Remembering Julie Weeks

Leelanau County, the Grand Traverse Region and the world lost a dear friend this week.

Leelanau Conservancy Board Vice President Julie Weeks passed away from brain cancer on Saturday, February 18th. She was 59. We grieve her death for so many reasons and will miss her laughter, her can-do attitude and her relentlessly positive outlook on life—even in the face of death. Our loving thoughts are with her husband, Walter Hoegy, her step-children and grandchildren, and her father, George Weeks.

Julie grew up in Leelanau County, attended the University of Michigan, and worked in statistical research for a number of years in Washington D.C. She was then called by The White House to work for the Small Business Administration as the Deputy Chief Counsel for Statistics & Research.  Julie later founded and was CEO of a company called Womenable. She traveled the world helping to foster women’s entrepreneurship in places like Rwanda, Vietnam and India. But there is no place on earth that Julie loved more than Leelanau.

Super Volunteer

Julie and Walter have been longtime Conservancy supporters. We grew closer to Julie when she answered a call for a video volunteer. We needed someone to do what our staff could not manage at the time—to take a class offered by Land Information Access Association, and to learn how to shoot and edit short videos. Julie rose to the challenge and, over six years, put together 22 beautiful “Why Leelanau ” videos for the Leelanau Conservancy, utilizing hundreds of photos submitted by other volunteers. She knew that people pined for our unique peninsula, and her themed videos connected over 25,000 viewers to everything from Leelanau sunsets to winter scenes to beaches. She singlehandedly brought so many people closer to the Leelanau Conservancy, by bringing Leelanau to them through her videos. In 2011 she joined our Board of Directors. She was, in a word, a doer—and a great communicator.

A Joy and an Inspiration

Said Tom Nelson, the Conservancy’s Executive Director, “Julie was very dear to us. Everything she did, she did from the heart, and she applied her brilliant and creative mind to everything as well. From conserving the peninsula’s natural beauty, to mentoring women entrepreneurs, to trying to find housing solutions for the people who work so hard to make it here. In a word, she truly loved our Leelanau community, both people and place, and she lived her convictions with an ever-present generosity and warmth. Julie was a joy and an inspiration to all of us. We simply adored her and will never forget her.”

Posted Feb. 21, 2017

Fellow Board Member Larry Mawby wrote this lovely poem about Julie:

With no splash, silently
slipping beneath the surface
of the Big Lake, Julie leaves us.

We stand on the shore,
looking out over the water;
left behind, aching.

At our feet, we see in
the sand her footprints
entering the cold welcoming lake.

Now a wave erases –
we keep only the memory
of her feet on the beach.

It is enough, it must be enough:
she has gone out of here &
into every where and when.

We remain on the beach,
collecting pretty stones
washed by the water.

Stones we imbue with
her memory, our solace.
And then we realize

these flat stones are
perfect skipping stones,
and we fling them across

the water’s surface,
laughing with Julie at
the perfect ending.

Larry Mawby

8 responses to “Remembering Julie Weeks”

  1. Marsha Buehler says:

    Julie’s laugh was the first thing I heard when entering a meeting with her, and her smiling face the first to greet us when we attended a Conservancy event. Her force will stay with us.

  2. Bill Dennler says:

    Larry – What a beautiful poem!! I’m sorry I never got to know Julie. We lost a good one for sure! Has a fund been set up for her as a memorial?

  3. Joyce Wheaton Lander says:

    Years ago, we were Julie’s neighbors in Glen Haven “Heights” on Sleepiing Bear Bay. I recall her being an early environmentalist, totally in thrall with her beach/pines/dunes habitat. She was always a jolly addition to any gathering, and I can’t remember her face without an ear to ear smile.

  4. Connie Turner says:

    Such lovely poetic words for a lovely lady! Julie left us with many reminders of how to make the best of any situation.

  5. Jeff & Marcia Gibson says:

    We wish we could have known her. We were moved by reading the article and Larry’s poem. Her passing is a great loss for our community and the world. She is an example of someone who LIVED her life.

  6. Paula Jo Kemler says:

    Julie was a giver. All who knew her were fortunate recipients of her positive energy. I love the poem. I’ll think of Julie now, in addition to her brother Don, when skipping stones on Sleeping Bear Bay.

  7. Julie Stoneman says:

    I just learned of Julie’s passing and I extend my sincere condolences to her family and that of the Leelanau Conservancy. Not at all surprising, Julie stepped up to represent not just Leelanau but the entire Michigan land conservancy community as part of the Land Trust Alliance’s Advocacy Days in Washington D.C. in 2015. I had the great good fortune of partnering with Julie as together we hiked the halls of Congress (long hikes!) to call on many key Michigan representatives and their staff. She was the ultimate champion for land conservation-informed, passionate, attentive, respectful, bold and determined–all laced with her indefatigable energy and good humor. I learned a lot from her that day, not the least of which are some insights into navigating the Metro,finding bathrooms in tucked away corners of federal office buildings, and her Womenable vision. She was in her D.C. element, and I have no doubt that her conversations with congressional staff and legislators helped cement the successful passage of a permanent enhanced conservation easement incentive later that year. As part of Advocacy Days, Julie was tapped to introduce former Congressman Dave Camp of Midland, an essential proponent of the enhanced easement, at a gathering of land conservancy advocates from all over the country. Again, she demonstrated her considerable chops in both writing and delivering a powerful talk. I am forever grateful that I got a chance to both meet and work along side a truly remarkable woman, and I am so sorry that the Leelanau Conservancy and other great causes dear to her heart lost a true advocate, ambassador and friend.

    • Carolyn Faught says:

      Julie, thank you for this wonderful post. I will share it with fellow staff and board, as well as with Walter Hoegy, Julie’s husband. Your perspective is yet another window into the amazing Julie Weeks, who was a force for good in so many places.–Carolyn Faught, Communications Director

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