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1951 Julia 2023

Julia Hicks Ison

January 28, 1951 — June 3, 2023

Julia Ann Hicks Ison (“Judy”), 72, passed peacefully on Saturday, June 3, 2023, after a hard-fought battle with cancer.


Judy was born on January 28, 1951, to the late George and Sallie Read Hicks in Nashville, Tennessee. Judy was the oldest child of six children. When she and her four sisters and brother were younger, they were always busy outside. There was always fun and adventure when Judy led the way - riding their ponies and horses in the park, to their grandparents’ house, or to get ice cream. Judy and her sisters were all involved in the Middle Tennessee Pony Club and many memories revolved around their love of riding.


Judy graduated from The Harpeth Hall School in Nashville in 1969, where she was the President and cofounding member of the Pi Phi Kappa Sorority.


Judy was one of the first women to attend The University of the South (“Sewanee”) in the first class of coeds in 1969. It was at Sewanee that she met her future husband, Eric Ison. Judy transferred to Vanderbilt University to complete her Bachelor of Arts in English with a minor in Art History in 1973. She worked at Harpeth Academy in Nashville while Eric completed his law degree at Vanderbilt. Judy joined the Junior League of Nashville at this time, which began her many years of volunteering in the community.


Judy and Eric Ison were married on June 23, 1974. They moved from Nashville to Louisville, KY and lived in Anchorage, where Judy made many amazing friendships that continued throughout her life. In April 1975, she gave birth to her only child, Jennifer, with whom she had a treasured relationship.


Judy’s love of horses and riding continued throughout her life. This love carried on to her daughter, as she brought home Jennifer’s first pony (“Snow Bunny”) to live at their house when she was three years old. They later purchased a barn behind the house and many ponies and horses followed, including Judy’s most beloved horse “Spider” who lived into his 30s.


Judy formed long lasting friendships from many hours spent at Valley View Farm in Crestwood, KY with her daughter. Until her daughter graduated from high school, they spent most of their free time at Valley View and many weekends traveling to horse shows.


Volunteering and helping others were central themes in her life. While in Louisville, she recorded audio books for the visually impaired and stayed active in the Junior League of Louisville. She also took graphic arts classes at the University of Louisville and sold real estate when her daughter was in high school.


In 2003, following her divorce, Judy moved to Columbia, South Carolina to be near her daughter and son-in-law.


In Columbia, for many years Judy worked at the information desk for the Columbia Museum of Art, and later became a docent for the museum. She particularly loved helping with the studio art classes and spending time with the other docents, who became some of her closest friends.


In addition to her volunteer work as a docent, Judy volunteered weekly as an Intake Coordinator at Harvest Hope Food Bank. Also, in an effort to share her love of reading, she volunteered at Turning Pages where she taught adults how to read.


Judy was an amazing artist and created a business painting pet portraits. Her specialty was painting dogs, as she was a dog lover herself, having had many special dogs throughout her life. She also continued riding during her years in Columbia, having two horses and making many friends in the Camden/Lugoff area. She sold or gave as gifts, more than 100 paintings of beloved dogs, cats, and horses. She also more recently fell in love with ceramics and created many house luminaries, horse figures, and fanciful mugs. Family and friends are lucky to have memories of her spirit in the many pieces of artwork she leaves behind.


Judy also shared her love of art with her daughter, and only grandchild, Julia Claire. Her granddaughter especially inherited her artistic talent and hopes to pursue art in college.


Judy was able to rekindle her love for the outdoors when she owned a cabin on Lake Wateree for many years. She spent hours kayaking in the cove enjoying the quiet and looking at the wildlife. She often took one or both of her Boston Terriers with her in the kayak. Many memories were made with family and friends sitting on the screened-in porch at “Camp Obscurity.” Only a lucky few have Camp Obscurity t-shirts and/or koozies.


Always curious and interested in learning, Judy loved traveling with friends and family, whether it be to Ireland or France, Santa Fe, Maine, Los Angeles with the “LA Six”, Philadelphia or any city with an art museum. Above all else, Judy enjoyed spending time with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter. They also loved traveling with each other and were able to take a trip to Italy in 2016, several girls’ trips to Asheville, NC, and New York City, and many getaways to Seabrook Island where she had a condo.


Judy’s kind nature and creative spirit will be greatly missed by all she touched. She was able to maintain her fun-loving sense of humor despite enduring challenging times and difficult cancer treatments. A special thanks to South Carolina Oncology Associates, The Georgia Cancer Center Bone Marrow Transplant Team, and Augusta University Hospital, especially the nurses and staff on floors 5 South, 4B MICU, and 7 North.


Judy is survived by her loving daughter, Jennifer Ison Cooke and her husband Matt Cooke, and her granddaughter Julia Claire Cooke; her sisters Cathy Obolensky and husband David, Sallie Talley and husband David, Susan Thetford Ezell and husband Guil, Robin Owens and husband Mike; brother George Hicks and wife Susanne, and eleven nieces and nephews.



A service will be held at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Columbia, SC on Thursday, June 22nd at 3:00 p.m.


In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Harvest Hope Food Bank, or The Columbia Museum of Art (please note “In honor of Judy Ison”).





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