Julia “Julie” Besteeter Swartzendruber, who worked at Cal Poly Pomona for 30 years, died Jan. 5 after a battle with brain cancer. She was 68.
During her career, the Alabama native served as the assistant to the University Library dean and the assistant to the associate vice president of Academic Programs. She retired in 2011, but continued to work on campus until recent months as a proctor in the university’s Academic Test Center.
She also previously worked as an associate teacher at the Fairplex Child Development Center and as the early childhood coordinator at PFB Purpose Church, with those posts overlapping with her time on campus.
Raul Ramirez, test officer for the Academic Test Center, says he often teased Swartzendruber about how many jobs she had.
“She was just an extremely hard worker,” he says. “She would not stop.”
Ramirez says he met Swartzendruber about 10 years ago off campus through a baking business she had on the side. When he started working on campus, their friendship grew.
Swartzendruber was generous and selfless, and she loved family camping trips and sharing her passion for baking with others, Ramirez says.
“When we worked the weekends, one time the shift fell on her birthday,” he says. “So, she decided to bring cupcakes for her birthday for everybody else. And she did not tell anyone it was her birthday.”
Sandra Bufalini, manager of employment and compensation in the Department of Human Resources, carpooled with Swartzendruber for about two years. They often talked about family, and Swartzendruber gave Bufalini tips on getting tailgating drivers off the bumper with a “brake check” — tapping on the brakes.
She echoed how much her commuter companion loved to bake. Bufalini recalled that Swartzendruber made cupcakes for her own retirement party, tricking Bufalini into telling her what kind of cupcakes she would make if she were having a party.
Bufalini, a foodie herself, suggested Boston cream pie, vanilla, strawberry and custard cupcakes. Swartzendruber delivered those very cupcakes.
“I didn’t know why she was asking,” Bufalini says. “And she made the ones I said.”
Friends describe Swartzendruber as creative and gregarious, with a dedication to her faith and a love for her family.
“She told me with her husband, the only thing they argued about was who loves who more,” Bufalini says.
Swartzendruber is survived by her husband, Larry of Banning; daughter, Tami Audibert of Rancho Cucamonga; son, James Curtis of Oklahoma; brother, James Cook of Alabama; sister, Elizabeth Gibson of Georgia; and four grandchildren.