Real Talk Ryan Jespersen has established a scholarship through the Edmonton Community Foundation to honour the memory of beloved daughter, sister, mother, wife, auntie, friend, valued guest, and founding editorial board member Julie Rohr.
Julie was a writer, photographer, poet, politically savvy twitterer, community builder, and an advocate for anyone who was struggling. In 2015, Julie was diagnosed with Leiomyosarcoma, an incurable cancer. She had a median survival rate of one year from diagnosis. Undeterred by the prognosis, multiple surgeries, chemotherapy, radiation, and clinical trials over the course of the next six years, she lived with optimism, intention, grace, resilience, and joy.
Julie was born in Edmonton, lived in Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Calgary while growing up, and moved back to Edmonton when she was 12. Her values were shaped by her family’s faith, the strong bond between immediate and extended family, and their desire to be in service of others.
Her post-secondary education at a local theological college, then journalism school, entailed a mix of art, music, religion, and reporting. She was deeply informed by these practices in her daily activities. In fact, she chronicled her journey of resilience on her social media platforms, where she had a healthy following of thousands who marvelled at her insights into both her pain and joy. Her message and reach extended to local, national, and global communities.
Julie was passionately involved in her neighbourhood, including volunteering on the Community League board, writing articles for the community newsletter, serving as a block connector, planning neighbourhood events, actively supporting the local barter economy, and founding a book club. She was an integral member of her son’s school fundraising committee, and was officially recognized for her community service by Edmonton Public Schools in 2020. She also became a volunteer and public speaker on resilience, partnering with many organizations such as Wellspring Edmonton, Knight’s Cabin, EPCOR, and many others. In each presentation, she embraced a holistic, spiritually informed way of living, and openly journeyed toward death with courage and grace.
Julie was endlessly generous, channeling her creativity and enthusiasm to bring light into the lives of others. She raised thousands of dollars for women healing from domestic violence through a photography fundraiser known as The Women Project. She was an integral member of a volunteer initiative to sponsor and support a family of Syrian refugees moving to Edmonton, and she served on the founding board of directors for the international charity Nepal Children’s Foundation. She also collaborated with her son to raise thousands of dollars selling his artwork for a family whose mother and daughter both had cancer.
Even when her body was weakest, and the pandemic resulted in a particularly difficult situation for her as an end-stage cancer patient, she advocated for the public health care system and political transparency. In response, Mayor Don Iveson of the City of Edmonton proclaimed September 13-19, 2021 Julie Rohr week.
Julie lived an intentional, full life, spread joy to those around her, and loved her family deeply. She elevated ordinary acts of kindness, generosity, creativity, and love into a fine art. Her approach to life has inspired thousands. The $5,000 scholarship will be awarded each year to an Edmonton post-secondary student who lost a parent to cancer. This student will have exemplified the qualities that Julie demonstrated, which includes volunteerism, generosity, advocacy, and creativity to bring light into the lives of others. Students will apply for this award via ryanjespersen.com, and the recipient will be selected by the Real Talk editorial board based on criteria established.
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