Julia Light’s friendly bright smile, contagious laugh and flowers will no longer grace Market Square. The popular outdoor vendor best known as “The Iris Lady” passed away unexpectedly last evening.
I actually did not initially meet this remarkable woman on the market. Her daughter, Cathern, and I started National Business College together and we immediately became good friends to the point that we were almost inseparable.
My mother often worked in the evening so I would often go home with Cathern after school. We would do homework together and Julia would spoil us with delicious home cooked meals. My personal favorite was “The Missouri Club,” which was one of the more popular dishes served in the former Miller & Rhoads tearoom. Julia loved to try new recipes.
There were flowers galore on their property along with fresh flower arrangements throughout the house. Each year, Julia continued to plant more flowers and different types of flowers, especially irises.
I remember thinking even back then what a positive and energetic woman Julia was. And she was extremely passionate about flowers. She would rise long before daylight and work in her flower beds.
With Cathern and her husband, Alan, residing in Richmond, we all didn’t get to see each other as much. But when we did see each other, it was as though no time had lapsed. We would always quickly pick up where we left off.
When I had an occasional trip to the market, I would always stop to see Julia. If I happened to be daydreaming, she would call out my name, bringing me back to reality.
Last summer, I spent most of one Saturday afternoon on the market hanging out with Cathern, her brothers Ben and Joe, and Julia. It was business as usual. The market was packed with people and it seemed that almost everyone as usual gravitated toward Julia to buy flowers or just to stop by and say ‘hello.’ She always seemed to know just about everyone.
I’m so glad that I made time for that Saturday afternoon. Before I left, Julia and I hugged and we both commented about what a nice day it had been and how nice it had been for all of us to spend some time together. Little did I know that it would be the last time that I would see her.
A few years ago, Julia sent to David and me through Cathern one of her rhizomes for a newer type of iris she had called ‘Stairway to Heaven.’ The name of that iris was one of the first things that I thought about when Cathern called today to tell me that her mother had died last evening. Now how uncanny is that?
Photo of Stairway to Heaven Iris Courtesy: White Flower Farm