Love you, mean it.
We wanted to share with everyone that Julia passed away November 30th at home. While Julia always commanded attention without trying, she could also be intensely private, and so you may not have known she had been battling cancer since last summer. She fought through a long, challenging year with friends, family, and her team by her side.
Julia was a soul unlike any other. Her strength, her love, and her ability to make anything happen were staples in her core, and we like to think that most people who have met her would describe her as an inspiration.
Julia’s spirit will live on in the work we will continue to create together. Anyone who worked with her knows that she put her whole heart into everything she created, and the project she was most passionate about was Julia Balfour, LLC itself. Our doors are staying open and we are looking ahead to new projects with the skills and courage Julia fostered in each of us.
Love, Alyssa Puzzo
Hey you, it’s me.
There wasn’t a need for specifics when she called. Julia once told me that she always knew her power. She described it to me as a palpable feeling when she walks into a room. I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that Julia loved an entrance. I can’t begin to count how many conversations I’ve had that started with, “when I met Julia…”
Sure, those stories may have included a description of the stunning dress she was wearing, or the infectious laugh that pulled at them from across the room, but really those stories were about how Julia created a meaningful connection with everyone there. The entrance was simply a means to inspire the tone for the occasion she wanted to have.
Julia gave a lot of herself to make everyone feel loved. When people tell me about the first time they met Julia the story may be different but there is a common thread in all of them. Being around Julia challenged them to dream more for themselves. Julia made everyone around her question their own limitations like, “who told me I can’t wear a ballgown to the office?”
Julia wasn’t wasting any of her time or following anyone else’s rules. I traveled a lot with Julia, and this came with an understanding that I was to be prepared for anything at any given moment. I would meet her for breakfast with my bags packed and stored at the front desk knowing one more adventure could always be had before the airport. She loved that I did this. She would lay out her thrilling plan over avocado toast and a latte and then cap it with an assuring, “we’ll totally make that flight.” She shared with me once that it hurt when people said she was, “too much.” It made me realize that she spent a lot of energy convincing the people around her to try something new. She loved that I just gave her that space. I used to look her in the eye and say, “I’ll try anything twice.” Julia never knew if it was all going to work out, but she knew that sometimes we needed to hear it. Being Julia’s friend means you also understand her favorite stories are from when her best laid plans went awry.
It didn’t seem like much to give in contrast to what she was willing to give. I’ll never forget the night she asked me to go to New York City on a whim for dinner. We jumped in her Jeep without any bags, reservations, or plans. I don’t have many photos of my time with Julia because our best memories involve meaningful conversations in the most stunning of places or the most bizarre of situations. Taking a photo would have left proof that we did it and ruined the moment. She didn’t wait for life to happen. She made the small moments feel big. Spending quality time with Julia often felt like living out my childhood fantasies of what I thought being an adult would feel like.
Julia’s energy was magnetic because she was fearless. Julia lived life fiercely. It felt like a gift when she invited us into her world because in her world, we all believed that we could be a bit kinder, braver, louder, and spontaneous. Here is a photo of the first time Julia drove her brand new Jeep dressed as Wonder Woman on Halloween. It’s one of the few photos that I have of Julia. The little girl inside of her is beaming because a dream came true… and she was going fast.
Love, Jenn Hayn
I knew of Julia from her Agency’s work throughout the CT shoreline but we met on our yoga mats at her JUL Yoga studio. In her designer banana leggings and JUL “Watch Me” sweatshirt, she taught me to center myself with my breath and trust my body through challenging poses. She loved how we shared a fierce dedication to the practice. One morning after a snowstorm she was there on her mat to lead our class even though I was the only student there. We were there for each other.
We became friends outside of the studio. Julia always asked real questions and shared honestly…it was so easy to be authentic with her. I was going through a period of transition in my life and always tended to keep tough personal stuff to myself. She remembered a particularly tough day on my calendar and made sure that I didn’t spend the morning alone. I am still amazed that she remembered that day…I only mentioned it once to her. She listened and showed up for me when I needed a friend. She had me laughing for hours over breakfast and told me how excited she was for this new chapter in my life. That’s the thing about Julia, she would take any situation and turn it positive. Any doubts I had vanished, she made me feel confident and strong.
Today, I work for Julia Balfour, LLC. I started my job with Julia and her team this March. I remember the exact text message that I sent her when I accepted her team’s job offer: “I love and trust you and I’m all yours!” Ever the savvy business woman, she decided to transform our beautiful yoga studio into an apartment. Within seconds I told her I’d move in. It was where we met, where we laughed, where she used her Disney operator voice while teaching me to push my limits and trust my own strength. Julia loved stories and she agreed, how we met, my new career, my magical home…“It’s such a good story.”
Julia taught me to listen to my intuition, to live with passion, and to believe in magic. I am so very grateful to have been a part of her story.
Love, Nick LeFort
As the newest member of Julia’s team, I spoke with her quite a bit, but I only got to see her once in person.
It was back in March – a chance encounter in the parking lot – where we exchanged introductions. The whole experience only lasted a few minutes, but at some point she must have sprinkled some of her magic on me, because everything has been big, bright, and enchanting ever since.
In trying to explain it, I’ve referred to Julia as a “Disney Princess”. But I hate that term – it’s not ethereal enough. So then I tried “River Valley Mystic” out a few times. Seemed tacky. A little too much Magic 8 Ball and not enough sage and spirit.
Truth be told, Julia Balfour is a dream-maker. She has the uncanny ability to make sure people are living in their dream. Heck, she’ll even help you find that dream, make sure you step inside it, and blow you kisses as you float away.
Yeah! That’s it. That’s one hell of a way to explain it. To explain the experience that is Julia.
Now that I’ve figured it out, I’m going to need a minute to say goodbye. Besides, you’re not going anywhere – not with all your magic and cosmic stuff floating around everywhere out here, changing the way the stars sparkle in the eyes of the lives you’ve touched!
But just in case you need to hear it:
Thank you for you.
Thank you for this adventure.
Thank you for this feeling.
All my love, not fade away…
Love, Logan Galla
I was working on a small project one afternoon when I had only been working with Julia for a few months. It was a printed version of an article written on one of our client’s websites; one page, front and back, printer friendly. The end of the day was approaching, and I showed Julia what I had done. She hated it. She made me start over. It was due the next morning, and she didn’t want to see it again until I could honestly tell her it was the best thing I had ever done. The client wasn’t even expecting anything that good. I was so annoyed that she was making me waste my time on this thing.
She went back to her house and told me to message her when I was ready to show her something. I worked for a few more hours and sent it to her. “Keep going,” she said. I kept going, and this back-and-forth happened a few more times until the little one-pager was the coolest thing I had ever seen. I couldn’t believe I made it. I didn’t even know things like that could be so cool. She messaged me from her house and said “You’re gonna be a rockstar!” and told me to go home and have a good night.
Julia was the first person in my career who ever took a look at me and believed I could be great, and that night was the first time I could feel her pushing me towards becoming better than I thought I could be. Over the next several years she would drag me kicking and screaming, just like that night, many more times. The experience was often painful, but I realize now that she was just trying to make me see in myself what she saw in me.
Thanks for everything, boss. I’ll be thinking of you every time I catch myself saying something is “good enough.”
Love, Holly Johnson
At the young age of 21, Julia happened to me. And I say it like that because when you meet Julia and you step into each other’s lives, you are changed forever.
Julia found me while I was still in college, saw my work in our student show, and immediately brought me to her world in Lyme. I’ve been here ever since, and let me tell you, I don’t know if I would recognize the person I was in 2014. Julia had this knack for grabbing life by the reins and in doing so brought me out of a shell that was so tightly shut, I’m surprised she was able to pry it open.
It’s a common theme when people talk about Julia — her way of making you feel special, of remembering that little detail that no one else would have remembered, of getting you to do something that you might not have been able to bring yourself to do. She filled every room she walked into, with both her personality and her laugh, and had this way of making every single person feel at home. Julia taught me how to dream bigger, wider, harder. And for that I am grateful.
Thank you, Julia, for constantly pushing me to be the best designer I can be. Thank you for our Sunday trips to the beach, for creating spaces so beautiful to work and live in, for being a friend.
Thank you for happening to me.
Love, Kristen Peterson
Julia, I have never met someone like you. Nor do I think anyone else like you even exists. From the moment I met you, I believed in you. How you spoke so highly about our clients and team, our beautiful building, your infectious laugh… I just couldn’t believe I found you in the middle of Connecticut when my hopes of finding passion in my profession were so low.
Your kindness and treatment of our team is something I will never forget. To you, it was a family, not a business. You planned off-site lunches even when we were too busy but knew we needed a change of scenery. You insisted I take as much time off as I needed when a family member was sick when I was too nervous to ask for it. You told us to bring our computers home when a chance of snow was in the forecast so no one had to risk the drive. You suggested I continue bringing my baby to work when the allowed 3 months was over and I was dreading leaving her everyday. You really, really cared about us. Thank you for being you.
“Who run the world? GIRLS!”
Love, Jennifer Sullivan
Julia was a force of nature, a presence with an aura so strong you could feel she was in the room without laying eyes on her. I’m not eluding to her laugh, because her laugh was something else -the outpouring of her energy colliding with joy.
Before I joined the Julia family, I felt like a bird without wings. I knew I wanted more out of life and my career, and I wasn’t going to find “it” where I was. Something had to change. I saw that Julia created a world that attracts those who pour love into everything they do, and the givers of the world who find joy in bringing joy to others. I knew that was a world I wanted to be a part of, so like a moth to a lamp, I found her ray of light at the end of a tunnel and jumped for it. From that first day on, my wings grew back and my world expanded.
We often don’t realize the effects other people have on us until after we’ve changed. In the beginning, I knew right away I would be constantly learning and growing as a person, I just wasn’t sure how. Now, I like to reflect on the past so I can see more clearly what has changed, and be inspired to continue upward. Julia revitalized me, to trust in my convictions, reach for what I want, and inspired me to be unapologetically myself.
Julia’s impact on each of us runs deep. We have all grown together, learned together, and have pushed boundaries together. While we have became a part of Julia, she also has became a part of us. She may not walk through the front door laughing while telling a new story about Charlotte from the other night, her cosmic dust lives on in each of us because we’re all a little bit of Julia.
Love you, Julia.
Love, Jordan Arruda
Julia was a rare breed and a very special person in many ways, to anyone who knew her this was obvious.
Her infectious laugh, her strong focus on the positive, the love she had for her community and her power to make every moment special. I had never met anyone so ready to take on each and every day with open arms and a smile.
She never wasted a moment. Whatever she did she did it big. Whatever barrier was ahead she’d plow right through it. Nothing ever stood in her way or was too far out for her to reach. As a team she pushed us to be the best we could be, to love, and to never settle.
She wanted everyone to feel loved and celebrated. If you didn’t have a valentine she’d make sure she was yours, sending you home with a smile and a dozen roses. Like a rose, or preferably a fluffy pink peony in her case, beautiful things often don’t last as long as they should. Lucky for us, she left memories and a spirit that we’ll never forget.
Julia, thank you for being an inspiration and the force of nature that you were. I’m glad I got caught in your current. You’re a reminder to live in the moment, stay positive, be fiercely determined, and that anything is possible if you put your mind to it and send a message to the universe for good measure.
Love, Bianca D'Agostino
When I think of Julia Balfour, I think of notebooks. I know that sounds nuts but let me explain.
Julia developed an environment where on her team you are inspired to create, to lead, to dream up a new thing. People make these things come to fruition in their own ways, but mine was through writing down every thought, quote, or any scribbled brainstorm bullet in one of the many aesthetically beautiful notebooks that bear her name in the rose-gold text. Every pen stroke in that office I made had a purpose — I ended up filling 8 notebooks during my time there (apologies to all the trees) with my learnings from my teammates, from the all-mighty google, and from her. The day after Halloween, I overheard Julia talking to the team leads about an interview she had done for a book — she was gushing about how the company was described as “Clean, Direct, Thoughtful, Driving, Ambitious, and Loving.” I liked it so much that I wrote it down in one of those pretty notebooks she so graciously provided and I realized then and now that that glowing review/outsider observation was all Julia’s doing — she built a brand that was centered around love, kindness and beauty. And when I say beauty I mean more than just the soft, “oh isn’t that nice” kind of way I mean beauty that is full of grit, adversity, happy-tears, and growth. Julia took a chance on me — she introduced me to a team of wonderfully intelligent people that she hand picked to be her A-team, and I was lucky to be one of them for over a year.
I’m not one for Goodbyes, I’m more of a see you later kinda girl. So Julia I will see you later — in my mid-morning cups of tea, on my LovesGivings, and in my notebooks.
Love, Katie Ziskind
Julia was an amazing person that I looked up to in many ways! Julia came to my yoga classes over seven years ago in Old Saybrook and asked if I would teach her and her team yoga at her house and work. I felt so excited to be asked to teach yoga to her. Being in graduate school at the time to be a therapist, she was a woman who I saw that successfully started and ran her own business, which I wanted to do one day. After some sessions teaching yoga to Julia’s work, Julia asked me to teach children’s yoga to her son, Cooper, which was such a special and playful experience. One part of his personalized children’s yoga sessions included music and homemade Easter egg shakers with rice inside. Cooper and I would take turns hiding the plastic, musical eggs and then finding them. Her work office was our our temporary adult and children’s yoga studio. For the day or so after when I taught children’s yoga to Cooper, Julia would discover and find 2-3 colorful, plastic eggs randomly (the ones we couldn’t find) in her office, under a chair, tucked into books, hidden in crannies, and she would laugh and then save the eggs for me for the next week with Cooper. Julia always was so kind, caring, inspiring, empowering, and loving in all of her ways. One morning at 7am for private yoga for her and her work, it was just me and Julia, where I taught her in a 1 on 1 yoga setting, which was such a special, beautiful experience. She shared about her childhood and life, and I felt such respect and even more care for her as we talked and flowed through a vinyasa rhythm of poses. Seeing her reach for her own yoga teacher training, create her own yoga studio, and start and grow JUL Yoga was so amazing. Julia always had the very best, highest quality cheese at her parties too! She wore such beautiful outfits and gorgeous dresses. It was breathtaking to experience some of Julia’s gatherings. One party, she organized fine cheese, wine, a heated tent, decorated tables, and even had delicious taco and giant cupcake trucks. Her parties were such a fun, beautiful experience of socializing, laughing, connecting with new people, reconnecting with old people, and were nothing but elegant. She was so creative! As party favors, she gave out cute light pink and metallic gold blank notebooks for journaling, which I still use for recipes to this day! Even after graduating grad school, Julia, Alyssa and Caitlin on Julia’s team continued to offer me guidance, support, and truly believed in me professionally as I began the journey of being an entrepreneur myself. Julia loved her bulldogs and you could always find a super cute dog bed and you near by her. She always knew her own worth and helped others feel worthy of great ideas, great work environments, and great friends. She was happy to support others and truly embodied the law of attraction, and attracted healing, nurturing, positive energy. I personally will constitute to strive to be like her. May her spirit live on forever! Julia, you were amazing!
Love, Bethany Pellerin Beers
I met Julia in 2012 when I was referred to her to do some creative work. I can still remember walking into her office for the first time…I was instantly so jealous of Alyssa and the rest of the team for getting the chance to work for such a magnetic person in such a special space. A few years later, Julia asked me to join her team and I was thrilled, but also nervous because I just found out I was pregnant with my oldest son. Julia, however, couldn’t have been more thrilled and wanted me to start right away. She promised me she would support me and couldn’t wait to have a baby join the team. She never broke her promise.
When I went to the hospital unexpectedly to deliver, I was alone and scared. Before I was even fully admitted a cart rolled in with the biggest display of ‘Julia flowers’ I’ve ever seen. Two days later, she was one of the first people to hold my son. Three months later, she welcomed my baby into her home, the Julia Balfour office, with open arms and an open heart. On my 30th birthday, I walked into an office filled with blue balloons and spent the day laughing and working with the best people, cuddling my baby, and soaking in the moment. (See photo below!)
These were just some of the special memories I will cherish. I laughed with her every day, and she supported me through some of my hardest times – even after I no longer worked for her. It’s often impossible to realize how special people are until they are gone, but not with Julia. I regret taking my time with her for granted, but know that her spirit lives on in the people she loved. To the JB team: thanks for the beautiful memories. I hope we can see ourselves how Julia saw all of us – talented, funny, loving and hard-working. Let’s always do our best, for her.
Love, Ashley Lopez
Like many people, Julia came into my life when I needed her most. I was a recent graphic design graduate looking for work in Connecticut, at the ripe old age of 31. To say I was nervous about starting a new career in a new state is an understatement. But there Julia was, at my second interview, decked out in the brightest and cheeriest dress ready to talk about my work. I felt hopeful and excited.
She was a star when it came to seeing potential in others. She saw it in me as a new graduate. She saw it in me as a designer at her agency. She saw it in me when I changed from designer to content strategist. She saw it in me every time I didn’t think I had it.
She never faltered. She was confident, self-assured, adventurous, and magnanimous. A commander of attention and a voracious champion for good work. For work-life balance. For loving life.
The world is a little less bright today, but I will continue to carry her light and ignite it in others for the rest of my life.
Love, Tosh Urbowicz
My crush on Julia has probably been going on for at least 10 years now. I remember meeting her one night at the Bee and Thistle; her and her posse held court there at least once a week. I would put aside the ‘north common room’ for them- the whole room. I couldn’t seat anyone else in there. I knew that Julia and Erica’s laughter would reverberate off the walls, echo in to the bar area and then still be slightly audible in the near by garden porch. I absolutely loved it.
The posse’s players would switch its cast time to time but Julia was always the glue. I slowly got to know her better- meet her son, talk about her life and travels. We schmoozed; but it was more than that, she had a way of making you feel adored; that was part of her magic.
One day I ran in to Julia outside of the inn and I mentioned how amazing her hair looked. In her blunt, irreverent, Julia-way, she stated it was an wig and she had cancer. Then she mentioned how great the kickboxing class she just took was. I walked away dumbfounded. It wasn’t possible; people like Julia don’t get sick. She’s more powerful than any illness.
Anytime I walk through the Bee and Thistle, I swear I can still hear her laugh. It was always welcomed there and always will be.
Love, Nick Hahn
I was one of Julia’s early clients when she started in Old Saybrook in 2010. She had a small team, 2 or 3, and no conference room. We would do PP presentations on her kitchen table in Lyme with Cooper and the Bulldog chasing each other around laughing. Julia never flinched, made excuses or apologized, she muscled through whatever had to be done with spirit, creativity, and humor. She was one of a kind, you guys are her legacy, make her proud!!!
Love, Hou-Tai Wong
When I first met Julia, I was a fresh faced graduate from a coding bootcamp. I had applied to dozens of web development jobs with no success. My confidence in my abilities was at an all time low. I didn’t think anyone would take a chance on me, but Julia did.
I remember walking into the office for my interview thinking, “I’m so underdressed, this place is beautiful.” After meeting with members of her team, I finally got to meet Julia at the very end. She asked me, “can you do the job?” I said “of course,” and she immediately brought me onto the team. From the get go she believed in me.
I worked at Julia Balfour for the next three years. I learned so much from Julia, and she helped me grow exponentially as a developer. I can’t thank her enough for taking a chance on me, and helping me jump start my career. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without her unwavering confidence in my abilities. She was an incredible, determined, and confident businesswoman—someone I looked up to and strived to be like. Thank you for everything Julia.
Love, Dan Small
The first time I met Julia… seems to be a common refrain. Because, she was larger than life, and you couldn’t miss her. She made sure of that.
The first time I met Julia, was as a client. I was in a new position, tasked with leading a massive project, and learned I would be working with Julia Balfour. I knew a little bit about her company, having learned they were just down the road from where I lived. But, I didn’t know Julia, or even what she looked like. Julia showed up at my place of work with a small army of vibrant, intelligent, and very well dressed young designers and techies. Each freshly out of school and ready to conquer the world. The minute we sat down for our meeting, I knew who was in charge. Julia exuded confidence, leadership, wisdom, charm and she had a famously infectious laugh. Her sense of humor was sharp, but she was so warm and approachable.
We took to each other right away and got right to work. We grew to know each other through work. In the early days, Julia and I spoke nearly every workday, and sometimes even the weekend. We talked on the way to work at 7 am, and/or on the way home at 7 pm. Julia’s confidence in herself and her team was palpable. She believed in their ability to do great things. They did and will continue to do so. Julia also believed that I could do great things, her confidence in me made me a better leader. I knew she had my back, and she knew I had hers. We became friends, our children went to school together, and we lived only a few miles apart. She even helped me pick out an anniversary gift for my wife. In fact, she even got her team involved. When I traveled to attend a conference, Julia and her team were there. We presented our work together, and I shared my positive experience working with her agency. I was happy to spread the word. Julia would take her team to the best restaurants, see all the local sights and take in every moment. And she always invited me along on her adventures, which were a delight.
Eventually, Julia and I discussed her illness. Julia was very private, and our conversations became less frequent, yet still invigorating and hopeful. At the end of our last conversation a few months ago, she told me it would be our last. I refused to accept it, and we laughed together one more time. I regret that I didn’t have a chance to talk with her one more time. To say goodbye, and to let her know how special she was. I imagine we all feel that way. I loved her spirit, and this world is worse off without her. I will miss you, Julia.
Love, Jenna Duxbury
Julia was like the cool older sister that I never had. I will never forget the first time I saw her closet when I was around 13 years old and I was in awe. She had a dress in every color imaginable along with sequins and patterns and anything else she could find. She was always dressed in the most confident way and was the coolest woman in the room, I truly looked up to her. As my moms best friend, she was a special person to both my mom and I. She watched me grow up, babysit her kid, and then she became my friend. She was a bright light in every room and as every one says, her laugh was contagious and just made you feel good. I will miss her along with all the others who Julia touched on her journey. Julia is unforgettable and for that I am glad because she was an amazing woman who led her life unapologetically creating happiness and laughter everywhere she went. Xoxo
Love, Laurette Richin
I never met Julia. I cannot recall exactly how I connected with her. I think it was simply that I came across her online. In time she created our timeless logo. I love it, it won a design award.
In our discussions about what Long Island Bulldog Rescue does, she eventually adopted a bull dog, then another. She fostered some. I always thought she was a special being, perhaps because we shared an addiction to Robins egg blue. The warmest of the cool blues. I’m not sure I will be able to post pictures here, if so you will see the color swatches she sent me. The past 5 years have been busy and hard, I don’t know when we last spoke, but coming across the post about her passing was a blow… unexpected and seeming so wrong. Much love to those that love and worked with her.
Love, Christina Wesley
It’s hard to believe that I only met Julia once. I’m the photographer behind a bunch of the images on here and we had such a great time making them. The moment I met her it was as if we had known each other a lifetime or more. We laughed with abandon as I helped her bring her mood boards to life. She showed me her beautiful properties and I got to take pretty pictures of her all over them. She insisted she didn’t, but I’m pretty sure she tried to lose me in the gorgeous backroads of Lyme as my Jeep attempted to followed her in her little race car to this isolated beach at the end of a dirt road where she twirled around in a metallic dress as the sun set. And I got to capture the magic. She was such a treat. I wish we got to follow through with the other sessions we talked about but it just wasn’t in the cards. I’ve thought about her often since that one shoot we had together and I doubt I’ll ever stop. Julia had a gift to give to everyone she met, and I think I speak for everyone who she touched when I say that her gift is the kind that will never stop giving. Her spirit reminds us all to live like there’s no tomorrow and not to blend into the rest, to stand out be who we are meant to be. I’m so happy we met. ❤️
Love, Julia Stanton
Julia didn’t know me, but she managed to touch my life anyway. Years ago, I was a college kid who didn’t have a solid plan for her future. I was home on break, driving around the little town of East Haddam, when I came across a big, gorgeous building that had “JULIA” plastered in big letters across it.
I did a double take at seeing my own name. I had to drive past it again to make sure, and then immediately went home to Google it.
Come to find out, it was a creative agency headed by a graphic designer named Julia. Living in the area and knowing its rural surroundings, a creative agency like this was completely unheard of, and kinda magical.
The website was stunning, the building was stunning, the work was stunning, Julia was stunning. I thought to myself: this is a sign. I applied as an intern and took a class at the JUL yoga studio. I remember naively asking the girl at the front desk “are you Julia?” which was met with laughter and a humble shake of the head.
After graduating college, I realized that maybe the sign was not that I work for Julia, but to become like her: impactful, determined, powerful, successful, full of energy, a leader. And so I started my own design business.
She continues to be my inspiration as I head my own ship. Thank you Julia, for giving me someone to look up to. Even from afar, your energy was contagious.
Love, Mary Castillo
Teachers teach, students learn, most of the time. With Julia I can honestly say that I, her teacher secretly learned to abandon little fears masked as acceptable protocols of behavior. That Julia delivered these bits of “living out there” morsels of teenage wisdom with a sonorous laughter, matched only by the brilliant impish look in her eyes, is all the more striking because of the setting in which these were dispatched – a narrow classroom housed on the 3rd floor of a magnificent Tudor Mansion known as Mercy High School, academic school for girls
Hanging around after school with teachers is a common site at Mercy, a place where girls discover the beginnings of their girl power, or as in the case of Julia, where they refine it, sharpen it, and most importantly, try it out. With Julia the trying out for me came packaged in my classroom with a unique loud salutation of “Syyyyynora!” spelled occasionally as sinyora. I knew the minute her brand of Spanish words rang in my ear I was in for yet another linguistic ride. Although I was not a neophyte teacher in my field and rather adroit, I believe at creating the right cultural learning environment I did, however prefer a more reserved cajoling of students to my ways of thinking when it came to having them execute short activities related to their second language culture learning. Thank goodness then, that after arresting my attention with her usual declarative “I’m here” voice, her exuberant suggestion to make the linguistic invitation more teen palatable came in English. Perhaps it was Julia’s confident urging with “Just do it, Syyynora! They’ll love it” ringing in my ear that gave me license to stretch beyond the norms of my disciplined teacher mode and more adamantly make my proposal with 200% assurance. It worked! And since then some of my more moderate invitations echo more a “Have I got an invitation you can’t refuse,” and an instantaneous memory of my Julia!
Mercy High School has blessed many a teacher with outstanding students, but a Julia comes once in a bright moon. She was that shooting star that we marvel at, one that as it shines bathes can-do sparkle upon all whom she met. Her girl power was bursting even in these early high school years. Her acceptance of all for who they were and her vision of what they could experience was rare for a teen, but Julia was no ordinary teen. Her life, and her relationships were bursts of energy – the pragmatic realistic living reserved for those who dare to dream beyond the human endeavor.
Did Julia, the artist ever learn Spanish? Not really, but then she spoke a language that reached directly to one’s heart and soul leaving an indelible mark on each who mourn her passing while rejoicing her fleeting presence in life. Continue dearest Julia to imbue us with your energy, courage and love!
Love, Elena Ruggiero
I was so saddened to hear about the passing of one of my high school classmates, Julia Leavitt, as I knew her. Classes were small, so there was no one you didn’t know. And even though Julia and I weren’t extremely close, we did share a love of art as we made our way through our high school days spending countless hours in our art & ceramics classes. When I think of her, there are memories that come to mind of her and our teacher, Sr. Genemarie Beegan, in somewhat constant disagreement about…. something. There was a consistent debate over what grade she was given and why, the completion or incompletion of her projects, and the ability to follow the specific directions given as opposed to altering them to suit her own creative mind. Little did I know as a young girl, that Julia had a clear vision of what she wanted to do and how she was going to do it, regardless of what her peers or her professors told her. She would not let anyone hold her back and had no problem saying what she thought, especially when it came to her art. It seems that from the immense success of her business, and the other stories on this page, Julia never wavered in what she had set out to accomplish, be that in her professional or personal life.
It is with deep sadness that we have lost one of our Mercy sisters, but I am so honored to have known her for the short time that I did.
I truly hope that there are more tears of joy and laughter than tears of sadness, as memories are shared and her life is celebrated.
Love, Charles Anim
Man, I’m very shocked and sad. I never knew Julia personally, but i felt inspired to pursue software engineering and digital marketing when I somehow found Julia Balfour, LLC on google search. Y’all built some of the best brands and projects. I feel Julia was a wonderful person to work with and she will be missed. What a beautiful soul 💔
Love, Jen Grace Baron
It was 2018 when I met Julia. While doing interviews for our book, Dare to Inspire, Julia came recommended as one of the most inspiring people in the world…so I cold-called her and asked her for an interview. She accepted.
What I remember from my first brush with her that day was how truly different she was, and how she moved me. Julia is the male version of James Bond with all the fast cars, horses, motorcycles, gadgets and incredible costumes from bodysuits to black tie. Her presence and her life were BIG.
When asked what inspiration was to her, she offered, “It is my life goal. Everything we do in our work is to inspire change and create growth. We inspire in the way we create space, how we speak to our clients, how we speak to each other, all is wrapped in the idea of inspiring change. When I get up in the morning I think about what’s needed as I’m getting dressed for the day. How about a ball gown? What will that do to the way the office operates today? How will our team and our clients feel? I want to make every moment special, I want to inspire.” Witnessing Julia pulled you into the world of inspiration, every gesture, every challenge, every moment, a world where possibility and invincibility collided.
Julia taught me that love is the core of inspiration. “When it’s time to change and grow, fear will come up, it is our job to love them so hard that they step through the fear, to the other side. Through love we inspire change and growth.” Creating love to inspire change and growth was at the foundation of everything she did.
Julia did not wait for the right moment to express love, she seized as many as she could as often as possible. She expressed love to her team and her clients all the time, literally telling them how much she loved them. As an entrepreneur I related to so much of what she was about and I was inspired to build our company like the one she was building. Not long after I asked if Julia would join our advisory board. I sent her a love letter about all that I found inspiring in her leadership and her firm and promised we would use her time very wisely. Thank goodness she accepted.
If you haven’t been to the Julia Balfour HQ, put it on the list. Their space is like Harry Potter meets Martha Stuart, all of the beauty and magic one can imagine. On the day I first met Julia live, she set the tone by wearing a gorgeous Ted Baker frock, a beautiful silk with a full flounced skirt that was commanding as it physically expanded her presence and signaled she meant business by rocking it with a heeled motorcycle bootie. I remember thinking who is this woman…somebody pinch me, she may not be real. I’ve never witnessed anyone like her. She is an inspiration Jedi.
As she toured us around the sprawling refurbished Victorian farmhouse she explained how the renovation had been a labor of love for her team. With gorgeous colors and finishes, inspiring quotes and awards everywhere you turned, and twinkling, sparkling lights in unexpected places. Also unexpected was the bathroom. It was warm, inviting and interesting. The walls were lined with the most surprising and beautifully vulnerable pictures of her and her employees over their lives, even as kids. The soap and linens were delicious and then there were the toilet seats. A remote-controlled, heated, water spraying, bottom drying toilet seat. For me it was kind of a religious experience. How could she make going to the bathroom so beautiful? It promptly inspired me to attend to the bathrooms in my home and the new toilet seats were at the top of the list. Her office had kids, and dogs and babies around and in employee’s arms. The place smelled like a spa and there was GREAT coffee and there was an energy pulsing throughout. A calm yet fiery, intentional, yogic, energy. Julia guided us to her office which was the most exquisite cerulean blue (which I soon found out was her favorite color) and right in the center was an extraordinary chandelier that looked like it belonged on someone’s neck. I later learned from Julia that life is in the details and there are important times for celebration and indulgence. For Julia, they were frequent.
That year, as my advisor, mentor, and friend, Julia pushed me to envision what was possible beyond what we had ever dreamed or imagined for my clients and myself. She helped me develop a swagger plan and how to use it to elevate and rise above my own fear. She loved me and taught me to step in, with a matter of fact, life is short, what are we waiting for, urgency. I will miss her dearly AND I am so grateful for all that she taught me about living. Even with her gone, I am fiercely inspired to carry all that she gave me forward. Love you Julia, mean it.
Love, Teri Prestash
I am shocked and saddened beyond reason that I will never meet this person that has been such an inspiration to me.
I had been a freelance graphic designer for 30+ years when I stumbled upon juliabalfour.com. I was impressed and inspired by her work. So much so that I was motivated to take a big step that I had been contemplating for more than a year—to open my own design studio.
My continued interest had me checking in with the Julia website and social to see new projects, and I often fantasized about stopping by the Julia office/home in East Haddam to introduce myself and tell Julia personally what an inspiration she was to me.
Fast forward two years and I am updating my website. I hit a creative wall and thought “What would Julia do?” This brought me to the website and the very sad news of her passing.
It’s hard for me to wrap my head around the feelings that I am having about someone that I never knew, though I suppose it’s no great mystery that inspiration would come from a complete stranger.
To all that knew and loved her, I am heartbroken for your loss.