Tribute to former Buc cheerleader Julie Kitchings Shaw
By Wayne Wood
It was a cool fall night in October of 1975 and the Berry Buc cheerleaders were going throughout the Hoover community decorating the mailboxes of football players with orange and black colors and leaving a stash of candy with it as well. They had just left the corner house on Burning Tree Drive & Patton Chapel Road where player Bill Kitchings lived. Bill’s four-year old sister, Julie, had made it a habit to sneak out of the house and take some candy from the stash. She was learning that the month of October was a great month for candy especially the last day of it.
Julie grew up listening to her older brother speak of his football coach-Bob Finley whom he admired and respected. Bill would say that while Coach Finley was tough and didn’t put up with any foolishness he did have a kind heart. The young girl was like so many other kids in Hoover being raised to be an Buccaneer-black & orange through and through.
Julie completed her elementary education then attended Simmons Jr. High School where she competed athletically in volleyball, track, swimming and gymnastics while also making good grades and being involved in other school activities. She entered Berry High School in 1985 and narrowed her athletic interests to track and gymnastics while also being a member of the 9th grade cheerleading squad. Through her four years at Berry, she was involved in a wide variety of activities such as student council, choir, Fellowship of Christian Athletes among others. Her senior year saw her elected top senior class beauty as well.
Getting to know Coach Finley was a great experience for her and she shared a few of these when she contributed a story for the book about him as mentioned here:
*Coach Finley always acknowledged you when walking down the halls & would ask you how you were doing. He was pleasant & caring but would be the first to tell your boyfriend to come on and get to practice.
*I will never forget him buying the cheerleaders black jackets for the game. It was a great surprise. He always had a way of making you feel appreciated.
*Due to a medical condition, doctors told me that I would not be able to compete in athletics. Despite doctors’ predictions, I defied the odds & participated in various sports. Coach Finley was aware of my condition & pain I suffered. He always had the athletic trainers help me by taping my ankles before each game. In my junior year before our Homecoming game, I tore the ligaments in my ankle while tumbling in front of the football players break through. When Coach Finley realized what happened, he stopped the game, walked over to the fence and asked if I was okay.
“These experiences reinforced the positive images I had of him as a little girl. He was concerned with the struggles his athletes experienced but, most importantly, about what the young men & women were becoming. His contribution to the development of the athletic program, the work ethic we learned from him and the values he instilled allowed us to develop the confidence and self-esteem we needed to succeed in life.”
After graduating from Berry in 1989, Julie went on to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa where she graduated in 1993. While there she participated on the dance team. Later she entered and won a national fitness contest for young women her age. Within the next several years, she married former Berry classmate Tim Shaw and they had two children, Lawson and Kyla. Lawson is currently a 9th grader at Hoover and Kyla will soon follow. He plays baseball and she plays soccer.
Professionally, Julie worked for CBS Radio in Birmingham and later for a few years in Atlanta. She was very successful and acquired a wealth of friends. In June of 2010, Julie found out that she had Stage IV cancer, Through a long period of surgeries and treatments accompanied a multitude of prayers and support, Julie strongly developed a theme of “Cherish Every Day” and passed this on to others. However, her conditioned did not improve though her spiritual faith grew stronger. She died on January 11, 2012 yet despite the sadness there were hundreds who appreciated and celebrated her life.
There is a plaque in the front office lobby area titled “Cherish Every Day” with an inscription & pictures. Julie was a true representative of what a Buccaneer alumni should be about and her perspective on life was solid and genuine. She would say more in her sweet & friendly way and probably cap it off by saying, “GO BUCS!”