An Elegy for Jules

By: Bill Whaley
15 September, 2018

The Sanchez-Ciukowski families, husband Gene, and his sons, Cory, James, and Zach, her sisters Jo Anne and Lee, welcome you to this celebration of the woman we all loved, Julienne “Jules” Ciukowski-Sanchez on September 16, Sunday at 2 pm at the Kachina Lodge Hopi Dining Room. A power point will be followed by the eulogy, anecdotes, and a sly performance from the Zack Gray Shippers, one of Jules’ favorite Cruiser groups.

Gene’s oldest son, Cory, said: “Jules and her sister were a Godsend to the family. Jules, created the energy that brought the Sanchez family closer together. My grandparents, Mary and Joe adored Jules and her sister Lee. If Jules and my father had never met, I do not believe the home in Taos would have stayed intact after the passing of my grandparents.”

“My boys Michael and Jason felt close to Jules and saw her as a grandmother. The first time Lori and I took Michael to New Mexico, he was about 9 months old. Jules was always holding him.  And Michael kept staring into her eyes.   They were fixated.”

James,’ middle son brought his daughter, Sammy, now all grown up and a member of the Coast Guard Reserve, to meet Jules at age five. Her new grandma bought all kinds of ice cream and cookies, gave Sammy a hug and asked what she wanted to eat for dinner. “Sushi and crab legs,” said the five-year old.

Her older sister Lee referred to Jules as her daughter, her sister, her best friend.” One of Jule’s good friends referred to her as a “Gaia” figure, the Mother-Sister of us all.

Born Aug. 11, 1950 in Joliet, Illinois, Jules joined the eternal spirits on Aug. 5, 2018 at the Albuquerque home of her sister Lee, accompanied by her sister Jo Anne Sandquist of Sierra Vista, Arizona, and husband Gene. One of the last things she said with a smile was: “See Gene, I told you age didn’t matter.” Back in January shortly after she was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer, Jules said she worried more about the effects on Gene and Lee than herself.

Jules spent her early years singing at her mother’s beauty shop or playing with the dogs of customers. Jo Anne said, “She twisted Mom around her little fingers.” Jules also expressed her feisty spirit as a toddler when she told JoAnne, her oldest sister and frequent baby sitter, “you’re not the boss of me.” After her Mom’s death when she was 13, Lee encouraged the teenager to make her first phone call. She called a music store for sheet music and asked quickly for the music “compartment, ah apartment…oh.” Jules’ Dad worked at a variety of jobs, railroad and the assessor’s department, while cooking pot roast every Sunday and preparing school lunches every day for the three girls. I am forbidden by the rules of decorum to speak about Uncle Adam.

Jules spent her formative years as a first generation Polish Catholic, part of the eastern European enclave of Slavic immigrants that filled alternating blocks in Joliet. As a high school student, she starred in My Fair Lady, Funny Girl, and Bye Bye Birdie, winning a scholarship as a performing artist to Roosevelt University in Chicago. She went on to perform in the Chicago version of Hair, followed by a stint in the show The Me Nobody Knows, a musical on Broadway that received five Tony nominations. She told funny stories about her early life in rock ‘n roll. Lee and Jo Anne talk about a midnight mass for Epiphany when she sang, “O Holy Night” accompanied by an out of body experience, a Mass nobody who attended forgot. Both her Dad and sister Lee worked at the Joliet Prison made famous in the Blues Brothers.

Until she ran out of energy, Jules cooked for Gene and tended to the Molly the cat and Spencer the Papillon who tended to her at the end. Jules’ previous dog, Bowser lived with her for twenty years. Regardless, she made the TV run on time for Gene and spoiled him. A voice of moderation, Jules laughed with us at our political foolishness. In May while suffering from chemo, she summoned up the energy to drive up to Denver to celebrate Gene’s 83rd birthday at a Luis Miguel concert.

When Gene’s buddies in Taos met Jules, they were shocked by the glamour and his apparent achievement. How did he do that, we asked ourselves? She helped Gene see something in himself that he’d never seen before. As for their relationship, she described their mutually sublime sense of humor as if they’d each met another self, an alter ego for each.

Despite what might be described as her fancy appearance, Jules earthy sense of humor represented the down-home parts of her childhood. She and Gene met at Tiny’s in Santa Fe. Her temperament was special: the joie de vivre and je ne sais quoi the joy of life and the “intangible so what?” attitude, an attitude that segued nicely with the vagaries of life in northern New Mexico.

At Gallery A and the Town Council, Gene and Jules carried on Mary and Joe’s legacy. They published the Gene Kloss book and she helped Gene keep tract on the twisted paper trail of local politics.

In the end we waited, me, Ollie and Roxy, the Boston Terrier-Pomeranian pups, for Jules to return home but in vain. Still her spirit is present in every crevice of the house and yard. Molly the cat has gone on to live with Zack in L.A. and Spencer the Papillon lives with Sammy in Houston. And we all miss her dearly.

Particularly we want to thank Po and Wiz for the digital slash image presentation and the Zach Gray Shippers for a spark of show-biz. Jo Anne, Lee, and James have been doing the hard work Jules did, caring for the curmudgeonly Gene through this difficult time. She was a helluva woman and a generous human being.

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