On a beautiful morning on April 28, 1968, in Laramie, Wyoming, Julie Anne McKay was born to Susan and John McKay. At the time, her father was finishing his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Wyoming, and her mother taught at the (then) College of Nursing at UW. Four years later her sister Sharon Anne was born. The family lived on Park Avenue where Julie and Sharon enjoyed a neighborhood full of children including, her best friends Michele Ludwig (d.1985) and Blair Bales. The family loved camping, mushroom hunting, road trips, and spending time with grandparents Dick and Ethel Richardson and Karl and Isabel McKay, all of Ohio, and aunts, uncles and cousins. Julie, her mother, and Sharon had great travel adventures including attending the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing with a side trip to Thailand, hiking on the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, and travel in New Zealand. They also enjoyed many happy times at their condominium in Jackson Hole, accompanied by the dogs.
At heart, Julie was always a “Wyoming Cowgirl” and loved returning to her family and friends in Laramie and UW athletic events. She rode her bike around town pointing out the places and people associated with memories of growing up. Julie enjoyed prominently displaying a Wyoming bucking horse on the back of her beat-up Honda CRV.
Julie also loved Colorado, her friends and co-workers there, and the winter view from her Louisville, Colorado bedroom window of open spaces with abundant coyotes, hawks, and other wildlife. The bird life spoke to her of her father’s love of creatures in flight. In Colorado and elsewhere, she and the love-of-her life, Tim Baldwin, shared adventures and countless happy times including a recent three month round-the-world trip, returning to Colorado shortly before Thanksgiving. Julie was ecstatic when she and Sharon saw the Wyoming Cowboys win the Mountain West basketball tournament in Las Vegas, and she was photographed among the hundreds of people cheering and dancing on the floor after the game. Go Pokes!
She loved the musical “Hair” and when she saw the live production, she danced at its conclusion on stage with other audience members singing “Let the Sunshine In”.
Julie attended University “Prep” School through junior high school and Laramie Senior High School where she participated in debate and was class valedictorian in 1986. Her speech in the UW arena auditorium caused quite a stir among many in the audience, not necessarily of a positive kind, as she challenged people’s apathy in the face of the nuclear arms race and the refusal of the United States to implement a comprehensive test ban treaty. Further, she examined the lack of a social safety net for people lacking housing and food with preference, instead, given to military spending. As the story goes, Julie was consequently fired from her job at Taco John’s and Laramie High School instituted a policy of screening valedictorian speeches before they were delivered. Julie continued to be an ardent activist throughout her life. Truth be told, one of her favorite sayings was “speaking truth to power,” and she was constantly explaining to others what that meant.
Julie received her undergraduate degree from the University of California at Santa Cruz. She earned a masters degree in International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame. From her work monitoring disarmament as an intern at the UN in Geneva for the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, conflict resolution for the Better Business Bureau in Washington, DC, to CDR Associates in Boulder, Colorado, her career was focused upon mediation, public outreach, and promoting peace and reducing conflict. Those skills were especially important in her career during the past decade when she was a manager in both transportation and flood recovery for Boulder County.
Julie died from complications of metastatic breast cancer. She was first diagnosed in 2009 with ductal carcinoma and again in 2012 with invasive breast cancer. Julie passed her 5-year “cancer free” milestone in 2017 -- an event that the family celebrated at Denver’s Race for the Cure. The final diagnosis of metastatic cancer occurred shortly after Thanksgiving 2018, and the family stayed with her constantly in Louisville, Colorado until her death on December 15, 2018. Just prior to her death Julie wrote how awful, relentless, insidious and unforgiving the disease is.
Julie was the first to proclaim what a great 50 years she had lived. She fiercely loved her mom, her sister Sharon, and Tim Baldwin and deeply missed her dad who died in 2012 and her cousin Amy Snyder who died in 1989. Julie leaves an abundance of friends especially in Wyoming, Colorado, and California.
Two receptions are planned for family and friends -- Saturday, January 12, from 1-3 pm at the Alice Hardie Stevens Center at the Laramie Plains Museum, 603 E. University Ave., in Laramie, Wyoming and Saturday, January 19, from 3-5 pm at the Louisville Center for the Arts, 801 Grant Ave., Louisville, Colorado.
Julie requested that all donations help shelter the homeless and address food insecurity. Feeding Laramie Valley (feedinglaramievalley.org), Community Food Share of Boulder County (communityfoodshare.org), or Metro Caring of Denver (metrocaring.org).
“Everybody has their life. I had mine and it was a beautiful joy-filled one. #1968”, Julie McKay, December 2018.