PUEBLO, Colo. – It was never hard to walk away from a conversation with Julie Carrillo and not feel inspired, motivated, loved or welcomed.
The wife of PBR co-founder Gilbert Carrillo had a contagious fire in her for all realms of life and it left a lasting impression on those that ever crossed paths with the Stephenville, Texas, native.
Her passion for her family, husband, bucking bulls and the Western way of life defined her.
Sadly, Julie, 42, passed away on Wednesday following a battle with cancer that began shortly following the 2014 PBR World Finals when she was first diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.
Gilbert announced the news to the public on social media Wednesday evening.
“My beautiful wife, Julie Carrillo, the Love of my Life, passed peacefully into the loving arms of our Lord Savior. Our family will be forever grateful for the love and support of so many,” Gilbert wrote. “Our hearts ache that she is no longer with us, but we rejoice in knowing that she has now been healed. Until we meet again my sweet angel my baby in heaven.”
A celebration of Julie's life will take place on July 15 at Cowboy Church in Stephenville, Texas, at 2 p.m. There will then be a life celebration once again at The Hardway Ranch in Bluff Dale, Texas, at 7 p.m.
The PBR would like to offer its condolences to all of Julie’s family and friends.
“I just can’t imagine what this has been like for them,” nine-time World Champion and family friend Ty Murray said. “What they are going through. The kids. The entire family. My thoughts and prayers are with all of their friends and family.”
Murray remembered when Gilbert and Julie first began dating.
He could tell Gilbert knew he had found the woman of his dreams and the love of his life.
“She has always been great,” Murray said. “She was a great, loving wife and stood by him through thick and thin. They raised those kids. She was always a super, partner. They got together and they were partners.
“Everything they have done, they have done together.”
Friday would have been the couple’s 17th anniversary and the two were able to celebrate this week prior to her passing with their two kids, Chase and Cheney.
Chase and Cheney purchased an apple tree that the family will plant in Julie’s honor.
Julie was set to receive the 2017 Sharon Shoulders Award in-person on Oct. 31 during the PBR’S Heroes and Legends Celebration before the 2017 Built Ford Tough World Finals. She will still be honored posthumously during the ceremony.
The Sharon Shoulder Award recognizes the great women of professional bull riding whose work, partnership and faith have been as integral to the sport as the athletes themselves.
Julie was a strong supporter of her husband during his bull riding career, and continued to be since Gilbert’s retirement. Together they ran 4C’s Bucking Bulls & Training Facility.
Sharon Shoulders said Julie was a phenomenally, strong woman and that her selection as this year's recipient had less to do with her battle against cancer, but more so her overall personality.
"She really wasn't selected for the award because she was sick, but so much more as her example before that as a bull rider's wife," Shoulders said. "Being his partner. Raising their family. Then showing such strength and courage to the outside world when did become ill. She really did set the very, best example of a strong woman that I really have ever seen. She was just so strong. If we would have known how sick she really was, we would have made sure to present her this award bed side."
Gilbert and his brother, Adam, were inducted into the PBR Ring of Honor in 2014.
In particular, Julie had a great love for young bucking bulls and getting women involved in the industry.
2016 Sharon Shoulder’s Award winner LeAnn Hart has known Julie for roughly 14 years since LeAnn began dating her husband, J.W.
“The thing that stands out the most about Julie was whenever you heard Gilbert’s name, you heard her name,” LeAnn said. “Whenever they were doing anything they were not doing it as one, but as two. She has been a right-hand for Gilbert and him for her.
“She has always been a gladiator and backbone for her family. She always fought for and been an advocate for bull riding. She was always fighting for what could advocate the sport and rodeo.”
Julie didn’t let her cancer diagnosis get in the way of her passionate personality either.
She embraced the challenge head-on over the last few years of her life and began a crusade to raise awareness for others.
“She was never a stand-still person,” LeAnn said. “She has always tried to move forward. When you are playing the mom card and the wife card, and to balance it as well as she did, that is to be admired. Let alone, with all she was going through.”
Julie was only 39 years old at the time of her first symptoms, and she wanted others to make sure they learned from her experience.
“I don’t want anyone’s pity,” she told the Stephenville-Empire Tribune last year. “I just want to make people aware of this and tell them to listen to their bodies. If you think something is wrong, go see a doctor. Listen to your body.’
In another example of her vibrant personality, Julie, whose father T.J. passed away from pancreatic cancer in January, added, “I’m not dying, I’m living. You can’t quit living, while trying to stay alive. I’ve learned a lot from this, my priorities have shifted. I don’t miss any of my kids’ activities. My focus is on them.”
Hart called Julie a true inspiration and is a phenomenal recipient of this year’s Sharon Shoulders Award.
“She has brought so many people through so much because of what she has gone through and her actions and her words,” Hart said. “Even when it is a tough day, she has been an encourager. She has been a rock. She has been whatever she has called to be. In that moment, she was astounding.
“She had faith over fear. She has paved the way for so many others.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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