Pamela Starr also took part in this choral performance, which was the last Julee participated in as a vocalist. “I looked down the row of altos, and was surprised to see Julee working through a challenging fugal movement with the rest of us,” Pamela said. “By now, she was fragile—close to needing hospice care—yet clearly up to the exhilarating, but demanding rehearsal. My surprise was cleared up, however, after the break, when I realized who the soprano soloist was: none other than Julee’s talented daughter. Becky superbly performed one of the most exquisite and difficult solos in choral literature, the fifth movement, which Brahms added to his work to commemorate the recent death of his beloved mother. The chorus had some music to sing as back-up for Becky’s solo. But as I glanced away from the music, I saw Julee’s face suffused with pride and love: a most beautiful and moving moment where mother and daughter could share their devotion to music and to each other. It was to be the last time that Julee sang or heard her daughter sing in a public performance. That memory was a blessed comfort during the difficult time ahead when Julee finally succumbed a few weeks later, leaving behind her dear family and friends.”
Becky told of her mom’s passion for creating art that continued through her final days. “My mom started taking painting classes from Bobbie Sward after her second cancer diagnosis, and was able to complete a few paintings before she died. They are fabulous! My grandma Darlene, who is 91, and I talk about how we wish she would have started in that medium sooner. My mom decided she was going to make another painting while she was in hospice.
I vividly remember lying next to her in the hospital bed in her sunroom, listening to her describe the painting she wanted to make. She was going to base it on a photograph of my husband, Foster, drinking a cup of coffee and looking out at Lake Superior from the Northwest shore in Minnesota. She waved her hands slowly back and forth in the air in front of us and told me she could imagine how she would capture the light from the blue sky and the water mingling together. She was really sick at this point, so her words were a little slurred and dreamy sounding. She did start the painting, and even though she never completed it, I treasure what she left behind.”