In 2005, Julia participated in Unity Summer—a social justice program sponsored by First Universalist Church (our church) and the First Unitarian Society. She was one of 20 or so high school students who committed 100 hours of service to a local nonprofit, and an eight week curriculum built on the principles of social justice.
Julia was assigned to the Sierra Club-North Star Chapter. She had a great time and learned a lot about environmental advocacy as a social justice issue. She contributed meaningfully to the work of the Sierra Club that summer and she was proud of it. In Julia’s memory, the North Star Chapter has created an annual “Julia Berg Volunteer of the Year Award.”
Unity Summer has changed many lives. We know that it changed Julia's.
Julia was a complex, courageous, smart and challenging young woman. She was going to be a sophomore in the International Baccalaureate program at Southwest High School in the fall of 2005. She previously attended Lake Harriet Community and Windom Open schools.
Julia loved music, movies, roller coasters, and travel. She traveled all over the world, to Costa Rica, Norway, China, Italy, Peru, Ecuador, Russia, The Netherlands, Canada, Florida, the American Southwest, the Black Hills, Washington D.C., Seattle, San Diego, Boston, Maine, Chicago and more.
Julia’s friends were her heart and soul. She is survived by countless buddies—from grade school to high school, church, and sports. She was the proud owner of an iPod and loved the music of Modest Mouse, The Flaming Lips, Coldplay, Violent Femmes, Marilyn Manson and the Beatles.
She swam with the Richfield Swim Club and at Southwest. She was a Concordia Language Village camper for three years, studying Spanish. She was a member of the e3 summer theater program for three years, performing in “The Wizard of Oz,” “Free to Be…You and Me,” and “Anything Goes.”
She had her own unique sense of style from her bedroom to her clothes to her hair to her political views. Her passions were social justice, GLBT issues, and the environment. She felt comfortable with herself and wasn’t trying to be like anyone else. She had recently completed a Unity Summer internship through First Universalist Church, where she worked with the local Sierra Club doing grassroots organizing and issue research. She spoke of taking her activism to new levels in the year ahead.
Julia struggled with depression. She was upfront about it and worked hard at managing it. She reached out to friends and classmates to support them in their own struggles, and she was passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness.
Like many teens, Julia was searching for her voice and for her place in the world. We have no doubt that she was on the right track and would have made this a better world. We grieve our loss, but we know that she will live forever in the love and acts of justice of her friends and family.
Visiting Lakewood Cemetery, and Sacred Spaces
Nile Headwaters, Uganda 2008
Ever since Julia and Hannah were small, we have made international travel a priority. Beginning when Julia was nine years old, we visited several countries as a family: Costa Rica, Norway, China, Italy, Ecuador, Peru, and Russia. Many of the pictures featured on this website are from those trips.
We have been very fortunate to be able to afford this travel. It helps having friends and family around the world welcoming us into their homes, but even without these connections, our travels have been worth the investment. Memories are, as they say, priceless; and we are blessed with many memories of Julia...
...swimming in a cool, rainforest pool near the Golfo Dulce in Costa Rica;
...waiting, for hours and without success, for the sun to set off the coast of Alesund, Norway;
...eating exotic foods throughout China (tastes like chicken!);
...exploring the mysteries and wonder of Pompeii;
...and Machu Picchu;
...exploring the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, and letting Julia walk alone back to our hotel.
There are many other memories, of course—including stress-induced crankiness, which acquires a rosy glow when it happens in a place like Cuenca, Ecuador.
We had equally wonderful experiences on car trips throughout the U.S., including trips to the Black Hills, Maine, Washington DC, and the desert southwest.
We trust that Julia would have grown as her sister has, to be a citizen of the world, with a taste for travel and adventure. We are so grateful for having had the chance to share this wonderful world with her for fifteen years.
John Jensen, First Universalist Church, performs Imagine as the background to an assortment of photos of Julia, her friends, and her family.
Note: Due to low resolution of most of the photos, the YouTube is best watched in the small screen mode, not full screen.
Julia was cremated. Her ashes—most of them—are buried at Lakewood Cemetery at 36th Street and Hennepin Avenue South. We love to spend time there and you may too. This map shows how to find the site; the inset shows the detail of Section 34 (SE corner of the Lake) where her marker is, at the “x” in area marked “A.”
There is a sign at the entrance that says bicycles are prohibited in the Cemetery. This doesn't apply if you are visiting a gravesite. They just don’t want the grounds to be used by recreational runners, bicycle riders (or drivers in training for that matter).
We have scattered some of Julia’s ashes on the North Shore of Lake Superior, where she spent 16 Memorial Day weekends. We also scattered some at the ancient Mayan site of Tulum in Mexico, at the top of Harney Peak in the Black Hills, within the stone circle at Stonehenge, and in 2008 Welcome scattered her ashes at the headwaters of the Nile in Uganda. We will do the same at other ancient and sacred sites that she visited, or would have loved.
You can probably guess from the other pages on this website that we loved Julia very much. She was a wonderful, bright, clever, compassionate person, and we will miss her forever.
But there is another side of Julia that deserves to be known. Like many kids, she struggled with the demons of adolescence—peer pressure, self esteem, alienation, etc. But at the age of 13, while studying brain chemistry at school, she came to realize that her pain was more than normal. She felt she was depressed. She did the right thing and sought help. We will always be grateful that she turned to us, and that we honored her concern with early medical intervention.