Julie Ann Collis has rejoined where she was most comfortable in life, in nature, where she now rests on boughs of cedar, under unmown grass, next to a tree across from a natural pond. Born in 1942 in St. Louis, MO to Edward and Carol Kelly, she lived a passionate, unique and interesting life. Married to Dennis Collis in 1962 (divorced in 1988), they moved west to Eugene, OR and had two children Randall and Amy, who she considered the loves of her life; raising them to be independent, loving and productive adults. She died April 5 of complications of bi-lateral knee replacement surgery and Parkinson’s disease which she did everything in her power to live like she didn’t have. Her life focused on four tenants: education, caring for others, love of nature and creativity/adventure.
Education: She put a high value on education and was a life-long learner. After earning a scholarship to William and Mary, which her parents would not allowed her to accept, she took that disappointment and sought new ways to enhance her life through education. She earned a degree in nursing from St. Luke’s School of Nursing in St. Louis in 1962. While rearing small children, she used her passion for reading to study philosophers, thinkers, psychologists often reading the entire works of various authors and seeking out courses, lectures and seminars to learn more to fill the void she had missed by not attending college. Her independent study made her a master of language and appreciator of the well-spoken. Finally, she pursued and earned a bachelor’s degree from Linfield College in 1981. She took hundreds of hours of art classes in a variety of mediums, became a certified yoga instructor in her 50’s, and attended many spiritual healing conferences. Her extensive collection of books was her most important treasure and even in the weeks before she died, she asked for specific titles to be brought to her.
Caring for others: Her approach to life was to care for others, even ones you don’t know, and her endless support showed in her role as a nurse, night supervisor of Sacred Heart hospital in Eugene and through participation in the community and the arts to make for a better place for all. Her volunteer service was a substantial part of her life: FISH providing free nursing care to homebound, Boys & Girls Club, Eugene Symphony, Hospital School, Reading Tutor, Womenspace Board member and president, traveled the US with Red Cross Disaster Relief Health Services, conducted vaccine drives with Lane County Public Health, Habitat for Humanity family selection, City of Eugene Rights of Women Commission to name a few. She funded her own trips to 3rd world countries providing healthcare: Ethiopia, Somali Refugee Camp of 6,000 refugees, Mombasa, Kenya and an immunization project in the Amazon jungle. In 2009 she moved to Bainbridge Island, WA to be close to her daughter’s family and she immediately began volunteering for Seattle Children’s Hospital Boutique and financially supported her new home’s local art/community groups through One Call For All.
Nature: She was a very spiritual person and focused on the smallest details in the beauty in nature – how the light streams through the trees, moss that blankets a rock, the beautiful sound of water as it trickles down a brook. Growing up outside a large city, she played in the trees behind her house and dreamt of living in the forest, which she ended up doing. As a mother, she ensured family time was spent hiking, backpacking, going to the coast, the mountains and enjoying the outdoors. Many road trips included quick stops to pick up pieces of nature she had seen: tumbleweed, a beautiful driftwood, bones, pieces of moss and rocks in the shape of a heart. Many of those treasures are now with her in her final resting place.
Creativity/Adventure: A naturally creative person, she saw the world through different eyes and was always pushing the boundaries away from the mainstream. Without training, she designed and guided the construction of the family home. She always had an eye for finding unusual uses for materials making for a one of kind design. In 1976, she devised, produced and sold a game “proFUNdity” designed to encourage deeper more meaningful dinner conversation for families. Given this was pre-internet, she used her collection of books to cull stimulating quotes and ideas for players to ponder and discuss. She joined a Discovery Channel archeological dig project in Micronesia through the University of Oregon, participated in intensive study of Chinese culture at the Lanting Institute at Wuyi Mountain, China in 1987 and committed the summer of 1988 to the Summer Architecture Academy at the UofO. More adventures included a six month Semester at Sea in 1992 and rafting class 4 rapids down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, kayaking island to island in Fiji and floating down the Amazon in a canoe. And all along the way, she collected those rocks, feathers, shells and other natural tokens as those were what kept her travels alive.
She easily made friends wherever she went and her laugh and smile dazzled anyone in her presence. She said multiple times in her last few years she had no regrets – none – as she did everything she had wanted to do and more. What an important lesson for us all!
Survived by her two children Randall Collis of Eugene, OR and Amy Collis (Steve Houmes) of Bainbridge, Island as well as five grandchildren: Christian, Jameson and Isabelle Collis and Kate and Nicole Houmes. We are especially grateful to her special caregivers Vencie, Carol, Sheila and Will who allowed her the greatest gift of staying at home under a blossoming tree with her kitty at her side. Donations can be made to Womenspace of Eugene, OR and the Bainbridge Island Landtrust.