the busiest retiree

Julie Woodward may be retired from her job as a schoolteacher, but she’s one of the busiest people you’ll ever meet.

Active year-round as a volunteer, she prepares tax returns for boomers and seniors during tax season (as part of the AARP Foundation Tax-Aide organization) and also leads upwards of 15 free Medicare information workshops during the year, through the Westchester Library System. “These are interactive, convivial, upbeat and easy to understand,” she says of her Demystifying Medicare workshops.

“If I don’t have some overwhelmingly large project to do, then I suffer,” says Julie, about her need to keep busy. “I really need something to dig my teeth into.”

When tax season is over, from spring right into fall, you can find Julie volunteering and leading workshops at Teatown Lake Reservation. She has an expertise in wildflowers and a keen interest in Wildflower Island, a two-acre refuge on the grounds of the Teatown preserve that is home to around 280 species of wildflowers, trees, shrubs, grasses, and ferns.

As a Wildflower Island guide and “woodlands adventurer,” according to a Teatown news release, Julie leads colorful explorations of Teatown’s wildflowers. She also writes a blog called Ever Think Green which is temporarily on hiatus.

Julie was born in New York City but moved to Westchester at the age of seven, and attended public school in Croton. After earning a master’s degree, she traveled to Europe to work on her PhD and lived in Italy for a year to do research.

While in Europe, she worked as a senior staff editor at The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. She took up residence in London for seven years and then in Holland for two years, before moving back here. By then, she had two children, both born in the U.K.

While living abroad, Julie had the unique experience of working on the production of a one-act opera that had been written in a concentration camp by Viktor Ullman, a composer who was subsequently killed by the Nazis.

Amazingly, his manuscript survived the camps, and had been passed on to a Dr. H.G. Adler, who’d been a friend of Ullman. “I was working in a British museum in London in 1973 and a friend of mine, another PhD student who happened to be the son of Dr. Adler, contacted me,” Julie recalls. “He told me that his father had this opera and they wanted my help to make a performing edition.

I was married at the time and my husband, Kerry Woodward, was struggling to be a conductor back then and he became involved and we worked on it for two years. The American debut of the opera, The Emperor of Atlantis, was at the San Francisco Opera. It was very exciting for me to be involved in this.”

When she moved back to the United States with her children, Julie started working as a New York City school teacher. She taught for 23 years, mostly music and chorus, and retired in 2011.

Julie’s two children are now in their 40s. Her daughter, Lucy Woodward, is a singer who travels frequently for engagements. Her son, Davy, who works as a creative director in digital media, bought the property adjacent to hers in Croton so they could combine the properties.

One of her favorite freelance gigs is helping seniors choose the Medicare plan that is right for them and preparing their income tax returns. “I can help them find ways to get back money,” says Julie, with well-deserved pride. “I enjoy educating people so they know how to do taxes and be self-sufficient. I spend a lot of my energy understanding a subject in depth and then passing on that knowledge.”

Since the pandemic hit, Julie’s typically packed schedule of volunteering activities has slowed considerably. She tells us her new lifestyle has taken the form of sitting down to full-length operas, theater productions, lectures (so easy now with all the streaming on the web), and reading cover-to-cover, which has never been easy for her in the past – too many other things to do! She is staying put, as many are, to limit the chances of becoming a health burden to her family. Julie has, however, found time to turn her Demystifying Medicare workshops into an audio series that can be found on the Westchester Library System website.

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