Julie Rohr was a self-professed eternal optimist, passionate advocate, writer, photographer, poet and, most importantly to her, family member and friend. Her post-secondary education entailed a mix of music, theology and journalism, and she was deeply informed by all three of these practices until her final days. She passed away in September at the age of 39.
Her creativity and enthusiasm for life brought light into the lives of others. She was passionately involved in her local community as a member of the Forest Heights Elementary School fund- raising committee, a Laurier Heights Community League member at large and a block connector. Julie’s reach also extended beyond her neighbourhood. Her passion for journalism and writing was evident as she served on the Real Talk editorial board and was selected as the first valedictorian of Omar Mouallem’s Pandemic University. (Both Mouallem and Real Talk host Jespersen are Top 40 Under 40 alumni.)
Her care for others was evident in all her work. She raised thousands of dollars for women healing from domestic violence with The Women Project. She was a member of a volunteer initiative to sponsor and support a family of Syrian refugees, and she served on the founding board of directors for the Nepal Children’s Foundation.
She also collaborated with her son, Max, to raise thousands of dollars for a family whose mother and daughter both had cancer — through the sale of his art.
In 2015, Julie was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma and spent the final six years of her life documenting her journey living with this incurable disease. In her fight against cancer, Julie embraced a holistic, spiritually informed way of living, and openly journeyed towards death with courage, tenacity and grace. She became a public speaker on resilience in the face of tragedy, partnering with many organizations, including Wellspring Edmonton and Knight’s Cabin.
The pandemic resulted in a particularly difficult situation for her as an end-stage cancer patient. Physically distant from family and friends, Julie continued to seek opportunities in justice and generosity. As both patient and writer, she documented her experiences and fiercely advocated for health-care professionals and patients.
Julie drew from all experiences a will to encourage others to embrace empathetic and compassionate ways of living, regardless of exceedingly difficult circumstances. Julie was a force who elevated ordinary acts of kindness, generosity, creativity, and love into a fine art, and she inspired countless others to do the same.
This article appears in the November 2021 issue of Edify