Sitting on the sunny patio of a downtown Eatonville restaurant this week, friends and family remembered Julie Johnson for her many nicknames, her zest for life and the twinkle in her eye.
There were tears but mostly smiles as the group talked about the 37-year-old who spent her life in the Mount Rainier foothills town.
That life was cut short last week when Johnson’s husband, Keith, fatally shot her in their home before driving to a friend’s house and fatally shooting himself. The couple had two children, a 16-year-old son and an 8-year-old daughter, who friends say have seen an outpouring of community support.
Those close to Julie Johnson gathered Tuesday not to dwell on the tragedy but to celebrate her life, as they will again at a vigil Thursday evening. They said she was “the cool mom” who always spoke her mind and loved the Seattle Mariners.
Carrie Johnson, one of Julie Johnson’s best friends who considered her a sister, said she was vibrant and loved surrounding herself with family, going to the lake and taking walks.
She loved to shop, rarely paying full price.
“She was a diva,” Carrie Johnson said, laughing.
Life had its struggles but nothing Julie Johnson couldn’t handle, her friends said. She was a teen mother to a son who’s now 19, and she had to push back against those who wanted her to quit school.
She ignored the naysayers, graduating from Eatonville High School in 1995 and eventually getting a degree at Clover Park Technical College.
“She didn’t give up,” Carrie Johnson said. “She proved them wrong.”
Julie Johnson lost her job at the Eatonville branch of First Citizens Bank after it closed last summer, and the family struggled financially as a result. She had mentioned to friends that she feared for her husband’s mental state recently and that he refused to seek help.
But her friends say she never stopped smiling. She planned to go back to school for cosmetology when finances were in line.
“She had a zest for life,” said best friend Roxanne Ortega.
Former co-workers Lori Smith and Joy Bramford both said shifts at the bank were better with Johnson around.
“Every day she came to work it was always fun,” Bramford said.
The list of nicknames describing Johnson is long and diverse, but two stood out.
She was dubbed “Glam-ma” after her oldest son recently became a father. Carrie Johnson said she felt too young to be “grandma,” so friends devised the glamorous alternative.
“Ghoulie” is another nickname with a back story — a combination of a mispronounced name and Johnson’s love for Halloween, which fell about a week after her birthday.
Of all the stories and memories shared Tuesday, it was difficult for friends to pinpoint their favorite.
“Everything about her was a fond memory,” Ortega said.