Just because you don’t hang out with certain people anymore doesn’t mean they’re not still on your radar. Once we were in high school, Julie and I had a class or two together, even sharing a table in 11th grade Biology or Chemistry (probably the same one I shared with her biggest fan, Russ Nuovo, the previous year). We got a chance to chat a bit about the old days, and she confided in me that it was a “D” she received in Mrs. Mahoney’s math class in 8th grade that kept her from trying out for the cheerleading squad.
Regardless, Julie was making her way nicely through high school, being a Letterette our Junior year and Varsity Cheerleader our Senior year, as well as Princess on the Homecoming Court.
A year or two after graduation I saw that Julie was a cheerleader for the Oakland Stompers soccer team, and then later became a Raiderette. Needless to say her cheerleader experiences in high school and after, more than made up for her big disappointment back in 8th grade. Even though we were out of touch I couldn’t help but feel proud — and somewhat inspired — that this young woman went for what she wanted and got it!
The next time I ran into Julie it was in San Francisco, in the hall of the Sheraton Palace at our 10-year class reunion. She was married (as was I), curvier, and still gorgeous. She briefly caught me up, saying her dad had passed away of an illness a year or two before, but her brothers and mom were doing well.
I saw her again at our 20-year class reunion at the Claremont Hotel in Berkeley. I got a chance to sit and visit a bit with her and her husband Jay; they seemed like such a fun couple. “Kelly’s the one who went with my family to Sonoma Coast that summer,” Julie said to Jay as I sat down. I was flattered that she remembered.
In 2006 I was visiting Antioch after having been away for 25 years. My mom and stepdad had moved back into the house I grew up in on Minaker Drive. There was an engagement announcement in the local paper, and I realized it was Julie and Jay’s daughter.
Jay and Julie toasting at their daughter’s wedding
A few years later I sent Julie a friend request on Facebook, identifying myself as Kelly Hendrix, but it was never accepted. She and Jay had a joint Facebook account, so there may have been some confusion; or perhaps she simply didn’t want to reconnect. Either way, I didn’t take it too personally.
A mutual friend from back in the day, Missy (Caldwell) McCullough and I were Facebook friends at the time, and she had gotten in touch with Julie, and had an actual conversation with her. She said that Julie had broken down in tears on the phone, perhaps out of joy, connecting with an old friend. Missy also mentioned that Julie was sick, but couldn’t give me any details.
Julie died on April 10th, 2015. I found out via Facebook through our mutual childhood friend Cozette — a friend I had rekindled with, and still keep in good contact with. Cozette and Julie had at one time been neighbors on Hillcrest Avenue. I was both devastated and shocked by the news, and Cozette had an even more personal affiliation with Julie, as they shared the exact same birthday (talk about having mortality punch you right in the throat).
I immediately visited Julie and Jay’s Facebook page and could see the condolences rolling in, along with a beautiful picture of Julie that looked to have been taken over the past five years or so. Someone actually made a comment that it was good to see (the picture of her) back “when she was healthier,” so I knew Missy’s mentioning of illness was true. What kind of illness, many of us have been left guessing.
I also noticed in the upper right-hand corner of their Facebook page, “Friend Request Sent,” which was the one I had sent several years before.
My heart couldn’t help but ache for Julie’s mother Martha and her brothers Bill and Tom. Knowing them all back in the day, who would have imagined that this beautiful daughter and sister — with still so much life ahead of her — would be torn from them so soon? How huge of a void did her passing leave?
I have some regret that I never got a chance as an adult to let Julie know how much her friendship meant to me back in 1973-74; how she was sort of the wind beneath my wings after my father died, how special she made me feel, and how, without knowing it at the time, I probably had what would now be considered a bit of a girl crush on her — which hopefully she would take as a huge compliment.
Sadly enough, Julie’s husband Jay died just six weeks later, of a heart condition. No one seemed surprised. They left behind two daughters, two grandsons and a multitude of other family members and friends who clearly adored this couple.
Both Julie and Jay’s obituaries indicate that in lieu of flowers, donations be sent to St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. Having already been a donor, it’s been an honor to recognize Julie and Jay since then.
As sad as it is to have a special friend from your childhood pass away, I take solace in knowing that Julie touched so many lives, just as she touched mine. Also, knowing what I have come to know about her, she would certainly encourage us to go for what we want, live life to its fullest and cherish the time we have left.
Remembering Julie — always.