Editor’s note: The week marks the introduction of a new monthly column entitled “Someone to Know” by Susan McDonald. The longtime Cambria resident, a former reporter for the Tribune and editor of The Cambrian, currently works part-time for Barnett Cox & Associates in San Luis Obispo. She explains her column idea:
“Everyone has a story. And Cambrians are an especially interesting bunch. Young or old, newcomer or old-timer, there’s something about the cast of characters in this small town that is fascinating. Yeah, that includes your next-door neighbor or the gal you say ‘hello’ to all the time at the store (but you never actually learned her name). They have experienced something in this adventure we call life that just might surprise and intrigue you. They have a story worth telling. They are ‘someone to know.’ We begin with a look at the life and times of a very talented woman from Indiana named Judith Larmore. Don’t know her? Well, now you do. And, who knows, you may be next.”
Judith Larmore remembers exactly when she decided she would live in Cambria. It was 3:15 p.m. May 5, 1980.
That day, on a road trip from her job as an emergency department nurse in Phoenix, Judith took a right turn off Highway 1 and drove down Main Street toward town. That’s when she caught her first glimpse of Scott Rock and the hills above the Santa Rosa Creek valley — and when she made her decision: “I will spend the rest of my life here.”
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Of course, her actual move didn’t happen until sometime later.
In 1985, Judith was working a Sunday shift in Phoenix when a physician from San Luis Obispo dropped by the hospital. His name was Dr. Paul Georgiou. Judith showed him around and casually mentioned her desire to move to Cambria. She asked if there were any openings in SLO. He said to send her resumé and he’d see what he could do.
A year later she got the call: Dr. Georgiou had an opening at Twin Cities. Judith came for an interview and immediately took the job. She moved to Cambria on Aug. 1, 1986. “That was some divine intervention,” she laughed. “I call (Georgiou) my angel.”
Today she lives surrounded by angels. And saints. And the graves of our town’s Catholic forbears. Her home is the tiny house at the Old Santa Rosa Chapel and Cemetery on the hill above East Village.
She’s the caretaker and manager, conducting weddings, organizing events, and generally keeping an eye on the historic site. She calls it a dream job and feels “privileged to be able to watch over this sacred ground and protect the people who came before us.” She also loves performing weddings and the chance to meet people at the most joyous time of their lives.
Judith described her own life as coming “full circle.” Her growing-up, in fact, was in a place quite like Cambria.
She was born shortly after World War II in Bluffton, Ind., a small town surrounded by forests and farms. Her parents, Joseph and Helen Larmore, were both teachers. They had eloped to Cincinnati on a New Year’s Eve in the mid-1930s — a time when married women were not allowed to continue teach-
ing — and kept their marriage secret until Judith’s oldest sister was on the way.
Judith was the baby of the family of five children, and she described her childhood as a glorious time of running through the woods, climbing trees, catching lightning bugs, and swimming and fishing at the gravel pit. “We were little heathens,” she laughed.
Her dad, an industrial arts instructor and master woodworker, handcrafted their home from exotic hardwoods. “We would polish the floors sliding around in our socks,” Judith said. The house sat on a couple of rural acres next to a cemetery that Judith described as a beautiful, peaceful place. “Dad always said we had the quietest neighbors in town. And now I do, too.”
Judith inherited her love of antiques from her parents, who started taking her to farm auctions when she was very young. Her dad looked for old furniture to restore and sell for extra money to support his large family. Her mom collected books. Judith chose lace and “little things” as keepsakes.
She actually bid at an auction for the first time by herself at age 11. It was for a box containing hand-made lace, a silk wedding cape, Victorian calling cards, a hand-crocheted nightgown and other “little things.” Her winning bid sealed a lifelong passion for collecting.
Judith graduated from nursing school in Ft. Wayne, Ind. and spent 40 years as an emergency department nurse. During that time, she continued going to auctions and hunting antique shops, always hoping to have her own shop someday.
In 1996, Judith opened Ellie’s Dream, a small shop on Wall Street in Cambria featuring some of her collection of more than 200 wedding dresses and 400 wedding cake toppers. In 2001, she opened another shop, Birds of a Feather, on Main Street.
Today, the shops are gone. She continues to collect rosaries and other religious icons, tiaras and crowns — “anything that glitters.” It’s difficult to measure how much of this stuff she still has — Judith admits to parting with a lot before her move to her current home.
Judith’s major focus is creating jewelry — gorgeous long silver necklaces she crafts from rosaries, pearls, crosses, religious medals and antique jewelry pieces. Her jewelry is for sale at Lily’s Coffee House and at www.etsy.com
“When I die, I want glitter in my ashes and have them scattered here and Indiana and Paris,” she said, adding that she must have been a princess in another life.
For now, she loves her life at the little chapel on the hill. “This is the most incredible place. I am the luckiest woman in Cambria.”
Someone to Know appears monthy. Email comments and suggestions to cambrian@thetribune news.com.