Julie Ditty Qualls, the loving wife of Josh Qualls, mother of Atreyu, and daughter of Jack and Juanita Ditty, passed away peacefully surrounded by love on August 31, 2021, after a six-year battle with breast cancer. Julie was born on her big brother Jay’s third birthday on January 4, 1979, in Atlanta, Georgia. The fourth of six children, she was often seen as a child pushing her baby dolls (and pet rabbit!) in her stroller or playing with her lifelong friends Carol Touma and Annie Warnock Neal. Julie attended Bellefonte Elementary, Lexington Christian Academy and graduated from Russell High School. She received a tennis scholarship and graduated from Vanderbilt University, where she was their first All-American female tennis player. She forged lifetime bonds with her Vandy team and coach Geoff MacDonald. Geoff said that Julie “was an even better human being than she was a tennis player, and she was one of the top 100 tennis players in the world.” That sentiment was echoed by longtime coach and friend, Todd Wise, who said “everybody loved Julie.”
Meeting and falling in love with her husband Josh was one of the sweetest parts of Julie’s life. Josh has been an amazing caregiver, husband and supporter for Julie. She always dreamed of being a mother and this year, her dream came true as she adopted her sweet son, Atreyu. She announced it to the family by picking up 10-year-old Atreyu for a picture and sending us all a message that said “it’s a boy!” She loved living life to the fullest with Atreyu and her nieces and nephews Haven, Torin, Gavin and Trevor Lochow, Brady and Anna Hajjar, Sawyer Ditty, Foster and Nelson Kang, Lakin Finley and Lexie Qualls. She spent every second she could entertaining them, teaching them and making sure they knew they were loved. They all preferred to be with Julie than any of their parents, knowing that with Julie, they would always end up on some fun adventure, usually involving hiking, playing tennis, visiting Clown City at night, and ending up in a fit of giggles.
Her five siblings and their spouses are forever thankful that Julie was their sister. They all joked that Julie was the favorite, and she taunted them regularly with “favorite daughter” t-shirts and notes. Her siblings Amy (Steve) Lochow, Jay (Charlotte) Ditty, Jenny (Jay) Kang, Christy (Elias) Hajjar and Kramer Ditty will remember her collapsing on the floor laughing at inappropriate times, going on walks to find owls, and taking pictures of cool insects and beautiful flowers on every walk with her “inspector gadget” lens attachment. One of her friends put it perfectly, that she “always saw beauty around her when others may have walked past it.” We will all remember her boundless energy, even while undergoing chemotherapy treatment (including doing lunges in the hospital room and crunches on the sideline of Atreyu’s baseball games). She will also be remembered as the baby whisperer, as she never met a baby that she didn’t want to hold and snuggle.
Her mom and dad, Juanita and Jack, cannot express their overwhelming love for Julie and thankfulness for all of the thoughts, kind words and prayers. Jack said Julie spent 99% of the last six years living as if she did not have cancer, and her mom Juanita said Julie had a heart big enough for everyone.
We’d be remiss not to mention her amazing tennis career, but we all know that was only a small piece of the impact Julie had on others. Julie played in all four major grand slam tennis tournaments (French Open, US Open, Wimbledon, and the Australian Open) and represented the United States for the Federation Cup. Her tennis coaches played such an integral part of her life, as they shared so many wins, losses and battles on and off the court along the way. We are forever in their debt for the lifelong friendships they gave to Julie. These relationships led her to give back to the tennis community, mentoring hundreds of players, teaching free tennis clinics, participating in exhibitions, and coaching wheelchair tennis.
Her generosity was not limited to tennis. She helped clothe children in need with Partners in Pride, and worked on improving the hiking and biking trails at Armco Park. She always thought of others, by sending care packages or gifts to friends and family, and especially those in need.
Julie was preceded in death by her grandparents, Anita Underwood “Nannie,” Charles Underwood, Charles Dyhouse, and Jack Ditty, Sr. She is survived by her loving family mentioned above, including her 96-year old grandmother Jean Ditty (who Julie went to visit daily), Josh’s parents, George and Debbie Qualls, and sister, Amanda (Tommy) Finley, and many aunts and uncles and cousins and friends who adore her. Julie will forever be loved and missed. Even the family dogs will miss Julie, as she always made sure they were walked, received tons of attention and had plenty of treats.
The family would like to express their sincere thank you to Dr. Jeffrey Hargis and the incredible team of nurses and caregivers at the Norton Cancer Institute.
There will be a moment of silence at the beginning of the Vanderbilt football game on Saturday in honor of Julie.
There will be a celebration of life for Julie at the Paramount Arts Center, 1300 Winchester Ave, Ashland, Ky on Sunday, September 5, 2021. This visitation with the family is anytime between 1-5 pm. Due to Covid concerns, masks are required throughout the visitation.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Julie Ditty Qualls Foundation, a non-profit supporting health and fitness for children in the community, continuing Julie’s impact. Donations can be made to the Julie Ditty Qualls Foundation, at Member’s Choice Credit Union, 145 Russell Road, Ashland, KY 41101. Arrangements are under the direction of Steen Funeral Home.
Please take a hike in honor of Julie and share your photo with the family by using the hashtag #hikingwithjulie.
To send flowers to Julie's family, please visit our floral store.