Julie Waters

Long time GMD Front Pager Julie Waters passed away this afternoon. I came back to write a few words that will be totally inadequate, and I imagine the other folks here will write their own diaries as well (and although I’m not a publisher/contributor any more, I’d like to suggest those that are consider re-promoting some of Julie’s best stuff from over the years this week).

In 2006 I was making as much noise as I possibly could to put Peter Welch into office, rather than GOP candidate Martha Rainville. At that point, I couldn’t really muster up enough noise to amount to much, though.

Then I, like virtually everyone else in Vermont, read the story about how a lowly blogger had noticed that Rainville’s web site had material plagiarized from other websites. Sure, the Rainville campaign had already made a string of self-sabotaging blunders, but this particular gaffe was bigger, louder, and more costly. The Rainville campaign never recovered.

I knew then that I had to pull this “Julie Waters” person onto Green Mountain Daily. Thankfully, she was quick to sign on – and it turned out we’d already met back when I was Field Director for the Clavelle campaign, and had recruited her wife Cyndi to be a volunteer.

The first time I saw Julie back in, I guess, 2004, she was playing guitar on an outdoor stage in Bellows Falls. I remember what struck me at the time (other than how well she was playing) was how focused she was on what she was doing. Some guitarists in venues like that are flailing around, talking to the crowd, making jokes, whatever – and that’s fine – but Julie seemed to have all her focus trained on every note.

Julie focused on many things: guitar, banjo, blogging, photography, teaching, programming – and making the world a better place. She could have laser-like focused intensity at times, whether it was while skewering a political target, promoting a cause, or just being funny. It was extraordinary how Julie could express herself with fluency in so many media: words, music, photos, probably others.

It was the highest honor and privilege to work with, and get to know her.

It’s hard for me to know what kind of send-off Julie would’ve appreciated. I’ve known her for several years now… hung with her at the barbecues, went to her wedding reception… but never really got to know her well. I guess the distance between Washington and Windham Counties was a bit too much for that. There was a time when she stood ready to take the helm of GMD, until it turned out I wasn’t leaving, and then when I did leave, I knew she was too sick to be pulled into it to that degree – of course I was assuming she would get better, as probably everyone was.

Her not being here anymore is going to seem very unreal for a long time, probably forever. Before my retirement from GMD, I’d written several memorials on this site, some to people I’ve known, worked with or liked – but I never ever imagined I’d be writing one like this.

Julie was a special person. She was talented, funny, brash, smart, challenging, inspired, inspiring and very very very good (and for those who know me, you know that last word is what I consider to be the highest praise there is).

Rest in Peace, Julie. We love you, and you will be missed and remembered.

And you made a difference. You left the world a little better than it was when you got here, and better than it would’ve been if you hadn’t shown up.

And that is what it’s all about, isn’t it?


24 thoughts on “Julie Waters

  1. News of Julie’s death is stunning. Yes, a shock, even though we all knew she had been ill. She was relatively upbeat (and occasionally sick of – and determined to effectively counter – the de-realization and de-personalization that happened to her, and to many of us, in hospitals) about her illness and what she was doing for treatment, and how she felt about her life.

    You can read a lot about her go-round with myasthenia gravis and its various permutations at Daily Kos on the KosAbility section. And that is where we first read the news of her sudden death.

    Hundreds of kossacks have expressed their condolences so far, and we at GMD feel the same. Those incredible bird pics: Julie’s. The occasional music video of her own compositions on guitar and banjo: Julie’s. The amazing nighttime light dances she photographed, painting the dark with pure light and capturing it digitally: Julie. Her precision in explaining exactly what she meant – and didn’t mean: absolutely Julie.

    Her last diary for GMD was a week ago Sunday.

    Her families, both physical and pixellated, mourn.


    There is no cure for birth and death save to enjoy the interval. ~ George Santayana

  2. only a couple times and knew her mostly through blogging.First time I did meet her she was toting her shiny and I guessed much loved banjo, another time a snazzy looking camera was slung around her neck, ready at a moment’s notice for one of those wonderful bird images she shared. I will always picture her with one of those two things-either banjo or camera. Seems impossible she’s gone.

  3. I will miss her fiery spirit, dedication to helping those facing crisis, her commitment to the welfare of children all over the world, her beautiful music – often donated to special fundraising causes, and her amazing photography that I clearly put the focus back on our natural world.

    When she first received this diagnosis, Julie and I had spoken and written several times about her illness and seeking a medical support network.  Myasthenia Gravis is a tough disease.  I never expected that Julie would succumb so quickly, because I have watched one of my colleagues, who was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in 1996, manage her illness since that time.  She too had some tough hospitalizations and medical crises, so I expected that Julie would face similar issues and bouts of debilitating illness, and in between could return to a highly functioning lifestyle.  

    What I can say is that in spite of an incredible struggle with a devastating illness, Julie’s courage and commitment to get well were inspiring.  I thought she had turned a corner physically.  

    I will miss her irreverence, wit, and commitment to fight to protect others less fortunate than herself.  I will miss her beautiful calming and centering photos.  Most of all I will miss her indomitable spirit.

    Cyndi, our heartfelt condolences to you.  

  4. Julie was one of the most funny, talented, and smartest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing. She could out-smartass me with both hands tied behind her back. She helped design my spaghetti western website, which is still going strong, and she’d never hesitate to help me out whenever I needed it. I’m really shocked by this and the world is a slightly dimmer place without her.I knew how ill she was, but I didn’t see this coming. Bye, Julie, you’ll be missed.

  5. Her beautiful nature photography always reminded me to take a deep breath and to realize that weekends were special!  I will miss her.

  6. I’ll miss a lot of things, maybe most of all those bird pictures–a highly useful reminder that it’s not all politics and that there’s a beautiful world out there. All peace to her, and her family

  7. I’m still a little too shocked to know how to respond. Julie was such a strong, vibrant person, despite her illness. There are few people about whom I’d use the term “indomitable spirit,” but Julie was one of them. Her passing is such a shock.

  8. Being a GMD front-pager means having a daily working relationship with a bunch of people you’ve never met. I never met Julie; and what’s more, my most significant interaction with her was a rather fierce e-mail argument.

    For me personally, her death means I’ll never get the chance to know her better and nurture some mutual self-respect. For those who knew her better, and for Vermont’s political and cultural landscape, her death is a huge loss. She was an incredibly talented person who didn’t fit into any categories or career-counselor boxes. And she would have reamed anyone who tried to make her fit.

    Recently I was talking with one of the other GMDers, and I said that one of Vermont’s problems is that we don’t have enough shit-kickers. Julie was one of the best. And her ranking as one of the best shit-kickers was only one — and one of the lesser — of her numerous gifts.

    Safe travels, Julie Waters.  

  9. brought home how much we have lost in her passing.

    No one brought more heart and soul to reflective posts than she could.  

  10. She did so many good things, and did them well.  A lot of people benefited from her work and art and advocacy.  

  11. “And you made a difference. You left the world a little better than it was when you got here, and better than it would’ve been if you hadn’t shown up.

    And that is what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

    Julie lit this place up from time to time.  Tossed some fire around.  Mostly because of the life she had experienced or endured-she had the fire.

    Sorta makes those of us who have been around for a while may look at the “It.Gets.Worse” piece and see the progress we are making as a society-balanced by the Dick Cheney types-as having a downside.

    We need people who are willing to get out and kick some ass, and as those who were, become more and more successful doing that, the generation of potential ass kickers have fewer and fewer things to stress/concern/involve/piss them off, and the fighters grow more complacent and the curve of confrontation goes a little more limp.   Rush and the boys grow more acceptable to the masses as no one is there to kick some ass.

    Not sure how that will work out in that regard.  But, her humor and smack in the face will be missed.

  12. I saw Julie in person only once- she was at one of Bernie’s town halls during the height of the Beckistani hysteria. We said nothing but hello to each other, and that would have been that, if not for Al Gore’s marvelous invention.  Over the years I read most of her many diaries and comments at GMD, and rated many of them, and vice versa, it seems – I always was glad when she gave me a 4.  

    We were FBFs (FaceBook Friends), too.  “Friending” on FB can be a trivial thing, and I am not saying that when I friended Julie that it had any major import when i did it.  But Julie’s posts were ones I always read.

    Two things (among many) impressed me about Julie – her earnestness and her industry.  She was a doer and a mover, even while she suffered the effects of serious disease, there were few complaints.

    Julie was never ever mean, or petty, and never compromised her ideals or principles.  She was “hope” personified, it seems even to the end.  

    Thank you for the beautiful birds, Julie.  Amongst your fellows, you flew.  You are the treetops and mountain tops, and were many things we’d all like to be.

  13. First, thank you John for this diary.  It captures her energy so well.  I’ve shared it with family and friends.

    Second, thank you for creating and recruiting her to this space.  She had so much fun here with all of you and really enjoyed the good work you all did together.  She also really liked those silly, crazy breaks.  She loved a good debate with an intelligent opponent, it was so much more fun than ranting with someone she agreed with.  

    She was doing really well, we planned to go to Plum Island yesterday.  Saturday morning she felt really good, had some coffee, was in good spirits.  She wanted to not only live but return to as much of her old life as possible.  She wanted that and worked for it more than anyone I know. She loved life and looked forward to many more years.  This was a total shock.

    thank you all for being an important part of her life.


  14. Julie and I had met right after I started the blog and her help then was invaluable and unstinting.  I was one of those who got a hand from Julie when it was most needed and it made a difference.  It’s probably because she was so much better at this stuff that she was never accused of being me.

    I’ll miss you Julie.


  15. Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 12:11 AM PDT

    Julie Waters-In Memoriam


    Quite a shocker. She & her many exceptional talents as well as the beauty of her work (my fav-the birds, pics & info) live on through those who knew & loved her, fortunately we also have the archives. Great write-up Odum.

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