SIDNEY — After 32 years of working for Shelby County, Julie Stewart, of Maplewood, is ready to trade courthouse duties for time with family. Stewart retired Friday, Dec. 20, as deputy clerk of the Shelby County Juvenile Court.
She admitted having no set plan for retirement, but after being diagnosed with stage-four metastatic breast cancer in August, she knew it was time to enjoy life with loved ones.
“It’s been emotional. I love the people I work with. I work with a really great team,” she said of leaving her job. “It’s hard (to tell people). I don’t like to give bad news.”
Stewart was first diagnosed with breast cancer 12 years ago, but remained in remission and cancer-fee since treatment. However, during a summer trip to Texas, she noticed feeling especially run-down and tired. At a follow up exam, her doctor found the cancer had returned and was in her bones.
“I decided OK, it’s time for me to live on and live. I have retirement, and I want to enjoy what I can,” she said.
Stewart began her career with the county working as a legal assistant for 10 years with the Shelby County prosecutor’s office in 1987. She was later hired as a judicial secretary under Judge Norman P. Smith, who retired in 2009, and then for Judge William R. Zimmerman. In 2011, she then transferred to the clerk’s office, where she was working under Judge Jeffrey J. Beigel until Friday.
When asked what she will miss most after retiring from her job, she said it would be the people.
“The main thing is talking to people. I enjoy communicating with people — anyone, and people here at the counter. People don’t want to have to be here (at the juvenile court). Most people, if you treat them with kindness, they will treat you with kindness. I try to put people more at ease,” Stewart said about her job.
Instead of processing juvenile records and complaints at the courthouse, Stewart now plans to get to work on the inside of her house to potentially put up for sale.
“Probably the No. 1 thing I want to do is work on our home,” she said in an upbeat tone.
She looks forward to traveling more with her husband, Jim Stewart, who retired in the summer of 2017. They do everything together, she said with a laugh, and joked she suspects he may “nervous” about spending so much more time with her. Spending more time with her four grandchildren and three sons is also something she is excited about.
“I would love to go to Oregon, and do that (motorcycle) ride. We’ve been to Colorado and Utah. — And to see Washington; that’s on the list,” Stewart said about road trips she and Jim want to take on their Harley Davidson out west.
“She’s an amazing woman. I’m happy for her (to be retiring). She’s earned it,” Jim said at Julie’s retirement party at the Shelby County Courthouse Friday afternoon. “She went through this (cancer treatment) 12 years ago. She has a lot of faith. She will get through it.”
“I want to fish more. I haven’t really taken the time in the last couple of years with my husband. And get back to playing the piano,” Julie said. “And I want to travel some more. And probably go see my sister in Naples, Florida. We have a place at the lake in Michigan too.”
“I think it will be emotional, I really do,” Julie said a couple days before her last day. “I’ve worked with these people, and they are all basically my friends. We have all worked together for a long time. It’s not that I can’t wait to leave, but on days like this (when the weather is bad) I am looking forward to not having to come in.”
Beigel spoke fondly of Julie. He said they are like a family at work and they didn’t want her to retire, but knew they had no choice.
“We wish Julie a wonderful retirement. She’s really earned it. She has done a great job for our county and a valuable part of our court family. She’s been a pleasure to work with and will be missed,” Beigel said.
“I’m a little sad today,” Chief Clerk Kim Rosengarten said. “Julie is the life of our office. She is the life of our staff meetings. She is a ray of sunshine; always positive and upbeat. She is such a caring person. But she is also a hard worker, dedicated and reliable.”
“We will not be looking to hire someone until after the first of year (to take Julie’s job). (They) will have big shoes to fill,” Dawn Bailey, court administrator, added. “But I am exited for her.”
In terms of how Julie is physically feeling, she was optimistic, and said the current treatment leaves her feeling much better than her 2007 treatments.
“I’m feeling good and everything seems good and is stable. I’ve always approached (dealing with cancer) being very positive. And I don’t let it get to me. But you have your good days and your bad days,” Julie said.
She plans to work part time or volunteer at some point for additional social interaction. Currently, on the side, she produces court transcripts, for cases that are appealed. She plans to continue creating them when they are needed, although they are not made very often.
“And I am a social person, so I like to be around other people. So, if nothing else, I’ll find volunteer somewhere, but I just haven’t found it yet,” Julie said.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4823.