On Thanksgiving morning, Julie Lobbia died at age 43. She was the wife of TSG reporter Joe Jesselli and, for the other three guys who run this site, Julie was our editor, friend, colleague, confidante, and sister.
All four of us met her at The Village Voice, where Julie worked as an editor and reporter. She wrote about poverty and homelessness, and was our city's best housing reporter (and was regularly honored for her distinguished work). I had the great privilege of working with her for a decade. She initially edited my copy, a previously joyless process that quickly became one of the highlights of my work week.
When Julie shifted to writing full time, we'd exchange tips, story ideas, reporting advice, or just plain office gossip. Our daily skull sessions occurred in Julie's office, which was forever cluttered with her beloved bicycle, files, newspapers, and whatever it was that she had picked up off the street that morning (she probably would have been a dumpster diver, but at five feet tall, Julie would have needed to tote around a step ladder). When she would hold up her latest find for inspection--a fallen bolt from the Manhattan Bridge, for example--Julie would ask, "Isn't this fabulous?" "That it is, sister," I'd say.
These were found objects from the municipal timeline of her second city--Julie was born and raised on Chicago's South Side--and she heartily embraced them. In fact, we like to think of Joe as another of those odd curios that Julie had the good sense to scoop up. She had a powerful curiosity about New York (and most everything else), one that propelled her, on bike or by foot, to all corners of our great city.
When she told me about some planned trek to the hinterlands of Queens--where I was born and raised--I provincially explained that there really wasn't much to see outside of Shea Stadium, the Lemon Ice King of Corona, and John Gotti's Bergin Hunt & Fish Club. Of course, she'd return in a few days with a marvelous story of discovery, having wheeled out to where the concrete turns into marshland. She even enjoyed bicycling to Brooklyn's Gowanus Canal, an often fetid body of water (sure, it would have been easier to pedal along a pleasant Hudson River path, but that wasn't Julie's thing).
Last month, while recuperating from surgery, she called with a rundown of a rollicking visit that afternoon by my wife and nearly two-year-old child. She was delighted to recount how my son bounced around her apartment fiddling with volume controls, assorted electronic devices, and generally pawing and gumming everything in sight. For me, it was a delicious image--my two favorite small bundles of energy trapped together in a Manhattan studio apartment.
So we're still in shock that this electric presence in our lives is gone, stunned by the rapidity with which the cancer consumed Julie's body. At her wake and funeral in Chicago earlier this week, friends and family were overwhelmed by grief, a sad testament to the love and depth of feeling we had for Julie. That anguish was only tempered by the bittersweet remembrances offered by Julie's friends and family, including her 83-year-old mother. Julia Lobbia, a luminous wonder, spoke of how grateful she was that God allowed her to have Julie Anne, the youngest of her four children, for 43 glorious years. Joe, too, noted how lucky he was to have been married to Julie for seven wonderful years.
On the wallet-sized memorial card that was given to those attending Julie's wake, there's a small black and white photo of her flashing a big smile. Underneath the inscription "Julie Anne Lobbia 1958-2001," is something a gravely ill Julie told a friend as she lay in her hospital bed days before her death. "Life is full of wonder and joy," she said.
We'll deeply miss her.