Tears, laughter and applause united a crowd of casually and formally dressed Davis residents on Saturday who came to celebrate the life of the late former Davis mayor Julie Partansky. The ceremony, held at the Davis Unitarian Universalist Church, combined music, dance, slide shows and personal remembrance speeches from friends.
Partansky, who died of complications from lung cancer in January at age 61, served on Davis City Council from 1992 to 2002. She was mayor from 1998 to 2000. Politically, she was known for her progressive and innovative ideas, many of which remain intact today.
Along with the impact she had on Davis, many at Saturday’s service spoke about her love for music and art.
Stories of Partansky’s informality, openness, concern for others, intelligence and playful spirit were recurring themes of the day. Her sensitive and meticulous nature seemed to have touched all who spoke about Partansky.
“Our group was kind of like a marriage. We worked through a lot, and grew a lot from each other,” said Moreen Libet, a member of Partansky’s klezmer musical group. “Julie was very political, but she was always the first one to say, ‘Let’s play!'”
Former city councilmember Ken Wagstaff described Partansky as a dancer through life, with a tenacious spirit.
“Though she was shy of recognition, Julie was talented and insightful,” Wagstaff said. “She accepted people as they were. She said, ‘If you like me vote for me, and if you don’t that’s okay.‘ And she won.“
Though her ideas occasionally struck some residents as outlandish, these are a lot of the things that now stand out as trademarks of Davis.
Former Davis mayor Maynard Skinner brought up Partansky’s idea to have traffic police at the Farmers Market dress as vegetables, as well as planting fruit trees in public places to help feed the hungry. Skinner said the historic potholes and alleys she advocated for, the murals she restored and the Toad Tunnel made her “one of a kind.“
Partansky was praised for her progressiveness.
“Julie was ahead of her time,” said Dan Berman, who worked with Partansky in numerous activist groups. “People have followed her, and they don’t even know it.“
Mayor Ruth Asmundson cited the light ordinance, which Partansky proposed to minimize light pollution and allow for a view of the stars, as one of Partansky’s many accomplishments.
“I’m glad Julie was a part of this city,” Asmundson said. “When we look at the night skies, we will think of Julie.“
A memorial bench has been placed in her honor at the end of the boardwalk at the North Davis Pond. Friends are also planning a garden tribute to Partanksy.
Donations to help get the garden started are welcome. Checks can be made out to Julie’s Garden and mailed to First Northern Bank, 434 Second St., Davis, CA 95616.
Partansky’s drawings, sculptures and writing will be on display at the Pence Gallery, 212 D St., from June 2 to 5.
ANGELA SWARTZ can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.