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The life and times of Julia Bell

February 14, 2013


What more can we say about Julia Bell? Just last month The Leader reported on the well-deserved ceremony honoring her service on the school board and as a principal before that. In 2009 Millie Rader did an article on both she and her husband Chuck Bell as major characters in Lucerne Valley, as volunteers, philanthropists and all-around wonderful members of this community. And most recently, The Leader reported on her untimely death last month.

There probably aren’t very many of us who weren’t aware of the health issues Julia has suffered and endured lately. She’s been through multiple surgeries and life threatening conditions resulting in the ultimate loss of her lower right leg. Through it all Julia remained steadfast and determined in her recovery with an amazing outlook while still participating in both school board and volunteer activities.

She is and has been an inspiration to so many of us. So, as a final tribute to this amazing woman, we’d like to share how she lived prior to joining us here in Lucerne Valley and how her life took shape before she left us on Jan. 19, 2013.

Julia was born and lived in Chicago and in the mid-1960s attended Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., where she met her husband, Chuck Bell. Both Chuck and Julia have a work ethic that had them doing every kind of odd job to pay their tuitions and make a living. That work ethic also speaks to their core values of sharing and giving back to their community.
They dated and carried on a long-distance relationship until 1968, when they got married and moved to Chuck’s Lucerne Valley ranch that his family has owned since the 1940s. While Julia alternately taught fourth grade, sixth grade and kindergarten at Lucerne Valley Elementary School, she was also busy giving birth to her two children Heather (May of 1973) and David (December of 1976).

While raising her kids she managed to go back to graduate school for her master’s degree and was hired as principal from 1995 to 1998. She ran for school board, where she remained for 14 years, including a stint as board president. She was Citizen of the Year in the late 1980s, a president of the Roadrunners, secretary of the Mitsubishi Cement Corporation Educational Foundation and a member of the Lucerne Valley Domestic Violence Outreach board.

Those are the dry facts, but here’s what you really need to know about Julia Bell: She touched and enriched the life of nearly every person who knew her.

She had — and we’re sure still has — a relationship with God that is true and inspired. She knows God as the protective arms around her daughter in the back seat when she had the car accident when Heather was an infant. Heather shares that she “basked in the glow of her early morning quiet times with the Lord.”

Julia’s devotion to her community paled in comparison to her devotion to her husband, children and grandchildren. She is “Moppy” to Heather and Robert’s children Juliana, Krystian and Elissa; and David and Melody’s daughters Jenna and 10-month-old Alexis. She would hand-knit or needlepoint their hats, scarves and Christmas stockings.

She had a love of rainbows that reflected in everybody’s presents of socks and sweatshirts and sometimes their faces from the happy prisms she hung in her windows.

She loved her dogs. They were strays that wandered in over the years and stayed to love and protect their new family because Julia would make sure they had special treats every day, even when she had to wheel herself out to the porch to remind them they were loved and appreciated.

She gave her desert tortoises a home next to her vegetable garden and was intent on learning about their conservation. At 5-foot-2, Julia was considered the petite member of her family (her husband and children are all near or over the 6-foot mark) but her cushy shoulders were broad enough and available for everyone.

Her best friends were reveling in her new enjoyment of going on outings to lunch and art shows. Things others would do for her would be met with an inspiring appreciation. She would endow us all with a type of admiration we could only aspire to. But Julia would be the last to suggest she was above human frailties. Her humble approach to her life and relationships and accomplishments proved she felt an affinity to those in all walks of life. She knew struggle and hardship, which is why we felt so secure in sharing ourselves with her. Julia Bell leaves us full of love, faith in ourselves and a footprint to follow.

Well, it looks like there is so much more to say about Julia Bell. We could probably find new and remarkable traits and deeds for pages to come. But we’ll refrain for now and for the family’s sake, allowing them to come to terms with this loss.

Julia’s beloved Roadrunners are planning a memorial and tribute to her on Saturday, Feb. 23 at 1 p.m. at Lucerne Valley Elementary School’s multi-purpose building, Goulding Hall. There will be opportunities there to share more through a memory table, and maybe to even to say a few words. The family wants to thank everyone for their sensitivity to their privacy and hopes all will be present to honor Julia. Also, please refrain from sending flowers, as the family would prefer to have any donations go to the Lucerne Valley Roadrunners, P.O. Box 521, Lucerne Valley, CA 92356.