As Cowboy Heritage Week approaches in Stephenville, Texas, there is one very special lady that will be dearly missed. Julie Carrillo was born February 22, 1975, and went to be with her Lord and Savior on June 28, 2017. Julie grew up on Lake Leon in Ranger, Texas, just north of Stephenville. She loved everything about the lake and being on the water. She loved to ski, wakeboard, and was known to go after anything head on. To know her was to immediately love her, and to be in her presence meant you would have the time of your life. Julie and her husband Gilbert met through a mutual friend by the name of Brent Leffingwell. Brent was the assistant baseball coach at Ranger, and Don Flowers, Julie’s step-dad, was the head coach. Everyone went out together one night and Gilbert begged Brent to introduce him to the gorgeous blonde that also happened to be his boss’s stepdaughter, “After that night, we talked for a while and we just clicked. It just happened. We met once and then we just couldn’t stay off the phone. At that time, Julie was an R.N. in Euless. I would go up there and visit her all the time, and then I convinced her to move down here. We never left each other’s side.”
Years ago, Julie brought up the idea of the 4C’s Bucking Bulls and Training Facility to her husband Gilbert. It all started when friends of Gilbert and Julie’s asked them to partner with them on a young bull and start him in the futurities. Julie immediately jumped on the plan and before they knew it, over 80 bulls at a time called the Carrillo’s place “home” for years on end while they were put through the 4C’s training programs. Before long, cowboys and businessmen alike were knocking down the door of the 4C’s, and the Carrillo’s had bulls in the PRCA, the PBR, and several bull teams and franchises with the CBR.
Listening to Gilbert talk about his wife was probably one of the most endearing things I’ve ever heard in my life. You could so plainly see how she walked on water in his eyes, as well as many of their closest friends. Megan Archino said, ” They were truly a beautiful couple. Not once did I ever hear them say one bad thing about the other or one complaint.”
What Gilbert and Julie had was something that many people can only dream about and hope for one day. Gilbert said, “Julie’s a very, very hardworking person. She was beautiful and smart, but she could get dirty when she needed to. She would be out there working with the bulls and helping me with them, you name it. When we built this facility, we hired a contractor to help build it and he couldn’t finish it. So Julie and I and a college kid that worked for us for a couple years built bleachers for 2,700 people in seven days. It was crazy. Poor Julie! She was the one that burned her eyes when we were welding. I said, “Honey, don’t look at the fire!” and Julie said, “I’m not! I’m looking away but my eyes are open!”
Two and a half years ago, Julie was in Las Vegas during the NFR to watch Gilbert rope. She had been having stomach pains and had been receiving treatment for what her doctors thought was mastitis. While in Nevada, the pain had gotten so bad that she told Gilbert she didn’t want to fly back to Texas, she just wanted to be with him and make the drive back together. For those that know Julie, she was as tough as they come. So for her to say something, Gilbert knew something was terribly wrong with his beautiful wife.
From that point forward, Julie’s health was a constant battle. Gilbert and their two children, Chase and Cheney, went through what no person should ever have to. They watched for over two years as the strongest woman they knew fought cancer tooth and nail. As I sat in the Carrillo’s living room and listened to Gilbert talk about the love of his life, I could so easily see his utter love and devotion to her. He was by her side through every doctor appointment, surgery, chemotherapy treatment, and there to catch her whenever she needed it.
I don’t necessarily want to go into detail about Miss Julie’s battle with cancer, but I will say she fought as hard as anyone possibly could. Her immediate family and select close friends were there for whatever she needed, though she didn’t often ask that of them. She embodied everything it is to be a strong woman, and even though she was the one fighting such an awful disease, her loved ones drew strength from her.
Julie’s is a story that will never again be matched. She made a name for herself in the PBR, CBR, the PRCA, and among anyone she crossed the path of. Though I only had the pleasure of meeting her a few times before she left this Earth, I immediately loved her. I ran into her at the South Point during the 2016 NFR and was completely shocked to see her there. She told me in a laughing voice and a smile in her eyes that there was no way the cancer was going to get her down or take her joy.