Benton City family carries on daughter’s wish to raise awareness of ovarian cancer

Sara Schilling, Tri-City HeraldMay 11, 2013 

— The snapshots in a photo album a Benton City mother cherishes chronicle her youngest daughter’s life. They elicit smiles and happy memories — plenty of them.

Tears too. The kind that follow a devastating loss.

They show Julie Davis’ passion for animals and her relationships with the people she cared about most in the world.

There she is with her parents, her brothers, her sister. Resting her head on her boyfriend’s shoulder.

With her cats, a dog, even a cow she showed at livestock events as a girl.

Smiling with her many friends.

“She was just a loving person — loved everybody,” said her mom, Maxine Martin, 75, at home on a recent afternoon. “She loved life and she loved people and she loved animals.”

Davis died in March 2012, about 2 1/2 years after she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.

She was 46, and her mom said the malignant cells probably were growing inside her for about five years before they were detected.

One of Davis’ last wishes was to find a way to raise awareness about the disease claiming her life.

Now, Martin — who spoke with the Herald about her daughter a few days before Mother’s Day — is taking up the cause in her memory.

She’s working with the West Richland-based Ovarian Cancer Together! on a 1-mile walk May 25.

Julie’s dad, Jack Davis, 79, is helping too.

The walk will raise money for ovarian cancer research.

Julie Davis started experiencing symptoms — including abdominal pain — long before she was diagnosed. She saw doctors, but there’s no standard screening test and — as with many ovarian cancer cases — hers wasn’t caught it until it was advanced.

The cancer has a high five-year survival rate with early diagnosis, but fewer than 15 percent of cases are caught in the early stages, according to the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance.

Ovarian cancer is the deadliest gynecologic cancer, the national group said.

Julie Davis was diagnosed after severe pain sent her to the emergency room. The photo album captures the toll. A balding head, scarves to cover it.

Davis lived in the Tri-Cities for a year or two as a young woman. But she grew up and went to school in Deer Park, where the family for years had a dairy farm.

That’s where her love of animals blossomed.

She would help her dad milk the cows, taking over when he had to rush off to answer emergency calls as a volunteer firefighter. She would help feed the cows too.

There’s a story Martin loves: “They only were allowed so much food, so you turned the little crank and gave them what they were supposed to have, each individual cow. And when that was gone, it was gone, that’s it,” she said. “Well, this one cow decided, ‘I know Julie.’ So (the cow) would stomp her foot and turn around and look at Julie, and Julie would watch Dad and when he wasn’t looking she’d run over and crank the crank a little bit more.”

Julie Davis worked for a collection agency in the Tri-Cities, but moved to Bellingham when the company opened a location there.

That became her home. She eventually moved into banking, forging a successful career in that world. She served on the boards of the local humane society and a private school, and cultivated a strong circle of friends.

She could find fun in just about anything. “If you said, ‘Let’s go (jump) in the snow bank,’ she was right out there with you. It didn’t make any difference what you wanted to do, she was ready, willing and able to do it,” her mother said.

Julie Davis did know tragedy, too, apart from her own diagnosis. Her boyfriend, Keith Isham — a soulmate, partner-in-adventure — died in January 2010 of a liver illness.

The loss hit her hard, her parents said. A photo of the couple sat on a table in the living room as the parents talked.

After a while, the tears came.

“Every time I talk about Julie I get really emotional. You might notice that here,” her father said, his voice raw. “I can even be out working in the garage (on a project), and get thinking about her, and I’m right to where I am right now.

“I guess I hope it never changes.”

Martin nodded. “I think any parent that loses a child is that way,” she said.

She talked about her daughter’s strength in the hospital — how she never shed a tear, even as those around her broke down.

Martin flipped through the photo album. There was a shot of Davis in Alaska, holding a giant halibut.

Posing with bottles of liqueur she made herself.

Wearing silly glasses with googly eyes.

With a motorcycle. With her beloved car, a 1968 Mercury Cougar. With her friends.

“She did — she had a lot of friends,” Martin said.

Martin turned to a section with school pictures. “Look at the big glasses,” she said, letting out a laugh.

Another page. Martin paused at a photo snapped at a Tri-City restaurant, perhaps a year before Julie Davis died. “This is one of the last family pictures we had,” she said.

The parents told more stories, recalled more adventures.

They talked about the ovarian cancer walk and what it will mean — how they hope their daughter’s story will help others.

About how much they miss her, their girl with a soft spot for animals, who could get along with anyone, who was filled with so much love.

“I think about her every day,” Martin said.

Teal to Toe Walk scheduled May 25

The Teal to Toe Walk for ovarian cancer awareness is May 25 at Howard Amon Park in Richland. All the money raised from the one-mile walk will go to the Marsha Rivkin Center for Ovarian Cancer Research in Seattle.

Cost with pre-registration is $25 for adults and $15 for seniors and children. Event-day registration is $35.

Go to to sign up, or call 505-603-7878. 

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