The sudden death of a Youth Tour alumnus has left his friends saddened and stunned.
Michael Julian, 27, was on the 2007 Youth Tour and went on to serve as Hawaii’s delegate to the Youth Leadership Council. In that capacity he later attended the 2008 NRECA annual meeting in Anaheim, California.
According to a GoFundMe page established by his family, Julian was admitted to a hospital in Lihue, Hawaii, on June 24 when he had difficulty breathing.
The following day he was airlifted to Straub Medical Center in Honolulu, where he died June 27. Those familiar with the situation said Julian had an allergic reaction to food that caused his brain to swell.
“With a heavy heart, Michael went home to be with the Lord,” the family wrote. “We ask that you continue to pray for the family for strength and guidance during this very difficult time.”
There is no shortage of sadness among those who were with Julian on Youth Tour.
“This is such a tragedy,” said Abbey Bannister, who represented Kansas on the Youth Leadership Council at the same time that Julian represented Hawaii.
“He was so friendly and kindhearted,” Bannister recalled by phone from Denver, where she’s now a nurse. “He was everyone’s favorite.”
But, as often happens, things change over the years.
“We got out of touch, which at times like this you really regret,” said Bannister.
Hawaii’s Youth Tour delegation always teams with the Kansas delegation, whose leader, Shana Read, director of communications at Kansas Electric Cooperatives, was in disbelief.
“I’m just heartbroken over one of ‘my’ kids being gone,” said Read. “All I know is that every single memory I have of Michael is of him putting a smile on someone else’s face.”
Julian was sponsored on Youth Tour by Lihue-based Kauai Island Electric Cooperative, where Shelley Paik, public affairs specialist, said she’ll “always remember him with a giant smile on his face.”
“I was looking at video we shot during our 2007 Youth Tour trip and you could see how he spread the Aloha spirit and his love of music,” said Paik.
“In the years since Youth Tour, I would see Mike at the gym during his breaks from school and he would always come say, ‘Hi, Aunty Shelley’ and give me a hug.”
Julian was a 2008 graduate of Kauai High School, where he played football, before heading to Northern Arizona University. Most recently, he worked at Wilcox Medical Center in Lihue as a pharmacy technician.
Among Julian’s survivors are parents Linda and Domie, and his younger brother Dustin, who was on the 2009 Youth Tour and was also selected for the Youth Leadership Council.
Michael W. Kahn is a staff writer at NRECA.