Mourning Julie Shannon, creator of ‘Let the Eagle Fly’
Julie Shannon, the composer and lyricist who created the powerful musical “Let the Eagle Fly,” chronicling the life and work of Cesar Chavez and the farm worker movement, passed away on Wednesday, Sept. 12, after a three-year battle with cancer. Julie “put her heart and soul” into the musical, which “was truly a labor of love” for her, according to a condolence letter to her husband, Bill Geller, from United Farm Workers President Arturo Rodriguez and Cesar Chavez Foundation President Paul Chavez. Julie’s play, which has been performed in California since 2006, is a moving and historically faithful work portraying “the selfless commitment and personal sacrifice of countless decent people who dedicated themselves to La Causa.”
A private internment takes place on Monday, Sept. 17, in Evanston, Illinois. A public service is planned for later this year during a performance at the Mercury Theater in Chicago of another Julie Shannon musical, “Christmas Schooner.”
Olgha Sierra Sandman, a family friend and a leader of the National Farm Worker Ministry, will read the following message the farm worker movement sent Bill Geller during the memorial service on Sept. 17:
All of us in the farm worker movement were deeply saddened to learn of the passing on Wednesday, September 12, of your beloved wife, Julie Shannon.
Some of us worked closely with Julie a number of years ago while she was creating “Let the Eagle Fly.” She dedicated herself over many years to Cesar Chavez and the farm workers, and clearly put her heart and soul into what for Julie was truly a labor of love. She was also anxious that the play be historically accurate. When we finally saw the musical produced for the first time in California in 2006, all of us were greatly moved by this beautiful and impressive tribute. As much as any work of art, Let the Eagle Fly genuinely portrays the selfless commitment and personal sacrifice of countless decent people who dedicated themselves to La Causa.
We understand Julie had been bravely battling cancer for several years. She must have been weak and unwell, but we are grateful that she nevertheless found the strength and determination to be with us at the 50th Anniversary Convention of the United Farm Workers of America last May in Bakersfield, California.
Cesar Chavez once said, “True wealth is not measured in money or status or power. It is measured in the legacy we leave behind for those we love and those we inspire.” In that sense, Julie Shannon must have been a very wealthy woman.
For those of us in the movement, Let the Eagle Fly will remain an enduring legacy to this courageous and talented woman who gave so much of herself to our cause. It will continue inspiring people for generations to come. We will always remember Julie with the greatest affection and respect.
Please know we are keeping you and your family in our thoughts and prayers.
Viva la Causa!
Arturo S. Rodriguez, President
United Farm Workers of America
Paul F. Chavez, President
Cesar Chavez Foundation