Julie Anderl was committed to helping her clients not only in her capacity as a lawyer but on a personal level, often offering assistance to them financially and emotionally, those who knew the Chippewa Falls attorney said.
“She was such a kind, kind soul,” David Raihle Jr., a Chippewa Falls attorney, said of Anderl, who died Sunday at age 59 of Alzheimer’s disease. “She always cared about her clients personally as well as professionally.”
Anderl practiced law in Chippewa County for 27 years after starting her practice in her native Chippewa Falls in 1984. Before that she earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at UW-Platteville and a law degree at Hamline law school in St. Paul.
During her career Anderl worked as city attorney in Chippewa Falls and Stanley and prosecuting attorney in Bloomer. In 2007 she lost an election to Tom Sazama for Chippewa County judge.
Anderl most enjoyed getting to know her clients on a personal level and finding ways to help them resolve differences or problems via the legal system, they said.
“She always looked to find resolution to issues and to avoid conflict when possible,” Raihle said.
Wynne Cook met Anderl about 25 years ago, back when Cook was a social worker for the Chippewa County Health Department. She was immediately struck by Anderl’s commitment to addressing legal issues faced by families with children with special needs and by her willingness to learn how to do so.
“She wanted to help because she knew there was a need,” said Cook, who has since retired.
Chippewa Falls Mayor Greg Hoffman knew Anderl both as a city attorney and a private lawyer. He praised her personable, caring nature with the clients she represented.
“She would ask about your family and want to visit with you,” Hoffman said of Anderl. “It wasn’t just pay your bill and leave. Julie cared about people.”
That doesn’t mean Anderl was reticent about voicing her opinions, those who knew her said. They described her as a genuine, at times outspoken personality who advocated for ideas and people she backed.
“She was not afraid to say what she believed,” Hoffman said. “There was no pretense with Julie. What you saw with her was what you got. I really respected her for that.”
City of Chippewa Falls attorney Bob Ferg agreed.
“She was straightforward about things,” Ferg said of Anderl. “She expressed her opinion and wasn’t afraid to let you know what she thought.”
Those who knew Anderl were impressed by her seemingly never-ending energy. Whether working extra hard as a lawyer, volunteering for multiple causes or organizing one of the many women’s outdoors trips she put together, Anderl appeared tireless, they said.
“She was a real firecracker,” Cook said. “She was this boisterous, goofy, fun-loving person ... At the same time she was so smart and so connected to the community.”
Retired Chippewa Falls lawyer Ardis Cray got to know Anderl during their interactions in family court. As a lawyer, Cray said, Anderl “was always prepared, always personable and always did a thorough job of representing her clients.”
Deb Asher, Cray’s former law partner who now owns Asher Law Office in Chippewa Falls, called Anderl “a skilled attorney who brought legal expertise and compassion to the often-difficult and emotionally charged area of family law.”
But Anderl was more than a lawyer, those who knew her said. She was personable, caring and able to connect with virtually anyone. Cray remembers their discussions about becoming new mothers at about the same time. Others recalled Anderl’s involvement in many community endeavors along with her husband, Brian Hefty.
‘A better place’
In 2011 Anderl experienced memory difficulties and was subsequently diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. She closed her law office to spend time with family and friends.
Even amid that struggle, Anderl remained determined to make a positive difference, those who knew her said. She worked with her mother, Janet Rubenzer-Pike, and local organizations to start a program dedicated to the recognition of and assistance for people dealing with dementia and memory-related issues.
“She made a big difference getting businesses to care about how to create an environment more conducive to people with memory issues,” Cook said.
Still, many are struggling with the loss of Anderl, Cook said.
“This has been so heartbreaking for so many of us to watch,” she said of Anderl’s decline. “There is a real sadness at seeing someone with so much capacity lose that through this awful disease.”
As he reflected on Anderl, Raihle lamented her death, calling it “a loss for the community.” He remembered working with Anderl, back when they were both Chippewa County court commissioners, and how even then she was dedicated to giving people a voice, working to ensure they had their day in court.
“She was empowering to so many individuals,” Raihle said. “Her kindness toward others has spread and made this community a better place.”