Julie was born Julie Ann Wilkerson on April 19, 1961 to Joe and Sally Wilkerson in Knoxville, Tenn. She had a lifelong love of books, setting a record for the most books read in the second grade at West Hills Elementary School. Her education, prior to college, started at The Little Red School House and continued on to West Hills Elementary, Bearden Junior High School, and Bearden High School where she was a graduating member of the class of 1978. She had careers in both sales and university administration before finishing her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Native American Studies at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in 1997.
After the completion of her educational degree, she went to work for the Great Smoky Mountains Association, and soon after she became an Interpretive Park Ranger for the National Park Service. While living in Bryson City during her 20 years of teaching in the western North Carolina region, she connected with and befriended many hundreds of students from kindergarten through advanced adult education. However, she found her greatest joy in serving as a substitute teacher for the Cherokee Central Schools System, grades K – 12. She loved her Cherokee students, who returned her affections by shouting greetings of “Ranger Julie, Ranger Julie!” Students would often remind her of lessons she taught them, proud to show her that they still remembered them. She loved seeing so many of her students mature from Kindergarten through various grades, with some graduating college and becoming parents themselves.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Joe and Sally Wilkerson; her grandparents, Floyd and Eleanor Dailey and Harvey and Pearl Wilkerson; her father-in-law Russell Lowell Townsend; as well as other loved family members. She is survived by her beloved husband of 22 years, Russell Townsend of Tulsa, Okla.; Colonel the cat of East Deep Creek; sister, Susan Wilkerson; and brother, John (Pennye) Wilkerson Of Knoxville, Tenn.; her best friend of over 50 years, Danya Cope; sister-in-law, Amy (David) Miller of Elk City, Okla.; two nephews and a niece whom she dearly loved; and numerous extended family members and other close friends.
In lieu of flowers, the family asks that those willing to do so, make a donation to a charity of your choice.
A Memorial Service will be held 2 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 14 at the Cherokee Indian Fairgrounds at 545 Tsali Blvd., Cherokee, NC 28719. Pastor Jo Schonewolf will officiate.
Crisp Funeral Home of Bryson City is assisting the family.