Julie R. Weeks, of Empire, a leading advocate for women's rights and entrepreneurship in the United States and internationally, died Feb. 18, 2017 at the age of 59, as the result of brain cancer. She passed away peacefully surrounded by loved ones and guided by the caring hands of staff at Effie's Place in Leland.
Julie was born on Nov. 2, 1957 to George C. Weeks and the late Mollie Rae (McKinley) Weeks in Lansing and grew up there and in Arlington, Virginia, before moving to Leelanau County, where she attended the Glen Lake High School. In her senior year she attended the Leelanau School since the school millage failed in Glen Lake. She graduated from the University of Michigan with Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts degrees in political science.
On June 6, 1998 she married Walter R. Hoegy, a fellow graduate of the University of Michigan. They enjoyed 18 years of marriage, a union that was "meant to be," both working in the Washington, D.C. area, where they shared their love for the outdoors - biking, kayaking, walking, orienteering - and music, theatre and band music. When both retired from the federal government in 2006, Julie and Walter moved to their dream log home in Leelanau County, where Julie started her business, Womenable, with a mission to "improve the environment for women-owned businesses worldwide." Lovers of the natural environment, they became active supporters of the Leelanau Conservancy, which they had joined five years earlier.
Like her mother, Julie was a tireless campaigner for women's rights, and she utilized her many skills to help propel and empower women both here and abroad. Julie brought a sense of humor and purpose to everything she did. Her work took her to many places including Rwanda and Liberia, where Julie met President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the first woman to lead an African nation. She worked in more than 30 countries.
Julie's strong sense of justice, combined with the skills she gained at U of M in politics, public opinion, economics and especially in research methods, led to her being a valuable asset and well-respected leader in her long career. After graduation she worked in Detroit at Market Opinion Research as vice president of the Political Group, and Market Strategies as vice president of Politics and Public Affairs. She was then called by The White House to work for the Small Business Administration as the deputy chief counsel for Statistics and Research. When a new president came into office, Julie switched to the non-profit sector, where she served as managing director and director of research at the Center for Women's Business Research. Another change in presidents found Julie back in federal service as the executive director of the National Women's Business Council, which advises the U.S. Congress, the administrator of the Small Business Administration and the president of the United States.
As president and CEO of Womenable, Julie's national and international activism led her to board positions with The Association of Women's Business Centers, for which she served as chair; Enterprise Women Magazine; Global Banking Alliance for Women; International Council for Small Business; International Journal of Gender and Entrepreneurship; the National Association of Women Business Owners; and WEConnect International. She also served as a strategic advisor to Quantum Leaps and more recently, to its FutureForward initiative. Near and dear to Julie's heart was her work on the boards of the Leelanau Conservancy and the Leelanau Peninsula Economic Foundation.
A highly respected professional locally, regionally and globally, Julie has researched and authored numerous articles and publications pertaining to women's entrepreneurship and empowerment. Her work extended far beyond the borders of the United States and has impacted hundreds of thousands of women worldwide. At the forefront of women's entrepreneurship policy development at home, she was also influential in the growth of women's enterprise in the United Kingdom and Europe. In 2004 she was invited to advise the UK government's Small Business Service in the implementation of its women entrepreneurial strategy and was a frequent keynote speaker and presenter at seminars and conferences through Europe.
The national women entrepreneurial community is organizing an initiative to continue Julie's legacy, both in the U.S. and internationally, and as a result, Julie's work with her company, Womenable.com will not stop but continue into the future.
Julie was a daughter, a loving wife, a stepmother to Walter's four children, a super grandmother to nine grandkids, a friend, a mentor, a lover of nature and music and a social rights activist who spent her lifetime and career helping others.
Her mantra, quoting Margaret Mead, was, "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." Julie Weeks was one of those people. She was loved, and will be missed, by many locally, in the U.S. and abroad.
Julie is survived by her husband, Walter Hoegy; her father, George Weeks; four stepchildren; nine grandchildren; aunts; and cousins.
She was preceded in death by her mother, Mollie; and brother, Donald.
Julie sincerely appreciated her family and extended family of friends, the expertise of the team at the Cowell Family Cancer Center for their help navigating her fight with brain cancer. We thank Orchard Creek for therapy and help from Munson Hospice in helping the staff at Effie's Place.
A memorial service celebrating Julie's life will take place at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 18, at the Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home, 305 Sixth St., Traverse City.
Rather than flowers, Julie specifically asked that she be remembered through memorial contributions to The Leelanau Conservancy, PO Box 1007, Leland, MI 49654 or at www.leelanauconservancy.org; The Women's Resource Center, 720 S. Elmwood, Suite 2, Traverse City, MI 49684 or call (231) 947-1210 with credit card donations; or the Glen Lake Community Library. PO Box 325, Empire, MI 49630.
Please share your thoughts, memories and photos of Julie with her family by visiting www.reynolds-jonkhoff.com.
The family is being served by Reynolds-Jonkhoff Funeral Home and Cremation Services, Traverse City.
Published on February 26, 2017