The title lyric from Billy Joel’s 1977 hit, “Only The Good Die Young,” doesn’t always ring true, but when it does, it sure rings loud and clear.

Julie Ditty Qualls was just 42 at the time of her passing — a youthful, active 42. And “good” doesn’t even begin to describe her.

Both generous with her time and abilities, she never let breast cancer interfere with her contributing to the community. 

Ditty Qualls applied her giving spirit in many aspects in her life, from helping her family to assisting other area children, and, well, everybody in general.

The infectious smile to which her family refers didn’t fade.

That smile was even brighter when devoting her unparalleled tennis gifts to area youth.

As former Russell tennis coach Larra Ferguson said so accurately, “She wasn’t just out there to teach kids tennis, Julie wanted to teach them about life, and she wanted to teach kids about kindness and sportsmanship, and she lived that way.”

After a storybook high school career — which began in second grade, by the way — an outstanding college career at Vanderbilt and a remarkable 10-year pro career, Ditty Qualls was ready to teach the game she adored. She did so at many levels, but perhaps derived the most joy out of seeing northeastern Kentucky kids learn the sport. She played a huge role in doing just that with free lessons to 150 children in 2019, and with a league that she and her husband, Josh, formed at the Ashland Tennis Center.

She traveled the world, and could’ve landed anywhere, but she was drawn back to her roots.

She came home, and she gave back. She gave it her all while doing so. For that, Julie Ditty Qualls will always be fondly remembered and admired.

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