After Julaine "Julie" Martin, wife, mother, art lover, community volunteer and hostess extraordinaire, died, it didn't take long for her...

Share story

After Julaine “Julie” Martin, wife, mother, art lover, community volunteer and hostess extraordinaire, died, it didn’t take long for her absence to show up on her husband’s frame.

“I’ve lost 10 pounds already,” said Dr. George Martin, professor of pathology emeritus at the University of Washington.

The doctor’s weight loss sprang in part from grief but mostly from missing his wife’s absolute command over all matters domestic, including cooking, cleaning, paying bills and making repairs.

“I never had to do anything. She organized everything,” said Martin, who also is director emeritus of the UW Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center.

Mrs. Martin, of Montlake, died April 10 from brain cancer. She was 76.

She was a vivacious and indefatigable woman and the gracious behind-the-scenes force behind her husband’s noteworthy career as an academic and researcher, particularly on the biology of aging. For more than three decades, hundreds of medical students, postdoctoral fellows, faculty members and scientists passed through the couple’s home for meals and discussions. After Mrs. Martin’s death, many of those visitors remembered their former hostess in condolences sent from Germany, Japan, Israel, Belgium, Italy and elsewhere.

Art, especially folk art, was Mrs. Martin’s great love. A chemistry major at the UW, she returned after raising four children to earn a degree in art history. She took up woodcarving later in life. She also managed several art galleries in Pioneer Square and La Tienda folk-art store on University Way in Seattle.

Kelsey Martin, the couple’s only daughter and a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, said in many ways she was closer to her father because of their shared professional interests. She feels her mother’s legacy in more personal moments, such as when she’s appreciating the beauty of a handmade ceramic piece or savoring the treasure that is a good friendship.

For Mrs. Martin, making people feel welcome, setting an elegant table or sewing Halloween costumes “were all works of art,” Kelsey Martin said.

Mrs. Martin was born Julaine Miller on March 9, 1929, in Nebraska. Her family lost its farm during the Dust Bowl days and moved to Seattle in search of work. Her father sold fuel and worked various odd jobs, but never earned much. Mrs. Martin won a scholarship to Mount Holyoke College in Massachusetts but couldn’t afford the expense of a cross-country move. Instead, she attended Stanford University for a while before transferring to the UW.

It was in a class at the UW that Mrs. Martin asked the professor to introduce her to the man who would become her husband.

“She was the aggressor,” her husband recalled.

At the time he was a busy medical student and had little time for a steady relationship. So it was a chemistry teaching assistant, not George Martin, who was to escort Mrs. Martin to a New Year’s party one year. But just before the date, Mrs. Martin’s miniature dachshund, Pickle, disappeared on campus.

“I went all through the health-sciences building” until the dog was found, her husband said. “That’s how I won my Julie.”

The Martins were married 52 years.

During the Labor Day weekend in 2003, doctors discovered why Mrs. Martin had been frequently losing her balance and falling: She had glioblastoma multiforme, a common and highly malignant brain tumor.

“They gave her nine months. She lasted for 19 months,” said Peter Martin, the couple’s oldest child. “She was a tough lady.”

After the initial surgery, Mrs. Martin received 34 radiation treatments over seven months. But her body continued to fail; she lost part of her vision, her memory eroded and she was partially paralyzed. Her husband’s one small comfort was that she was not in pain.

“The doctor said, ‘If you are going to have cancer, this is the cancer to have,’ ” he said. “She didn’t even have headaches.”

Peter Martin moved in with his parents at the onset of his mother’s illness. He said his mother found solace in Buddhism and visits from a stream of friends. She was less afraid of dying than of what her death would do to her husband.

“Her biggest fear was my dad,” Peter Martin said. Theirs was an old-fashioned marriage where his father focused on his career and his mother “did absolutely everything else.”

Peter Martin said that despite the length of time his father has had to adjust to his wife’s terminal condition, he wasn’t prepared for the void she left.

“I think it hit him a lot harder than he expected,” Martin said. “He wasn’t prepared for the loss.”

Mrs. Martin is also survived by sons Tommy Martin of Seattle and Andrew Martin of San Diego; three grandchildren; and two brothers, Harley Miller of Camano Island and Ron Miller of Everett.

A private memorial service will be June 18 from 3 to 4:30 p.m. at St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, 2100 Boyer Ave. E., Seattle. Remembrances may be made to Providence Hospice of Seattle, 425 Pontius Ave. N., #300, Seattle, WA 98109-5452; Lifelong AIDS Alliance, 1002 E. Seneca St., Seattle, WA 98122; or the American Federation for Aging Research, 70 West 40th St., 11th floor, New York, NY 10018.

Kyung Song: 206-464-2423 or ksong@seattletimes.com