Monday, July 18, 2005
I was given a Hawaiian name that has given many people difficulty over years. They have trouble saying it, they have trouble spelling it. My husband often calls me Lee when he speaks about me to other people. A co-worker called me LuLu. My very first nickname—LeeLee—was given to me by my aunt, Betty Davis, who was my father’s older sister and a very brilliant woman. She had a PhD from UC Berkeley in zoology, specializing in parasitology and protozoology. In the years shortly after I was born, she was a research associate at Children’s Hospital and at USC, and so she and Uncle John lived nearby. We spent a lot of time with them, my first legitimate memory is of the fishing pole I received on my third birthday at their house. In 1953, they became the directors of the Hastings Natural History Reservation in Carmel Valley, and we still saw them often, both at the reservation and on camping trips. She had a tremendous influence on my life. My love of nature, which I never outgrew, came from her and John (he was an ornithologist). I persist in collecting dead bugs (she gave me a huge bug collection when I was a kid) and reptiles (we had a gallon jar of dead lizards and snakes at home). The former are pinned on a corkboard and, following her example, the latter in jars and bottles of alcohol or formaldehyde (latest find: a small copperhead killed by a co-worker). I didn’t know it then, of course, but the occasion of this picture – lunch at their house at Hastings Reservation in 1978 – would be the last time I saw Betty and John alive. She died of a brain tumor in 1981 and garnered a 27.5-column inch obituary in the Carmel Valley News. Uncle John died of cancer a few years later. I miss them.