GUILDERLAND – Julie Foley had a passion for teaching and was a pioneer for girls’ sports. She died on Sunday, May 11, 2014, at St. Peter’s Hospital, after a long and courageous battle with mesothelioma. She was 77.
Mrs. Foley was born in Albany, the daughter of the late John and Berneice (née Weisel) Fallon.
She graduated from Voorheesville’s high school, and went on to earn a bachelor’s degree from Ithaca College, and a master’s degree from Siena College.
“She had always wanted to be a physical-education teacher, from the time she was in high school,” said her daughter, Kristin Foley. “She loved sports growing up and was a tomboy, playing sports with all the boys.”
Mrs. Foley began working as a physical-education teacher at Berne-Knox-Westerlo in 1960.
While working at BKW, she met her husband, Joseph P. Foley, who taught history there. They were married on Dec. 16, 1961.
Ms. Foley said her mother didn’t enjoy doing the traditional “mom” things, like cooking.
Instead, she loved to gather the neighborhood kids together and organize relay races, kickball games, and swimming excursions.
While raising her three children, Mrs. Foley’s desire to teach never wavered.
“My parents never understood people who taught as a job,” said their daughter. “For them, teaching was a passion; they were in it for the students.”
Ms. Foley said her mother loved interacting with the students, even outside of her job. In addition to coaching and going to sports games, she attended school plays, art shows, and musical concerts to support the students.
“It wasn’t about getting them to be athletic,” said her daughter. “Even if they hated sports, she wanted them to love her class and have fun.”
While at BKW, Mrs. Foley coached various sports, and was one of the first female athletic directors, and a class advisor.
She also coached during the Empire State Games and represented Section 2 on various New York State Public High School Athletic Association committees.
“She was sort of a pioneer for girls’ sports in the state,” said her daughter. “Equanimity in sports was huge for her and she made great strides in that department.”
Mrs. Foley, her daughter said, was pleased to be able to oversee the evolution of females in sports, from what they used to call “Saturday play dates” in the 1960s, to nearly equal opportunities today.
She stopped teaching at BKW in 1995, after her husband retired.
“She and her husband made many lifelong friends among the faculty and students at Berne-Knox-Westerlo,” wrote her family in a tribute.
When her husband died, Mrs. Foley found herself drawn back to teaching, in 2001, at the Academy of the Holy Names.
“I think she was very fortunate to have found Holy Names later in her life,” her daughter said. “She loved the community and the traditions there.”
She taught at Holy Names until 2013, when illness prevented her from continuing.
“The students, faculty, and staff held a special place in her heart,” wrote her family of Holy Names in the tribute. “The outpouring of support received from the Academy of the Holy Names community during Julie’s illness was greatly appreciated.”
Although she did not have much time for other hobbies between teaching, coaching, and immersing herself in her school communities, Mrs. Foley was an animal lover, and the family always had a dog or cats or both.
She also cherished Christmas. Her daughter said she loved decorating, buying and giving gifts, and her favorite movie of all time was Miracle on 34th Street.
“She just thought it was a very special time of year,” said her daughter. “It was magical for her.”
That, she said, was all part of her mother’s personality.
“She was just so upbeat and positive,” Ms. Foley concluded. “She had what you would call a sunny personality.”
Mrs. Foley is survived by her children, Kristin Foley, Kelle Roberts and her husband, Timothy, and Patrick Foley and his wife, Lisa; her grandchildren, Andrew and Christopher Roberts, and Joseph P. and Timothy Foley; her dear friend Rise VanIderstine; her sister, Barbara Campbell; her sisters-in-law, Margaret Foley and Ann DiNuzzo and her husband, Philip; and several nieces and nephews.
Her husband, Joseph P. Foley, died before her, as did her parents.
A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated today, May 15, at 10 a.m., at St. Madeleine Sophie Church on Carman Road in Guilderland. Interment will be at the St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands. Arrangements are by the Newcomer Cannon Funeral Home.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Academy of the Holy Names, 1075 New Scotland Ave., Albany, NY 12208, or to the Mohawk Hudson Humane Society, 3 Oakland Ave., Menands, NY 12204.
— Anne Hayden Harwood