Buckle up, dear Reader, as I take you on a journey of a beautifully full and well-lived life. Julia Ann Hartman's journey began in the Shenandoah Valley. She was born in Winchester, Virginia, on September 27, 1942, to William Archibald Hartman, Jr. and Lula Mae (Shaffer) Hartman. The firstborn of three children, she lived up to her role. Just ask her brother, Monty. During her childhood, she lived in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and different parts of Germany as an Army brat. We have all enjoyed stories of these many travels.
On April 23, 1962, she married Thomas W. Rea at Langley Chapel, Langley AFB, Hampton, Virginia. Two children were born to this marriage--Mary Michele "Shelley" Rea Crouch and Stephen LaMont Rea. Tom and Julie later divorced but remained friends until he died in 2016. During their marriage, they lived in Virginia, Mississippi, Colorado, and Illinois and had many adventures together. Her children were the joy of her life, and she mothered them with much love and passion until the very end.
Julie or Jules, as some friends called her, came to Illinois in 1967. Julia has always valued education. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Home Economics and Family Services from Eastern Illinois University. Julie also received her Master's in Guidance and Counseling from EIU and a Master's in Social Work from the University of Illinois. She continued to learn throughout her life and was a member of the EIU Academy of Lifelong Learning.
Julia has served her communities in many capacities throughout the years. As a teen, she worked at Leggetts Department Store in Hampton, having the honor of fitting Neil Armstrong and John Glenn for suits for a press conference. After college, Julia served as a counselor with the Youth Services Bureau, positively impacting the lives of many young people. At another point, she was a Case Worker at the Paris Children's Home. Julie has been a Case Worker at Ashmore Estates. She also worked in Springfield as a surveyor of homes for people with intellectual/developmental disabilities. Julia worked as a Sex Equity counselor within school districts throughout the state of Illinois, helping to ensure that little girls grew up knowing they could choose any career they wished. She taught part-time at Lake Land College. Julie was also a counselor in the Dislocated Worker's Program through Lake Land College. In the last eighteen years of her career before her retirement, she worked as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker for Sarah Bush Lincoln Health Center and one of its programs, Lincolnland Hospice. Even after her retirement, she continued to volunteer with hospice, desiring always to help others live and die with dignity.
Julie had many and varied interests. One of those interests was writing. She was thrilled to find the Past-Forward Memoir Writers group. Through this group, she was able to realize the dream of becoming a published author. You can read her stories in these books--The Memory Pool and Occasional Writers Bringing the Past Forward. Just days before her heart event, she had submitted more stories from her past in hopes of being included in a third book this December. Of course, most writers are also avid readers, and Julie was no exception. While in the hospital, she even received a get-well card from the local library if that tells you anything. She was delighted to be a part of the Literary Divas book club.
Julie taught herself to play the guitar by watching an educational TV show while Tom served in the Air Force in Denver, Colorado. When they moved to Illinois, Tom found her an abandoned folk guitar. Julie played and sang traditional music at EIU's Celebration of the Arts almost every year for over a dozen years. She also played for libraries, school children, and nursing homes. Many a weekend found her playing at Blue Grass Festivals and other folk music gatherings. She was a member of the Wesley United Methodist Church Choir for many years. She had the honor and privilege of hosting a chili dinner in her home with and then opening for John Hartford when he played a concert at EIU in 1993.
Julie also fancied herself a character actress of sorts. In high school in Germany, she was in drama club with Ryan O'Neal, who later became a famous actor. Julie also participated in the Past-Forward group's drama, "Past-Forward--The Audio Version." For Casey's annual Candy Canes on Main, she was thrilled to play the role of Mrs. Claus for Tea Time with Mrs. Claus. She loved volunteering for the Casey Township Library, reading stories under the World's Largest Rocking Chair during Market Thyme.
Julia was so delighted to become a Nana in 1988 with the birth of her first grandson, Dustin Crouch. Adam and Isaac Crouch later joined him. You will never meet a prouder Nana. She loved to take her grandsons on hikes and teach them the love of gardening. She has maintained a close relationship with each of them even as they have moved to other states. In recent years, she was thrilled to welcome a great-granddaughter, Emily Rose, daughter of Dustin and Chelsea Crouch into the family. Her friends have seen countless pictures of this precious child.
Julia was an extrovert extraordinaire who loved to meet new people. She was the self-appointed ambassador of Casey, hanging out on the porch of the Whitling Whimsy Cafe, introducing herself to every tourist who came through to see the "World's Largest Things." At the local ATI Physical Therapy, Julie enjoyed getting to know every staff member and client and considered them all to be her close friends and family. She had many deep and enduring friendships. She dearly loved and treasured her Sunday Brunch group.
In her retirement, Julia had learned to paint. She loved her watercolor classes with the artist, Shirley Savage. She and Shirley taught watercolor to children at the Casey Township Library. What fun they all had! She was also a member of the Gaslight Art Colony. Many people proudly adorn their homes with her paintings.
For many years, Julie delighted in attending church with her daughter's family in Casey. She sang specials at many local churches. In later years, her hearing became too sensitive for amplified music. She loved learning about all faiths, and her love and friendships extended to and included all people. Her grandparents, William and Esther, introduced her to Jesus at an early age and continued to nurture that faith through many typed letters throughout their lives. She had all these letters out on her desk. During the last few months, she had kept the Twenty-third Psalm both beside her bed and her favorite chair for comfort. She loved to sing all the old hymns. Her love for others was selfless and compassionate.
Julia was a plant-hugger who loved gardening and whose life work seemed to be to inspire others to do the same. She enjoyed being a member of the Casey Garden Club.
Julia, age 77, departed this life at 8:45 am on Thursday, April 29, 2020, at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, IL. As we learned from Tuesdays with Morrie, Death ends a life, but not a relationship. We shall all continue to treasure our relationship with her.
Julia is survived by her two children, Mary Michele "Shelley" Crouch (John) of Casey, IL, and Stephen L. Rea (Michelle Rose) of Nevada City, CA; grandsons, Dustin Crouch (Chelsea) of Prosper, TX, Adam Crouch of Brooklyn, NY and Isaac Crouch of Indianapolis, IN; great-granddaughter, Emily Rose Crouch; brother William LaMont "Monty Hartman (Bev) of Chesapeake, VA, and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins, and dear friends. She was preceded in death by her parents and one sister, Diana Bergmann (Jim).
Due to current social restrictions and our concern for the safety of family and friends, a Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made to Casey Township Library, 307 E Main St, Casey, IL 62420 or Past-Forward Memoir Writers c/o Coles County Arts Council in memory of Julia Rea, PO Box 163, Charleston, IL 61920.
Julia loved life. She was a musician, an artist, a gardener, a naturalist. Her intense curiosity always kept her exploring and learning. You could write volumes with all the notes she scribbled on random slips of paper about some new bit of information she wanted to research later. Julia loved people, and anyone she met didn't stay a stranger for very long. She endured many hardships throughout her life and always persevered, searching to improve herself. The family was first in her heart, but her generosity bubbled over to anyone she met. A good friend said of her, “she was a ‘save a broken piece of pottery because it holds memories’ kind of lady. She will be missed by many. May her soul soar free.
To send a condolence message, or post photos, visit www.markwellfuneralhome.com. Markwell Funeral Home of Casey, IL, is in charge of the arrangements.
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