By Alex Distefano
By Scott Snowden
By Anna Merlan
By Steve Almond
By Jena Ardell
By Jon Campbell
By Alan Scherstuhl
By Tessa Stuart
When she found out she had cancer, her first fear was that it would cut down on her bike speed. She asked to be buried in a dress and bike shoes. She told her sedentary husband during her illness to get a dog and call it Swobo, invoking the bike clothing brand name. The closest she came to dying before she got sick was when her long-loved bike broke in half and had to be shot. She was consoled only when finally comfortable aboard its elite replacement, racing the body-suited athletes in Central Park, astonishing them with 19-minute runs on the six-mile loop, pushing a perpetually underestimated body to extraordinary lengths.
Not only did the city become the map of her mind, but she also joined her husband in a search for its precious mementos. Jesselli says she gathered "old scraps of linoleum, shards of buildings, pieces of tin ceilings" as symbols of her city, and she and Joe turned their Little Italy walk-up into a personal museum. Beginning in 1996, she did volunteer work for the Lower East Side Tenement Museum, and its curator, Steve Long, says it was she who became "a repository of New York's past with a real sense of place." The two out-of-towners, said Long, struggled together to figure out how old apartments were and when the gas and sheet metal were put in. "She gave you a sense of rootedness, no matter where you were from," Long recalls.
Her heart was as large as her sense of history. When an X-ray technician lost his job and his home, she got him mattresses, pillows, and blankets. When a Voicewriter slowly died of AIDS, she virtually moved into his apartment, caring for him as if he were her brother. When a new writer appeared at the paper, she helped report and structure her first story. When she saw what she thought was an eviction notice posted on a Chinese-speaking neighbor's door, she spent a workday getting it translated and slipped a note under the neighbor's door, also in Chinese, explaining what to do. She was, says colleague and Voiceexecutive editor Richard Goldstein, "a working humanist who came to her thinking through values, not any form of ideology, a person of faith."
Sal Albanese, the former city councilman who ran for mayor in 1997, says that "most reporters made me feel like Don Quixote taking on big interests, but not Julie." She made Albanese feel "empowered and inspired," reminding him "of why I got into politics in the first place." She was the antidote to cynicism, the embodiment of mission. Our paper will not be the same without her. (Any contributions can be made in Julie's name to Recycle-A-Bicycle, 75 Avenue C, NYC, 10009.)
We will post the time and location of Julie Lobbia's New York City memorial service here when the information is available.