UPDATE | Cancer patient dies a week after special pinning ceremony

Published: Mar. 7, 2019 at 10:52 PM EST
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UPDATE 3/13/19 @ 8:05 p.m.

The 50-year-old nurse we told you about last week who was diagnosed with cancer died Tuesday night in hospice care in Ashland.

Julie Harless had been studying at ACTC to become a nurse, but when staff and classmates learned she wasn't expected to live long enough to make it to her graduation next year, they surprised her with a special pinning ceremony at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

The family says that gesture meant the world to them.


At 50 years old, grandmother Julie Harless is not your typical college student.

"She never cared about herself," Julie's son Jordan Harless said. "She always cared for others."

Julie, who's from Louisa, worked as a nurses assistant for nearly two decades. Then she decided she wanted to earn a degree from Ashland Community & Technical College and become an RN.

"Last month she was sitting in class smiling," Natalie Robinson, the school's nursing program coordinator, said. "This month she's in hospice."

Jordan says a week ago, it appeared his mother's dream was going to be cut tragically short. She was diagnosed with cancer, and her condition has been rapidly deteriorating.

"It felt like my life was over," Jordan said. "It crushed me. I felt like I was losing everything."

"Julie kept saying, 'Well all this hard work I've done is for nothing'. We wanted her to know it was worth it," Robinson said.

When classmates and staff from her nursing program learned she's not expected to live long enough to make it to her graduation in 2020, they decided to hold a special pinning ceremony for her Wednesday.

A crowd of around 100 people surprised her at Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital.

"It really touched her," Jordan said. "She didn't realize she had that many people that cared about her."

"She's the epitome of what a nurse should be," clinical instructor Lynn Hill said. "I hope (her classmates) take just a little bit of Julie and strive to become what Julie is."

Julie and her family were overwhelmed by the gesture awarding her the distinction she'd dreamed about.

"It was very happy emotion to see my mom graduate," Jordan said. "It was amazing."

Julie's been staying at the Community Hospice Care Center in Ashland.

Her sister Barb is going through the same nursing program at ACTC. She's planning to wear her sister's pin at graduation.