Julie Lugo Cerra was born August 30, 1945. First child to Charles Reyes and Mary Lugo, she would be joined 6 years later by brother Carlos. They would be part of the 6th generation of Lugos born here, one of the first 8 families to settle in what would become Culver City. Julie attended St. Augustine’s up through 8th grade, then St. Bernard’s high school. She spent her first year of college at UCSB (where she always joked that she only really learned two things: how to make wonderful Polish Catholic cheese blintzes which always made an appearance at her Easter table and to drive a stick shift). Julie later graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from Cal State Northridge while working full time for the city of Culver City in the City Treasurer’s Office. It was at the city that she met Sam Cerra in the break room, and they married in November of 1974 and had their daughter Michele in December of 1975.
After Michele was born, Julie created Cerra Enterprises, her own consulting business where she was based at home, and spent her life dedicated to serving the Culver City community in various ways. There are too many things to list, but to name a few: she served on the CCUSD Board of Education (1985-93), on the first CC Cultural Affairs Commission (2001-2005), on the CC Chamber of Commerce Board (15 years), CA Historic State Capitol Commission (2003-2009). Other community groups she was very involved in through the years: CC Historical Society, CC Sister City Committee, CC Friends of the Library, CC Art Association, CC Community Coordinating Council in addition to many other Historical groups like the National Trust for Historic Preservation, LA Conservancy, Los Californianos, Los Pabladores and many more.
Julie’s path shifted to have a strong focus on local history when she took her dad to the first meeting of the Culver City Historical Society at her mom’s request to help ‘keep him busy’ in retirement in the early 1980s. This led to many hours spent with the society and much amazing research and writing a collection of books and reference materials for local teachers. Julie shared her knowledge in a multitude of ways, including publishing a number of books and over 500 articles for newspapers like the Culver City News and other publications.
Her books include:
· Culver City: Heart of Screenland,1992, 2nd edition 1999
· . . . Fire Burn & Cauldron Bubble Family Cookbook 1998
· Images of America: Culver City, CA, 2004, 2nd edition 2005
· Images of America: Movie Studios of Culver City, co-author w/ Marc Wanamaker 2011
· Culver City Chronicles 2013
· Culver City: The First Hundred Years, 2016 (for 2017 City Centennial)
To recognize her dedication to Culver City History, the City Council named Julie the Honorary Culver City Historian in September of 1996. She always said she never loved history as a child, so considered herself an ‘accidental historian’…but it clearly became a passion that was contagious to anyone with whom she talked about it. She spent much time speaking to groups, especially loved working with kids (including taking tours with 3rd grade classrooms when they study city history.)
Family always came first to Julie through the years. Michele married Kevin Lachoff in 2005, and she officially became Grandma Julie in May of 2009 when Nicholas was born, and again when Samantha was born in 2013. Not surprisingly, she became a Grandma extraordinaire, starting ‘Grandma Mondays’ to help watch the kids while their parents worked, including teaching them all about her garden and art, how to make wonderful dinners and appreciate time at the Cerra farm table with friends and family in her yard. She also became their absolute biggest fan, hardly missing a baseball game, soccer game, school event or tae kwon do belt promotion.
Unfortunately, Julie’s health started to decline during the pandemic…first with dementia/Alzheimer’s and then this past December, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 colon cancer. Julie passed away March 27, 2023 at home overlooking her beloved garden and surrounded by love.
So many words come to mind to describe Julie: a force of nature (aka Hurricane Julie), wonderful cook and hostess, historian, artist, grandma extraordinaire, amazing friend and family member who took care of just about everyone like part of the family. She pushed all of us hard as she wanted us all to be our best.
There will be no services as was her wish, Julie didn’t really ‘believe’ in funerals as she firmly believed we should do things for our people when we can enjoy the time together and they can feel the love instead of waiting to share our appreciation till after they are gone. She will join her parents and husband Sam and be spread at sea through the Neptune Society of which she always proudly declared to be a ‘card carrying member.’
So next time you are near the Pacific Ocean, send them your best, and to honor Julie, please do something for someone you love: share a meal, an adventure or a conversation. If you’re looking to make a donation – please consider a donation in her name to the Culver City Historical Society which was near and dear to her heart from the very start: https://www.culvercityhistoricalsociety.org/donate/ or to any cause that is meaningful to you personally – she was all about doing the things that are important to you most of all.
Michelle Cerra Lachoff
Photo shows the Lugo family at Fiesta La Ballona 1957, Julie in the back seat in the white mantilla.