Julianne Hunter: Pride in a legacy

Julianne Hunter accepts her Villager of the Year award April 24 at Jax Cafe. The award was established in 1991 by the St. Anthony Chamber of Commerce to recognize a resident who has made outstanding contributions to improve the quality of life in St. Anthony. (Samara Bilyeu-Anderson/Bulletin)

It probably seemed like a normal enough Thursday night for Julianne Hunter: volunteer at one event, duck out midway through to receive an award for her commitment to volunteering, return to volunteering as soon as possible.

So it was for Hunter, named the St. Anthony Villager of the Year by the St. Anthony Chamber of Commerce on April 24, who picked up her award at Jax Cafe in Minneapolis, and then returned to Stanley’s Bar Room, just four blocks away, where she was serving as an ambassador at Dining Out For Life, put on by The Aliveness Project, an organization that supports those in the Twin Cities diagnosed with HIV and AIDS.

“We did, actually, pretty well,” Hunter said of the Aliveness Project’s fundraising. “I ran over to get the award and came back to finish up,” she said.

The award she’d just picked up?

“I left it in the car.”

Hunter, originally from Indianapolis, now works for Interior Architects in Chicago -- from her home in St. Anthony with about ten days a month traveling.

Hunter started volunteering when in Chicago, taking after her parents (“I didn’t make this volunteer gig up on my own,” she says), and said that things fell into place when she and husband Thad, a paid on-call firefighter, moved a couple of blocks to St. Anthony from Northeast Minneapolis.

“We decided right away to get involved.”

Hunter started coordinating St. Anthony’s Village Fest in 2003, and has chaired the planning committee the past nine years. From there, she and a variety of local groups seem to have been pulled together as if by magnetism: The St. Anthony Family Services Collaborative Board, the St. Anthony Community Services Advisory Council, and once her twin girls, now 9-year-olds, were born, Wilshire Park Elementary, and the Girl Scouts.

With the Scouts, though, she’s had to draw a line. “I just do what they tell me to do when they need it, as long as it doesn’t involve camping, I will not camp.”

The best part: it doesn’t feel like work, thanks to her fellow volunteers. “There’s a lot of talented and generous volunteers in St. Anthony and you just kind of get sucked in.”

Even with such a resume, Hunter said the Villager of the Year award took her by complete surprise.

“I was speechless, which never happens, ever,” she enthused. “It was an honor to be chosen, just to be added to that cast” of previous winners.

“Julianne exhibited her usual modesty when she was told of her selection: ‘What? Me?’” Wendy Webster, director of St. Anthony-New Brighton Community Services, said as she presented Hunter the award.

“It’s about time,” Diane Sparks, an owner of the Culver’s in St. Anthony and a friend of Hunter’s, said of her win. “She’s a really good asset to the city and I’m really happy that they rewarded her with that.”

In all likelihood, Hunter says, she and her family will be in St. Anthony for a long time, as her husband is here to stay, and because her daughters, third graders, still have many years of school left to go.

“In like, 30 years I’ll still be chair of Village Fest,” she joked. “I won’t be able to walk!”

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7824.


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