,” Wagstaff said.

Not to mention the memorial itself.

Now, all hope it will be left for everyone to enjoy.

Vandalism can be an issue, McCarthy noted, and she hopes would-be vandals will leave the memorial alone.

She recalled a note her daughter, Morgan, wrote back when Partansky was waging her battle with cancer. The note, said McCarthy, was written “to the fairies.”

“Fairies,” it said, “will you please protect Julie?”

“Now I’m hoping Julie and all her fairies will protect this,” McCarthy said.

— Reach Anne Ternus-Bellamy at or (530) 747-8051. Follow her on Twitter at @ATernusBellamy

Anne Ternus-Bellamy


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