By Clark Haken - February 2010

Stepping into Julia’s house was like stepping back in time.  The essence of the house lingers in my memory—aromas of potting soil and tea-bags, the heady scent of aged books and old wood combined with hints of ancient sachets.

Her friends knew to ring the door-bell and walk in rather than wait for Julia to come to the door. I always used the side door which led into a large living room.  Heads of antelope, bear, caribou, deer, elk and moose—trophies of long-ago hunting trips—hung on the four walls.  The huge stone fireplace seemed to beg for a roaring fire.  Many years ago the hunter and his wife used to entertain in that room.

My favorite room was the kitchen.  Once, sometimes twice a week, Julia and I would have a cup of tea in her little kitchen.  A large window allowed us to look onto a big backyard.  Julia fed the birds, and as a rule her feathered friends were at the feeders.  We would enjoy our tea, the birds and each other’s company.  Never have I met a more gracious listener.  Julia exuded acceptance, compassion, and understanding.  Her kitchen was a safe haven where any topic could be discussed, songs could be sung; laughter and tears were allowed at Julia’s table.  At times we simply looked out the window; words weren’t necessary.

Simply knowing Julia was a gift.  Without purposing to do so, she taught me many things during the twenty years we enjoyed each other’s company; in her kitchen, Julia taught me to listen.  Last November 15th, I listened as Julia’s breathing became labored and then shallow.  That evening she walked through the gates of heaven, at the age of 100.

Though she’s no longer here, I strive to be the humble and gracious listener Julia was.  The ATLAS staff considers it a privilege listening to those with burdens of all shapes and sizes.  While our offices aren’t exactly like Julia’s kitchen, they continue to provide a safe and confidential haven for hundreds of individuals and couples to share fears, concerns and lighten the load they are carrying.  Julia would approve.

I miss Julia.  I miss her smile, her voice, her kitchen and cups of tea.  Most of all I miss her unconditional friendship.  Thanks, Julia, for teaching me to listen and being the hands and feet of Jesus every time I walked through your door.

I miss you. . .especially on Sunday afternoon’s around 3:30—tea-time.

ATLAS Board Members

  • John Van Diepen - President
  • Deb Kosters - Secretary
  • Gary Hielkema
  • Steve Swensen
  • Brad Jensen
  • Peg Van Kley
  • Kathleen Osterman


955 2nd Avenue
Sibley, Iowa
(712) 754-4311
Fax: (712) 754-4337
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