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by Shanon Weaver

I must confess…I’m a little envious at Julie Salomon-Free.

Not really, of course. It’s just that, in a world where everyone is reaching for a dream, this magnificent woman has lived about four people’s worth. Give everyone else a chance, will you, Julie?

I kid, obviously. The fact remains, though, that Julie has done some incredible things. Tennis pro? Check. Concert Pianist? Check. Pageant winner? You bet. Her story might be shorter if we talk about the things she hasn’t done, but let’s start at the beginning.

"I was actually born in Ottawa, Canada, but I got to Texas as soon as I could," she said.

Julie's Texas tale began with a stroke of destiny—a full tennis scholarship, which she earned after representing Canada in the World Junior Tennis Championship at the Orange Bowl in Miami, Florida. A coach from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor saw her play and offered her the full ride.

"The reason I came to Texas was a full tennis scholarship,” she said. “Once I got here, I never left."

From the humble clay courts of Ottawa to the real grass courts of England, Julie has played all over the world. Her personal highlights include the Northern England Championships, the Festina Championships in Holland, and the Avon Circuit. She still plays to this day, having gone to Nationals in every age group, and recently winning the Dallas-Fort Worth Over 65 division.

"I had some success at a high level, but I’m not a one-dimensional person,” Julie said. “I had other interests, especially my music."

When Julie graduated from UMHB, she did so with a master’s degree in music. She trained further on the piano in Amsterdam and has released a few CDs as a concert pianist. She’s played piano in about as many countries as she’s played tennis – sometimes both, as she notes there are pianos all over Europe, and she sits to play at everyone she sees.

"I feel like I could sit down and pour my heart and soul into my music," she said. “I never had to be asked to practice the piano or tennis. I just loved them both.”

But wait! There’s more!

As if music and tennis didn’t keep her busy enough, Julie was also Miss New Mexico Senior America in 2018, and represented New Mexico in that year’s Miss Senior America pageant. Her talent? Piano, of course!

Oh, and she speaks seven different languages, too.

Even through her athletic and musical pursuits, Julie's heart remains firmly rooted in giving back to others. In semi-retirement, she’s found fulfillment in volunteerism, using her talents to spread joy and uplift communities.

"I love my volunteer work,” she said. “Tennis and music have given me so much, so I cannot tell you how much giving back means to me."

Julie has performed for several charities, fundraising events, and senior homes, as well as being part of events like Cameo Club and the Spectacular Follies, which we covered last issue. She is also a staunch animal activist, and particularly loves causes helping rescue dogs and horses.

But perhaps Julie's greatest legacy lies in her unwavering dedication to her family and loved ones. With four children and five grandchildren, she cherishes every moment spent together, relishing the love and laughter they bring into her life.

"Leave a legacy, right?" she said.

As Julie looks towards the future, her spirit remains undaunted, fueled by a relentless passion for life and a desire to leave a lasting impact on the world.

"You're never too old to live your passion," she said. "Live, laugh, love. There you go."

So what’s next for this seemingly unstoppable firebrand? To answer that, we look to the past.

“My grandfather was a concert pianist in England,” she said. “So he was my mentor in music.”

Before he passed, Julie’s grandfather wrote six beautiful pieces for the piano, just for her. Her next project is seeing them published, or preferably recorded (with her playing, of course).

Julie Salomon-Free is truly an inspiration to all who seek to accomplish their goals, no matter their age. Her legacy will certainly be one of hard work, determination, and passion for the things and people she loves.

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