May 15, 1927-Feb. 10, 2013
You are beloved daughter of Margaret Gertrude and Thomas Henry Conroy; charming wife to David William Upham, Sr., and Cmdr. Richard Newman Billings, USN (deceased); resolute mother to David William Upham, Jr., (deceased), Jonathan Conroy Upham (Patty), Christopher Allison Upham (Susannah) and Jennifer Upham Saunders (Dan); untiring grandmother to Jonathan, Jessica and William Upham, and Benjamin, Rachel and Zachary Saunders; adored aunt, second mother, friend and grand dame to many.
You were in Hollywood movies before you were out of diapers. Your love of and achievement in sports, and your eternal love of literature and education, were your first pursuits after graduating Cathedral Chapel and LA High, and combined with your spark for adventure, after graduating with teaching credentials from UCLA (where as a freshman you were one of six selected by the football team to ride the UCLA Rose Parade float—Go Bruins!), you taught elementary school in rural Texas. Glorious adventures were shared with beloved Delta Gamma sisters, friends and family, from stylish lodgings to bare floor fare: as long as it was done like they do in New Orleans, you did it with flair. Your rising spirit of wanderlust and superb memory for face, name and story provided you cherished memories you relived throughout your lifetime. Each friend you greeted and treated with kind warmth and witty intellect while growing up in Los Angeles, ranching and raising a family in Texas with the other Uphams and friends, then in artistic Laguna Beach and Emerald Bay for more than 50 years with all the friends and families. Western adventures were skiing in Idaho, California and Colorado; sailing the seas, especially with Martha Ellen and Marie; Baja and San Onofre surfing sojourns with the Beckets and others; to the east, to Newport, R.I., and your Amherst friends; to the far east, from Hong Kong to Sri Lanka’s Trincomalee, and to Central and South America and the world, especially your ancestral home of Ireland, which you carried with you, always.
You beamed those qualities you prized most in others: strength, independence and intellect. And as long as it didn’t spill into the streets and frighten the horses, you showed great tolerance towards the rest of us. Animals always a great joy for you, you raised dogs and puppies, cats and kittens, reptiles, fish and birds, and you always answered “yes” to the query, “Can we keep it?” All creatures found in you a haven, and you remembered each one as well as you remembered all of us.
Through your generosity of both time and funds, you were devoted to a long life of service and contribution to your community. As a member and contributor to St. Catherine’s Catholic Church and school PTA president in Laguna Beach you enjoyed communion with God, his servants and congregation; you were a member and president of Ebell Club; you served on the boards of the former South Coast Medical Center, and the Laguna Playhouse; you were a member of the Orange County Grand Jury, chairing the Criminal Justice Committee (1983-84); you served on the California Commission on Judicial Nominees Evaluation; you were a patron of the Festival of Arts, LACMA, the LA Music Center and many other worthy causes and foundations; you were a strong supporter of the Pacific Marine Mammal Center in Laguna Canyon; you founded the David William Upham, Jr., Scholarship at Loyola Marymount; you generously supported every school your children or grandchildren attended; and you were always an unwavering fan of the Bruins and a generous donor to UCLA. Dear Jody, we appreciate the Irish wisdom you lived every day: that the roof above us never fall in, and that we friends and families gathered below never fall out. You are missed.
There will be a memorial mass for Ms. Billings at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at St. Catherine’s Catholic Church, 1042 Temple Terrace in Laguna Beach, and we will continue to celebrate her life at her home at 102 Emerald Bay after the service.
In lieu of flowers, if you should wish to donate in her honor, friends and family suggest the Pacific Marine Mammal Center, 20162 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach, CA, 92651 (949-494-3050; pacificmmc.org), and the David William Upham, Jr., Memorial Scholarship for the School of Film and Television at Loyola Marymount University, 1 LMU Drive, Los Angeles, CA, 90045-2659 (310-338-5981; lmu.edu).
We cherish her many friendships and we thank you for remembering Jody.