Given that she’s lived in the mountain area for more than 25 years, there’s a good chance you know Julie Ballard.
If you’ve been fortunate to cross paths with Julie, you know her to be a genuinely warm person, strong of faith and generous in spirit. But even if you haven’t been lucky enough to meet her, there’s still an excellent chance you’ve heard her.
“I’ve kind of become the person who sings the National Anthem around here,” smiles Julie, a gently charming woman whose benevolent passions are never far from the surface. “And it’s always such an honor to be asked.”
Indeed, Julie’s effortless empathy, selfless energy and top-flight voice are all wonderful assets to her community. Then again, it wasn’t so very long ago that her bright light was cruelly dimmed by unthinkable loss and her many gifts abandoned to grief. Still, those who truly know Julie will tell you she emerged from that dark passage even kinder, stronger, and more engaged than before.
“When you’re faced with tragedy, you really can come out on the other side,” Julie says. “You can find purpose in your life.”
Julie grew up in Sioux City, Iowa. The daughter of musical parents, her first passion was music, specifically the torturously beautiful torch-songs of Julie London. Her second passion was just as torturous.
“I tanned,” says Julie, with a rueful grin. “My identity was being tan.”
Upon graduating from high school, she expanded her identity considerably, studying music at the University of Nebraska. She sang in jazz bands, performed opera, and eventually went on to own and operate a successful dance studio in Lincoln. She met and married a man she believed would be her life’s companion, and together they raised two fine sons. The family often vacationed in Colorado, and in 1988 decided not to come home again. She and her husband sold their businesses and settled among the green splendors of Conifer. Julie was twice-blessed. And then she was twice-cursed.
Suicide visited her family, leaving Julie and her sons desperately floundering in a black sea of sorrow and confusion. Then, just as she began to climb back into the light, there came a screeching of tires and a deafening crash.
“My fiancé died in my arms. I shut down after that.”
And so she might have remained, shuttered in pain and darkness, had she not met Jack Ballard, a longtime Evergreen High School teacher whose patient love and steady support helped rekindle Julie’s passion for life.
“God sent an angel,” she says. “We started walking together, two people helping each other to heal. Jack’s a gentle giant, and he lifted me up and changed my life.”
Jack started by changing the size of Julie’s family. Now married, they have between them six children and five grandchildren. More fundamentally, he pulled back the curtains of her grief, letting sunshine back into her world and allowing her own radiant spirit to shine out.
Julie went back into business. All that youthful sun-worship had taken its toll, but she’d managed through thoughtful and determined care to restore her skin to like-new condition. Certain that she could do the same for others, she studied to become a medical esthetician and opened Beautiful Skin in Marshdale.
“How you look has a big impact on how you feel, and when you’re not feeling right, it really shows on the skin. I have the experience to help people look their best and feel their best. It’s important to embrace the aging process, and I help them do that.”
And yet Julie also learned that it’s impossible to help someone else without helping yourself. To her joy she discovered that Beautiful Skin is a two-way street.“It’s a very private setting,” she explains. “People share their experiences with me, and I share my experiences with them. When you give, you receive, and that’s exactly what happened to me. It’s a healing process for both of us.”
Returning to community life, Julie spent years as membership director for the Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce, and she was a founding member of the professional association Women of Evergreen Businesses (WEB).
“I’m very proud of that. I consider myself a business philanthropist. The women of WEB support each other and support our community. Our Angel Fund helps support mountain-area families in need.”
And at its “No More Silence” fundraiser this September, Women of Evergreen Businesses will be helping to support Julie’s greatest passion – suicide awareness and prevention. The event will raise money for the Denver-based Carson J. Spencer Foundation, and for Project Sanctuary, which helps military veterans overcome the too-often fatal affects of post-traumatic stress disorder. Herself a survivor of that affliction and the mother of an eight-tour special-operations veteran, the terrible toll that suicide takes on America’s veterans is never far from her mind. Julie is also a tireless advocate for bringing the teen suicide prevention program “The Fire Within” to mountain-area schools.
Happily, Jack also helped Julie re-discover the healing power of music, and she’s only too happy to share it with her neighbors. In local theater she’s played “Vicki” in “The Full Monty” and “Sister Hubert” in “Nunsense.” Often accompanying herself on guitar or ukulele, she sings at weddings, anniversaries and a host of other events large and small where her buttermilk voice and marvelous vocal range lift up every heart. And, of course, she’s performed the National Anthem everywhere from the Veteran’s Memorial at Buchanan Park to the Evergreen Rodeo Grounds to the Big Chili Cook-off at Evergreen Lake.
“It’s strange,” she says. “I didn’t sing for a long time, but when I started singing again my voice came back better. More intense. More passionate. I think that’s how it works sometimes. The bad experiences in your life can make you better in ways you don’t expect.”
And by sharing those experiences, and by sharing in the hard experiences of others, Julie Ballard has become a bright light to everyone who meets her. If she’s no longer a prisoner of the past, the old wounds are deep, and she chooses to heal those scars the best way she knows how – by helping others to heal their own.
“I want to help people through my work and through my music. I think that’s my purpose.”