“With good friends and good food on the board, and good wine in the pitcher, we may well ask when shall we live if not now?”
— M.F.K. Fisher, as quoted in the memorial program for Susan Barbara Jolly Campoy
If ever there was a testimonial for why many of us choose in live and/or work in Pasadena (and by that I include San Marino, South Pas and environs), it was today’s funeral mass and reception for Sue Campoy, proprietor of Julienne in San Marino, who died last week after fighting breast cancer for fourteen years.
There must have been 1,200 people at Holy Family Church, packing the pews, the adjacent parish hall, the aisles, the entries, even the steps outside. Every single person there had been touched by Sue in some way—through her food, her daughters, her considerable good works and, for the many lucky ones, her devoted friendship.
Over the years I’d eaten at Julienne many times, been to parties she’d catered, and sold books to daughter Julie Campoy, who runs Julienne’s market (and now the whole business), but I never actually met Sue until late last September, when she was looking for someone to help her write her cookbook. She had already pulled together most of the recipes, and designer Joseph Shuldiner and his team had begun photography; I was there to help Sue write everything but the recipes: the introductions, the stories, the recipe headnotes, and her advice for home cooks, entertainers and aspiring entrepreneurs. It was an intense process, naturally, and we got to know each other very well in a very short time. I felt like I’d become part of the Campoy family—but today it was quite clear that everyone in her life felt like part of her family.
As daughter Cynthia Campoy said today, Sue was born on Duarte Road (in Arcadia in 1939) and died on Duarte Road at City of Hope. She lived in the San Gabriel Valley her entire life, except for stints at UCSB and UCLA, and she was as much a part of the fabric of life here as the Rose Parade. After going through a difficult divorce in the 1970s, she turned her tremendous passion for cooking and entertaining into a home-based catering business to support her four young daughters, and her talent, drive and love for people made her one of the hottest caterers in Los Angeles. In the mid-’80s, Sue moved her business out of the house and into a storefront on MIssion Street in San Marino, and her success continued. Julie joined her in 1989, and they expanded several times, making Julienne not just one of the best sources for good food in Los Angeles, but a de facto community center. Today that community showed up in force at both Holy Family and the Valley Hunt Club to express its admiration and love for Sue and her family. (In his sermon, Msgr. Clem Connolly, her pastor and dear friend, spoke so eloquently and insightfully that I think several dozen people decided to convert to Catholicism and join Holy Family on the spot.)
The beauty of living in a small town within a big city was so evident today. Hearing about how Sue helped and touched so many people in her incredibly busy lifetime inspired every person there, as did seeing all the connections between people. No offense to her many close male friends—including Clem Connolly, Caltech’s Bob O’Rourke, attorney and eulogy-giver Ron Olson (Munger, Tolles & Olson) and current and past All Saint’s rectors Ed Bacon and George Regas—but what most strikes me about Sue’s life is her enveloping circle of women. She was one of five Jolly sisters, and all four of her sisters put in bedside time during her illness and gave readings today. Her four daughters (Cynthia, Julie, Jennifer and Lesley) are all smart, successful, engaging women who were her best friends. And the sun rose and set over her two granddaughters, Maeve and Alena Brophy.
But perhaps most remarkable was Sue’s community of women in food. One might assume that she and her competitors would have kept a wary distance from each other, but in fact they were each other’s confidantes, companions and staunch allies: Peggy Dark of the Kitchen for Exploring Foods, Joan McNamara of Joan’s on Third, Gale Kohl of Gale’s Restaurant, Mireya Jones of Jones Coffee and Nicole Grandjean of Nicole’s Gourmet Foods, as well as a new generation of entrepreneurial women Sue mentored, like Christine Moore of Little Flower Candy Company. They all attribute some of their success to Sue, and she was the first to say that she never could have made it without them. Their example of building small-town community in the midst of a big-city competitive culture will inspire me for the rest of my life.
Sue will live on every time we delight in her beef daube, or her chicken-tarragon sandwich on rosemary-currant bread, or her amazing brownies. And come May, when Celebrating with Julienne is released, you’ll find her wisdom, spirit and unmatched joie de vivre present on every page. I’m grateful to have played a small part in that book, and for my too-short time as Sue’s friend.