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Julie Fillenwarth
In Memory of
Julie Ann Fillenwarth (Fillenwarth)
1953 - 2017
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Obituary for Julie Fillenwarth (Fillenwarth)

Julie Fillenwarth (Fillenwarth)
In lieu of flowers, memorial gifts may be sent to the Avera Cancer Institute Center for Precision Oncology in Sioux Falls, SD, the Okoboji Blue Water Festival at Historic Arnolds Park, Inc. or the Lakes Area Dog Park.


Julie Fillenwarth, 63, of Arnolds Park, IA, passed away peacefully on April 14, 2017 at Spencer Hospital. She fought metastatic breast cancer with an uncommon courage, carrying her crusade through traditional treatments, immunotherapy and ultimately a clinical trial in hopes of not only prolonging her own life but those of cancer patients in the future.

Julie was born on October 3, 1953 to Ken and Ruth (Hartkopp) Fillenwarth. At an early age she worked with her grandfather, A.T. Fillenwarth and later with her father Ken at Fillenwarth Beach, the West Lake Okoboji resort the family has owned and operated since 1918. The resort and lake life would come to define her. She often referred to it not as a job but as a way of life.

After their father's death in 2014, Julie and her beloved sister Lynn assumed ownership of the business, and Julie continued to manage the resort. Before her passing, Julie and Lynn made plans to ensure that the resort would continue long into the future with its rich tradition.

Julie embraced the Okoboji lifestyle as a youngster, learning to swim, water ski and operate boats as a young girl. Stories abound of her affinity with the lake and her graceful transition into management of the resort.

She graduated from Estherville High School in 1971 a BS in psychology in 1975 from the University of Iowa and a JD from Creighton in 1978. After law school, Julie joined her mother, Ruth, sister Lynn and brother-in-law Rich Meyer in the practice of law at Fillenwarth & Fillenwarth Attorneys in Estherville. She served as Assistant Dickinson County Attorney from 1987-1991 and as Assistant Emmet County Attorney from 1991-1999. She retired from the active practice of law in 1999 to devote herself fulltime to the management of the resort.

Julie served on the board of the American Lung Association of Iowa from 1983-2001 and on the national board of the American Lung Association from 1989-2001. She helped organize the Okoboji Tourism Association and served on the board of Historic Arnolds Park, Inc. (HAPI). She also served on the Sustain the Park campaign and a host of local committees. She continued to be active until her death in the Okoboji Tourism Committee, Iowa Great Lakes Water Safety Council, Iowa Great Lakes Association and the HAPI Foundation. She was a member of the Immanuel Lutheran Church in Spirit Lake.

Julie always enjoyed a good party, a good cause and her happy life with family and friends. The cancer stole her body but not her indomitable spirit. She would want her friends and family to enjoy life, work hard, have fun and laugh about something each and every day.

Julie is survived by her husband, Gregory Drees; sister Lynn Fillenwarth; brother-in-law Rich Meyer.

She was preceded in death by her grandparents A.T. and Sadie Fillenwarth and Charles and Anna Hartkopp and her parents, Ken and Ruth Fillenwarth.
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