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Meet My Role Model


Posted: December 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Updated: December 1, 2013 2:00 a.m.
Valencia Resident Julia Nissley Valencia Resident Julia Nissley
Valencia Resident Julia Nissley

My friend Julia called the other day.  She’s an energetic woman who served with me on a youth sports board a few years back.  Julia was looking for a good visit and we agreed to meet later in the week – she said she could drop by the Corner Bakery on her walk to the post office . . . after her tennis date at the "Y." 

Keeping up with Julia is exhilarating.  She is an unassuming presence in any social setting, but that woman can whip a fuzzy yellow ball past an opponent so fast that heads spin. She is all business on the tennis court, maintaining a cordiality that genteelly masks a winner’s instinct.  Looking at her 87th birthday in the rearview mirror, it’s true that her game has slowed a bit, but Julia compensates by partnering with a pro half her age, so she still cleans up.  

As I plunge deeper into my 50s and work to define career “success” in my own terms, Julia is a role model.  Who among us wouldn’t give our eye teeth to have what she has achieved – a flexible work schedule, a home office, a regular tennis date with good friends and a successful book in publication?  Not to mention an indomitable spirit, triumph over serious illness, a fine sense of humor, and a passel of really smart grandkids.  You get my point.

When her first marriage ended in late 1960s, Julia was left with young teens to raise, no support from their father and a salary that did not meet her needs.  With help from her parents, Julia quit her secretarial job to pursue an education full time; in six months she completed the attorney assistant training program in probate administration at UCLA’s School of Law.  Returning to the workforce in her new capacity as a paralegal, she eventually became a probate administrator with the L.A. law firm of Silverberg, Rosen, Leon & Behr.  

It was here, in the middle of her life, that Julia had a very bright idea.  The process of probate administration was evolving and becoming more standardized.  She saw the opportunity to help people navigate the process on their own without paying a lawyer’s fee.  Julia announced to her boss (a man and a lawyer) that she was going to write a book about how to probate an estate.  He laughed.

Undaunted by his skepticism, Julia sent a sample chapter to a California publisher one Saturday morning.  She was shocked the following Monday to find a message on her machine - they wanted her book!

Julia prepared a small feast of crow and took the dish, along with the publisher’s contract, to her law office.  Her attorney colleagues reviewed the offer and she signed it.

Thereafter Julia dedicated all her spare time - nights, weekends, holidays, and vacations – to sitting in her bedroom composing chapters on her IBM Selectric typewriter.  

Julia’s new husband (a dashing tennis pro named Ron)  kept would-be intruders at bay and even posted a “Quiet - No Admittance” sign on her door.  

Maintaining her full-time position, it took Julia an entire year to write and have Nolo Press publish the definitive guide on “How to Probate an Estate in California” – which you can get a local bookstore.

 Julia’s work gets good reviews - her grateful readers have deep regard for her ability to make this bewildering legal process interesting, engaging and not-in-the-least intimidating.  

Over the course of her life, Julia has found second-time love with a humorous, intelligent man who loves tennis even more than she.  

She has beaten breast cancer (ten years cancer-free this month) and maintained an active career as a respected expert in her field.  Julia has set up a non-profit organization to support youth tennis programs in Santa Clarita and served as an active organizer for many years.  

Julia inspires me because she has never stopped discovering her own capacity.  As a tennis player, a single parent, a legal professional, an author, and a community leader she continues to embrace new ideas, opportunities and challenges – regularly dishing out “love” on the tennis court.  I want to be just like her when I grow up.  


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