There’s a Yiddish word, to kvell, that means to beam with pride about one’s relatives. Please allow me to kvell about our Julie.
Julie was a very creative person. Many of you have seen the miniatures displayed around our house. Julie collected some of them, but she made most of them, choosing projects that stretched her capabilities or represented something important in her life. Her most recent project was a “mathematician’s bookshelf,” with tiny copies of well-known texts and, of course, lots of toys and games. She enjoyed making miniatures because, as she said, “Anything is cute when you compare it to a larger version of itself.”
Julie’s creativity fed into our penchant for do-it-yourself projects. We, and especially Julie, spent a lot of time planning our wedding, and as a result it came off very hamish, very down-to-earth, which was exactly what we both wanted. Julie recently noticed that we and our friends share the problem of having too little time or energy in the evenings to prepare a nice meal from scratch. So she organized a cooking party, where several of us got together and made big batches of dishes, which we shared around and froze for the weeks to come. I will really miss Julie’s way of finding unique solutions to everyday problems.
Our friend Max reminded me of how he would email Julie with a math problem he was thinking about, and she would write back and gently explain to him what was going on. That was Julie: she was always patient, always generous, always kind. She loved to volunteer, to help our community. She volunteered at the Humane Society a few years ago. More recently she joined a Community Emergency Response Team, and was really proud of how well their recent drill went. This year she was going to be part of Big Brothers/Big Sisters.
You all know how fond Julie was of animals. I think she liked animals because she saw how much like humans they are, and yet how silly they can be. When we would go for walks, she would really get a kick out of hearing coyotes yip to each other. What she especially liked was that sometimes, they were yipping in response to traffic sounds going by. I think of heaven as the place where we gain complete understanding, where we get to look at the answer key in the back of G-d’s book. I think Julie is spending some of her time now understanding what it means to be a coyote, but especially, what it means to be a ferret.
Julie thought of herself as shy, but she touched so many people, and made so many friends. Thank you all for coming to celebrate her life. We will all miss her greatly.
—Joel Rosenberg, Julie’s husband
I want to echo the sentiments of my parents and thank everyone for coming. This past Sunday I was driving by a church near my house. I don’t usually pay attention to the signs in front of churches, but this particular one grabbed my attention, so much so that the next day I drove by again to make sure I wrote it down correctly. The marquee said “Will the world be better because you lived?” “Will the world be better because you lived?” And, of course, for Julie the answer was undeniably, indisputably, irrefutably “Yes”, in so many ways. This event is so tragic, especially for Joel, but I do find some small measure of consolation in seeing everyone here and also from all the calls and e-mails from other friends and family and knowing how many people Julie touched during her too-brief time with us.
Someone last night mentioned that brilliant mathematicians could be an arrogant lot. I’ve been around some in my days and I won’t argue that hypothesis. So I ask you to consider the situation where your little sister can solve circles around you. And it’s not even open for debate or interpretation, because you do the contests and the scores are right there for everyone to see. But she never rubbed it in, never lorded it over me. And I appreciated that. We knew each other’s strengths and respected them.
Many of you have seen pictures of my two little girls, Natalie and Allison. Another thing that makes this tragedy slightly more bearable is that I have no regrets about the amount of time my girls got to spend with their Unky Joel and Autie Julie. Despite being a thousand miles apart, we were able to get together for extended periods three or four times a year. Julie was a great Aunt and I’m so glad my girls got to know her. And don’t worry, Joel, we’ll make sure that you keep seeing them and get to watch them grow up.
I asked my eldest, Natalie, for her thoughts on Aunt Julie. Natalie replied that Aunt Julie was “nice and silly”, and more specifically, “she smiles a lot and she’s silly a lot”. I think we all know the truth in that simple evaluation. The first thing Natalie asked after we told her the news on Sunday morning was whether the ferrets were all right. So Julie’s love and appreciation for animals appears to have been taken up by the next generation.
Julie crocheted a blanket for my younger daughter Allison years ago. As you know, children gravitate towards a favorite blanket and for Allison, this was the one. It is now affectionately known as “Blue Blankie” and it has comforted Allison hundreds of times. It makes me happy to see something of Julie’s continue to give such comfort even after she’s gone. Allison’s first comment on Sunday was concern on her sister’s behalf. Julie had promised a version of “Blue Blankie” for Natalie, and Allison was worried for her sister’s sake that it might not be delivered. So Julie’s concern for the welfare of other people has also been instilled in the next generation as well.
Let me finish by going back to the beginning. “Will the world be better because you lived?” We know the answer for Julie is resoundingly “yes”. And I ask that we keep that spirit alive with decisions and actions so that the answer to this question will be “yes” for all of us.
On behalf of myself, my wife Merissa and my daughters, and the extended Kerr and Rosenberg families, thank you for coming and I’m so happy you were able to know Julie.
—David Kerr, Julie’s brother
When I first met you I knew how special you would be. You were my son’s special friend, then fiance, then wife. How happy I was that you were all these things for Joel and more. As everyone has said these days, you were soulmates, like two peas in a pod. You were made for each other. You completed Joel’s life.
When I came to San Diego the first time before you were married and said, I wanted to move here, you were most enthusiatic. Every time after that when I said this you were my ally and encouraged me to do so. Together we almost even went to look for a place this past December. How wonderful it would have been to have had more time with you my friend and daughter. We shared much books, Hebrew learning, handiwork, environmental and humane concerns and of course Joel.
You were loved by our entire family both living and gone, Bill, Melinda, Jessica, and Adam, Shelly and Jack and Nancy. Both Grandma and Grandpa loved you and Grandma always called you “my Julie”. She so much loved you as did you love her. And Grandpa, slow to share his thoughts with others often commented to me how good you were and how happy he was that Joel had you.
Our lives, Elliott, David, and mine are empty now that you are not with us. But for me, I will celebrate your life and the joy you brought to Joel as well to us. I will always miss you and love you.
Louise (aka mOm)
—Louise Rosenberg, Joel’s mother
How I envy those people whose faith tells them a loved one is in a better place. What I do believe is that this has been a better place because Julie was here. I remember talking to Joel years ago in Ann Arbor and asking if there was someone special in his life. He quietly replied that yes, there was, and her name was Julie. That was my first introduction to her and I was grateful when Elliott reminded me that was about a dozen years ago.
Since then I came to know Julie, if only a bit, from across a continent, and so admired the grace with which she lived on this planet. I half wished that there was some minor disaster, so that Julie could demonstrate her natural, calm competence and the skills she learned in the prep classes she so responsibly took. I half wished the internet would crash for a period so the world would know her through her ham radio, skillfully doing what needed to be done. Not really for either of those, but I so respect her commitment to community.
A while back, before Joel and Julie’s webpage was bookmarked on my computer, I was searching for their site to print a photo – the one of them sitting on the wall in front of a waterfall; I’ve had it sitting on my kitchen counter for a while and I smile each time I see it. I couldn’t find their website (because I included Kerr and Rosenberg in the search line), but I did find a piece that Arlyn had written about Julie. I don’t remember the details and can’t bring myself to pull it up again right now, but I do remember the quiet pride with which you wrote about the strength Julie showed through much adversity. I feel so lucky that she came into our lives and we got to experience that grace and strength first hand.
How I loved to see Joel and Julie together. When you love someone very much, it is a true joy to know they have found their perfect mate. I remember them sitting on my sofa, Joel absentmindedly playing with Julie’s hair, such a primal act of affection… it’s imprinted on my brain. Julie would sometimes tell me special things about Joel – recognition at work, some ability I didn’t know he had – things he would never have mentioned himself, and I was always so grateful for her sharing those things with me. I was so proud to introduce Julie to my neighbors as my niece. Just saying those words, “my niece,” gives me such pleasure.
I remember our sitting in the living room here in Baltimore discussing transportation. Julie felt strongly that we should all be using public transport and that we had to improve it to make that happen. Feeling like a philistine to a cause I basically believe in, I said that I believed that everyone’s lives were so complicated and busy now that we needed to develop environmentally friendly personal transportation vehicles so that parents could leave work, pick up the kids, stop at the grocery store, or so that I could leave work late and not have to wait for two buses. I didn’t convince her and she didn’t convince me, but I treasured that conversation because of the ease of it. Julie has such generosity of spirit, such an accepting way, that even a socially inept soul felt comfortable in her presence.
When I finally dragged myself downstairs today I turned on the radio and, remarkably, Bach’s Cello Suite Number 1 was playing. I don’t know if Julie ever played that particular piece on her cello, but it felt that somehow she was here, in her gentle way, saying it would be ok. It won’t be ok; I can’t bear the idea that I will never see her again, never cook together, never talk about green issues, never hear her wise voice which has taught me much about accepting things. Julie, teach me to accept this, please.
—Nancy Rosenberg, Joel’s aunt, letter of March 18, 2007