A Bel Air woman, who loved to run and walk on the Ma & Pa Heritage Trail and fought bone cancer for nearly three years until she succumbed to the disease in May, was honored Sunday with a bench placed on the trail in her memory.
The words "Team Julie" were inscribed on one of the slats to remember Julie Simmons Fabula, who died May 19, 2015 from osteosarcoma. She was 42. .
Her husband George, 44, sons Nick, 15, and Owen, 13, and daughter Jillian, 9, were surrounded by friends and family Sunday afternoon for the dedication of the bench and a nearby plaque.
The bench and plaque were installed on the Bel Air section of the trail a short distance north of where it crosses the Heavenly Waters stream.
George Fabula said his late wife wanted to donate the bench to the trail and was working with her family and Psi Sigma Sigma sorority sisters to design the bench and plaque before she died.
"She really enjoyed waking on the Ma & Pa Trail because she was a runner, and she really wanted to give this back to the community," he said.
He said later that more than $10,000 had been raised online through a GoFundMe page set up by Julie Fabula's sorority sisters. The bench and plaque cost $1,500, and the remainder will be used for Team Julie scholarships at Fallston High School.
Nick Fabula attends Fallston High, his brother Owen attends Fallston Middle School, and their sister Jillian attends Red Pump Elementary School.
George Fabula said the first scholarship will be awarded to a Fallston senior at the end of the current school year, and he hopes to continue the scholarships for 10 years.
The components of the bench were manufactured by the Florida-based Highland Products Group, and then Fabula put them together. He and a small group of friends installed it Oct. 18.
Friends and former co-workers of Julie Fabula attended the brief dedication ceremony Sunday, along with members of her sons' cross country and soccer teams and daughter's Girl Scout troop.
George Fabula spoke to the group, thanking everyone for their support of the bench project through fundraising, as well as helping the family as Mrs. Fabula battled her illness and his children for their strength throughout the ordeal.
He said after the ceremony that his children have held up well academically, athletically and socially since his wife's passing, despite watching their mother suffer from cancer and ultimately losing her at their young ages.
"It's pretty incredible, and it's directly related to how strong Julie was during her sickness," Fabula said.
He said his wife was diagnosed in September of 2012. He said she was holding up well until the cancer spread to her lungs in July of 2013.
"It was basically maintaining it as long as possible," he said of the time after it spread to her lungs. "We were hoping for a miracle."
Fabula said doctors expected his wife would live about a year after the diagnosis, but he credits the family's Catholic faith, a special diet and use of alternative treatments in addition to traditional cancer treatments for extending her time by almost a year and three quarters.
Gwen Schmertzler, who worked with Julie Fabula at First Financial Credit Union in Towson for about 20 years, wore a shirt bearing the words "Team Julie." She and her husband Richard wore the Team Julie shirts along with yellow wristbands that also said "Team Julie."
"Julie had many, many friends at the credit union, and of course she was much more than a co-worker, she's a friend," Schmertzler, who lives in Bel Air, said.
Mrs. Fabula was a special projects coordinator at the credit union.
She said Team Julie events were held during Fabula's illness to support the family and raise money.
"She was just a good person, inspirational, strong even when she was sick," Schmertzler said.
Cyrus Etemad-Moghadam, of Fallston, coached Mrs. Fabula's son Nick in youth soccer for three years. He said Julie Fabula came to every soccer game, as well as many of her son's cross-country meets.
"She made pretty much every race that she could, sometimes in a wheelchair," he said.
He noted that "everything was about her kids and her family."
"She cared not just about her kids, but every kid on the team," he continued.
The plaque near the bench includes two lines from the Linda Ellis poem "The Dash," which is about making the most of "the dash" between one's birth date and death date.
"What matters is how we live and love, and how we spend our dash/would you be proud of the things they say about you spend your dash?"
Julie Fabula worked with her sorority sisters, who had been her friends since their freshman year at Western Maryland College – now McDaniel College – to select the poem for the plaque.
Five of those sisters, and their families, attended the dedication Sunday. They and Julie Fabula graduated from college in 1994.
Kristen Welch, of Olney, said Julie Fabula "wanted something inspirational on the trail."
"She would always say how people think about the things they'd like to do," another sister, Karen Reddel, of Fallston, said. "She wanted to encourage people to take action."
Amy Fritzges, of Abingdon, and Dawn Motovidlak, of Baltimore County, worked with Julie Fabula to pick the appropriate lines from "The Dash."
"She pointed it out to us when she got sick and knew she wasn't going to survive, so she shared it with all of us," Fritzges said.