On Monday, December 4, 2017, the world lost a woman of incomparable kindness and depth. Lisa Church lived 3 years, 3 months beyond a diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer. In that 3-plus-years, all of us who knew and cherished Lisa experienced both the gift and the pain of her journey. In good times we shared countless moments of adventure, joy, and laughter that included golf, travel, gourmet dinners, and amazing bicycle trips. In between, the day-to-day reality - weekly trips to the Huntsman Cancer Institute, infusions, tests and more tests, all to measure and hopefully slow the progress of this grossly cruel disease that all of us, including Lisa, knew would eventually prevail. Lisa faced the good times and the bad with grace, intention, and humility. We are humbled by her strength and courage.
Lisa was born in Columbus, Georgia at Fort Benning. Her father, William Church, was an Army officer and served in both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was stationed at the U.S. Army base in Bamberg, Germany after WW II, where he met Lisa's mother, Anne Jungkunz. Lisa's parents married in Bamberg in a double wedding with Mrs. Church's sister Herta, who also married an Army officer, John McCleary. Lisa was the youngest of three children and was known to her family as Lubi/ Kindla (German for little child). She spent her early years living in Frankfurt, Germany with brother Paul (Buster) and favorite and only big sister Nancy. Lisa and her siblings described that time as idyllic. They treasured what seemed to be daily adventures playing in medieval towns, visiting castles and churches built in the first century, and Sunday hikes throughout Bavaria with her many German relatives. Thus began Lisa's love of the outdoors and spending time with friends and family.
The Churches returned to the States in 1965 and relocated to Springfield, VA where Lisa lived until 1989. She graduated from West Springfield High School (the mighty Spartans) and then went on to Sweet Briar College, a small women's college located on 3300 acres in the hills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lisa was a model student and gifted athlete. Although never having played the sport, Lisa volunteered to be the lacrosse goalie after everyone else on the team turned it down. Duty called. Unsurprisingly, Lisa was the chair of the Judicial Committee that oversaw the students' honor code, and also belonged to "Q.V." - a secret society that performed random acts of kindness, something Lisa mastered throughout her life.
In the summer of 1981, Lisa studied abroad at Oxford College where she met Shelley Lane, who would become a lifelong friend and who was at her side over 35 years later when she left us. Despite Lane's prodding, Lisa chose to study Tudor-Stuart literature and history over last call at the local pub, Chuck & Di's wedding, and other frivolous pursuits. But Lisa never passed up a weekend train trip to explore England's ancient cathedrals, palaces and countryside, always in search of more knowledge and understanding.
Lisa graduated from college in 1982 with a BA in English/Literature. She was an avid reader with a deep curiosity of all things, and always treasured the book in hand - she never came around to digital readers, texting instead of talking, or microwaves (too much counter space). After she graduated, Lisa went to work for McGraw Hill, a publishing company in Washington DC. She initially worked the graveyard shift as an editor, and later became the Vice President of Publication, the position she held when she left the company in 1989. Lisa earned her MBA from Marymount University in Arlington, VA while working full time at McGraw Hill.
In her inimitable style, Lisa drove a classic, bright red Karmann Ghia that, unbeknownst to her, caught the attention of Jack Kent Cooke, a collector of classic automobiles, and the owner of the Washington Redskins. She didn't learn the identity of the buyer until she arrived at his Middleburg estate. Lisa remained a lifelong fan of the Redskins despite Mr. Cook's efforts to negotiate a lower price. Lisa gave in but got a "free" tour of his estate.
In 1989, Lisa made her first move to Salt Lake City, returning here after visiting for the first time when Lane graduated from law school at the U. On that first trip, Lisa met Kris Cappel, her first true love, lifelong friend, and Lisa's rock. Kris managed to lure Lisa from the D.C. suburbs first to Utah, and then on to San Francisco where she earned her law degree from Golden Gate University. Lane visited Lisa and Kris the first week they moved to San Francisco at their flat on Clement Street and found Lisa watching an earthquake preparedness class. Lisa confessed she was terrified of earthquakes. Several weeks later, Kris found Lisa sitting calmly in the outdoor plaza of the Embarcadero office buildings in San Francisco when the 6.9 Loma Prieta Earthquake struck California during the World Series between the Giants and the A's. "Why so calm?" Kris asked. Lisa thought a semi-truck had driven under the overpass beneath the plaza. Kris, not so calmly, suggested that they should probably leave the plaza.
Kris and Lisa packed the years in San Francisco with trips to the wine country, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park, Silicon Valley where favorite cousin Patty and her family lived, art festivals, kayaking in the San Francisco Bay, tennis, baseball games at Candlestick Park, and yes, law school. Those adventures continued throughout Lisa's life and Kris, as always, was by Lisa's side when Lisa left us.
In 1994, Lisa returned to Salt Lake City, a place and community she loved and never considered leaving again. Lisa went to work for First Security Bank as their public relations and compliance officer. She also worked for the Evans Group, and later Publicis, a French multinational advertising and public relations company. In 2001, Lisa joined the Salt Lake 2002 Olympic Organizing Committee, in what became the pinnacle and pride of her professional career. Lisa was responsible for hosting numerous dignitaries who carried the Olympic Flag into the Opening Ceremony that included Lech Walesa, Jean Claude Killy, Jean Michael Cousteau, John Glenn, Steven Spielberg, and Archbishop Desmond Tutu who gently held Lisa's hand as they entered the Olympic Stadium.
It was in Salt Lake that Lisa met her life's long love, Elaine Elliott, and for nearly 20 years they shared a home, a life and endless adventures together, from golfing in St. George to RV'ing in Canada to exploring Europe. Elaine was always by Lisa's side, providing care and support that sustained Lisa until the end.
Our lives were elevated and enriched by knowing Lisa. She was a chef, master gardener, gifted photographer, a lover of animals, and an unwavering fan of U of Utah women's basketball and volleyball. Her summer travel with Elaine and the Utes included Scandinavia, Spain, Portugal, and Italy.
Lisa also loved Sun Valley, Idaho, a place she visited every year with friends and family, and that will be a final resting place. The annual cycling trips, which became a sacred time with Lisa and friends, will be markedly diminished by Lisa's absence as both cheerleader and unparalleled SAG support. Countless family, friends, and colleagues will miss Lisa's special way of making you feel like the center of the universe. For all those who knew her, Lisa was the most kind, gracious, and embracing person in our lives. Her loss is incalculable and we will never forget her.
Lisa's family and friends owe a great debt of gratitude to Lisa's amazing care team at the Huntsman Cancer Institute, especially Dr. Saundra Buys and Lisa Gauchay. Your care kept Lisa with us a bit longer and we assure you we put that time to good use. After Lisa was diagnosed, she joined a metastatic breast cancer support group at the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Through that group, she was introduced to Jenny Mackenzie, a documentary filmmaker whose best friend Barb was also in the group. Jenny was inspired to begin a documentary titled "However Long," which follows the lives of the women in Lisa's support group. Lisa volunteered for the film and is one of the core subjects, which is still in production. Sadly, three members of the support group have now succumbed to MBC. Lisa was last filmed one week before she died wearing her purple hat and purple jacket bearing her familiar, infectious smile. "However Long" has now been measured and it was not long enough. We encourage everyone to visit Jenny's website (www.jennymackenziefilms.com).
In memory of Lisa and in lieu of flowers, please consider donating to the women's breast cancer research program at the Huntsman Cancer Institute (www.huntsmancancer.org) or the We Care Fund, a not for profit animal rescue/care program administered by the Utah Animal Care Center (www.utahanimalcarecenter.com).