Some people have a way of reaching entire communities, generations of families. Some people have unwavering faith, innumerable talents, and boundless energy. Some people are just natural servants, givers of good in various ways. Julie Babcock (née Cheves) is one such person.
Julie Cheves, “Pronounced like cheese—Cheevz,” she said, was born at St. Vincent’s Hospital on Halloween in 1941. When she was a first grade at Venetia Elementary, her family , including a younger brother, moved to Gainesville for his father. work as a buying agent for the city. But she had an extended family that still lived in Jacksonville; thus, she spent a lot of time here, especially with her maternal grandmother, Julia “Belle” Jackson, on East Main. “I used to roller skate all around Springfield,” she said. Some of Babcock’s favorite pastimes growing up were skating and bicycling with his Jacksonville friends Joetta Hendry and John Wayne Shycove, in addition to writing poetry.
After graduating from college in education at the University of Florida (UF), Babcock landed her first teaching job at Cocoa High in Rockledge. It was there that she met her future husband, Bill Babcock, whose family was originally from Virginia. They were married in December 1964 at First Baptist Church in Gainesville and immediately moved to Virginia to work. The following year, they both attended graduate school at UF, while living with his parents nearby.
In the summer of 1966, the couple moved to Jacksonville not only because of Babcock’s warm affinity for the place, but also because she and her husband wanted their future children to be well educated and happy. they are brought up in a town not so small that they would want to leave and never come back except for a visit. It was a dynamic they had witnessed in the small Virginia town in which they lived. They wanted a hometown big enough for all future children to settle in and pursue a career. And this is where an ironic twist of fate would come to play in Babcock’s life.
In Jacksonville, Babcock landed a position with Jackson and her husband in Bolles. At the same time, she was instrumental in establishing the Lakewood-San Jose Junior Woman’s Club, which did not yet exist. She then served at the state level, leading junior clubs throughout Florida.
Babcock’s teaching career in Jacksonville began not only with a short stint with Jackson but also with Wolfson and Butler before giving birth to their son, Mark, in October 1970. Two years later, she began working at Bolles alongside her husband, a career that spanned the past 42 years for her, both touching generations of families.
Before Mr. Babcock retired in 2007, he had been head of the social studies department and was named president emeritus; for a time he was the director of student activities, even doing reunion skits. His wife had started out as a typing teacher at Bolles but, having a business background in her background, soon developed an original course for seniors, one the colleges viewed more favorably: Business Survey. Semester-long courses included accounting, business law, economics, and math.
Moving beyond typing and business classrooms, Babcock moved into a consultancy position. She attended the University of Jacksonville to earn her guidance counseling degrees, and for nearly eight years she counseled Bolles students heading to college, even taking groups on bus tours of the Southeast schools. From there, she held the title of Registrar, while teaching her Business Investigations class. Records and testing management came next, taking charge of standardized exams. For several years, she alternated as principal of the school and again as registrar. When she retired in 2014, Babcock was once again responsible for planning standardized tests.
Previously, Mr. and Mrs. Babcock lived in what was then called the San Jose Terrace Apartments on University Boulevard, across from where Albertson was. For more than a decade, the Babcock family of three have lived on the Bolles campus – the staff couple and their student son. At first, Mark had to go to public school because there was no primary school in Bolles at that time. But once he was old enough, Mark attended Bolles and graduated as a salutatorian in his class in 1988.
During school vacations, the Babcocks camped in the mountains of Dillard, Georgia and Franklin, North Carolina. As a young girl, Babcock had learned to camp from her parents; they started in a tent, then moved to an RV in the Pisgah National Forest. “Right now I prefer camping at a Holiday Inn,” Babcock said. She remembers a funny story which, at the time it happened, was not so funny. A bear had entered their cooler and ate every morsel of food but one. Bologna. His father swore never to eat bologna again.
Since 1979, Babcock has lived in the family home in San Jose, near Bolles, and near his Hendricks Avenue Baptist Church, which is now 75 years old. Babcock has taken on many active roles there over the years – choir singer, deacon, Sunday school teacher, volunteer receptionist, librarian, and more. Faith is a fortress for her.
In addition to his career in Bolles and his involvement in the Baptist Church, Babcock has been and continues to be a contributor to the wider local community. She supported the Guild of the Jacksonville Symphony Association, which provided scholarships for musical education and contributed to the Instrument Zoo. She is past president and first vice president of the Southside Woman’s Club, having left the junior league at age 40. In 2020, the club placed a small free library at 1200 Oriental Gardens Road, stocked with books for adults and children. . Babcock painted it first, with brightly colored flowers, animals, and ornaments. “Especially during COVID it’s been well used,” she said of the box. The club currently works with students at Greenfield Elementary School in partnership with America’s Best, providing free eye exams and glasses, and Babcock has been instrumental in the cause.
Babcock’s creative side is vast, extending far beyond painting. Prior to the pandemic, she sang with the River City Women’s Chorus and plans to return when protocols permit. She occasionally posts her original prose on Facebook, which she started doing daily during the coronavirus lockdown in response to a photographer’s photo posts. Babcock replied to more than 275 messages from the photographer. “It was my way of keeping in touch with the world,” she said. Babcock also does stained glass and has participated in several art competitions. A passionate gardener, “I wade through the yard,” she says. She also knits and does cross stitch.
“I’m busy all the time,” Babcock said of herself. And she still likes to visit the mountains. Although she is 80, she is 60. “It comes from having spent my whole life with children, from having taught,” she said. When it’s time to rest, she does so with her rescue cat, which bears the same name as her grandmother: Belle.
In December 2012, days before their 48th wedding anniversary, Babcock’s husband died. Their son, Mark, calls her every week to check on her. “You couldn’t ask for more,” Babcock said of his son. He and his wife, Laura Bucher, a Jacksonville native who attended Episcopal School, now live in Madrid, Spain. And there’s the ironic twist to Babcock’s story. She visits them almost every year. She has three grandchildren by them – teenage twins who are still in high school and an older one who is attending university in Scotland.
Babcock is the only remaining relative in Jacksonville. In the more than five decades that she has lived here, she has witnessed many changes. “He got bigger. More traffic,” she said. One piece of advice she offered is this: “Be nice to everyone. And always be grateful for what you have.
By Mary Wander
Resident Community News