SARASOTA - Each Monday, we pay tribute to an amazing Suncoast woman who's accomplished great things for her community while overcoming difficult personal obstacles. Our amazing woman this week is Julie Rohr, principal and music director of the Julie Rohr Academy.
She has also directed the show choir at Sarasota High School and Sarasota Military Academy. Over the last three decades, she has taught thousands upon thousands of Suncoast kids; always with a bright smile on her face, even while she endured great tragedy in her personal life.
Rohr was seven years old when she moved with her parents to Sarasota. Her mom taught violin in Sarasota schools.
She always loved performing. "I think I sang my first solo at 3 in my mom's church where she was choir director. Unfortunately she really wanted me to play an instrument, so violin became the instrument I played, and it was not my favorite thing to play."
Her real love was singing, dancing and acting. "My first play was actually at the Players Theatre. I played Kim in Bye Bye Birdie."
She won a violin scholarship to the University of Miami, but once there was able to change it to a vocal scholarship. Her group performed on USO tours overseas and hit the big time here at home. "We performed for Prince Phillip, on the Ed Sullivan Show, Mike Douglas."
She met husband while working on her master’s degree. “I asked him to proofread the thesis prior to turning it in, and 3 days later he proposed."
They've been married 44 years.
She chose teaching over Broadway. "I was offered a contract (on Broadway) and I turned it down because I really wanted to teach, I really wanted to get married and have children, and I have a lot of them."
Those would be her five boys.
"I lost my daughter when she was 3 years old, to Lukemia." They really wanted another child. "But we were afraid to have another one. We thought, what if something would happen and this one would have Lukemia as well? So we decided to adopt. So our youngest we adopted, when he was 6, he was diagnosed with Lukemia."
Julie and her husband were at his side as he fought for his life. He's now 20. "When I was younger, she saved my life. When I had cancer, all these doctors accused her of being crazy and paranoid when my tests didn't show anything. But later it turned out I had a 5 pound tumor in my chest; and if she hadn't fought for me, I wouldn't be here right now," says son Mitchell McHugh.
He helped his mother produce Footloose last weekend. She's a happy woman as she works to bring out the very best in each of her students.
And her advice? “To take it one day at a time. You can't worry about the future. You have to live every day as though it's your last."
Julie Rohr was also inducted into the Community Video Archives Hall of Fame. You can check out the video story of her life at the Sarasota County Library.
If you know an amazing woman on the Suncoast that you'd like to nominate, just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.