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Maine shark attack victim remembered for her kindness

An undated photo of Julie Dimperio Holowach.Facebook

HARPSWELL, Maine — Julie Dimperio Holowach, the 63-year-old seasonal resident who was killed Monday by a great white shark off the Maine coast, was remembered Tuesday by her friends as outgoing, generous, friendly — and a “bright light.”

Elizabeth “Buff " Harrington, 80, who lives in Arizona but summered on Bailey Island in Harpswell, where she met Dimperio Holowach and her husband when they first first arrived in the community, said, “Julie loved life. And she had a huge heart.”

Dimperio Holowach was generous, sharp, athletic, and had a bit of a green thumb, Harrington said.

“She participated in life to the nth degree, but way more than that, she was helping people all of the time and supporting them. I just can’t say enough good things about her,” she said.


One memory that stuck out in Harrington’s mind was the 80th surprise birthday party that Dimperio Holowach organized for her in Dimperio Holowach’s Maine backyard last October. Harrington said it was so detailed and exquisite, it felt like a wedding: a private event for 20 close friends, featuring a five-course meal, and Harrington’s favorite flowers on display.

“In between each course, people got up and roasted me, so it was absolutely hysterical,” said Harrington. “It was the most fantastic party. ... She was so excited. She just loved doing it for me.”

An undated photo of Julie Dimperio Holowach. Facebook

The last time Harrington saw Dimperio Holowach was shortly after the surprise party in the fall. But she had heard from her frequently after Harrington's husband passed away in May.

“She would call me every week to make sure I was OK,” she said. “I just wanted [people] to know what a wonderful, wonderful person she was and how much she will be missed. She supported people. She was there for everybody.”

Marie Schmon, another neighbor of Dimperio Holowach’s on Bailey Island, said she was a “welcoming, warm, civic-minded” woman who “always had a smile on her face.”


Maine State Representative Joyce “Jay” McCreight, whose district includes Harpswell, said while she was not close to Dimperio Holowach, she had met her through a mutual book group on the islands and run into her at other social events in the past.

McCreight described Dimperio Holowach as a “bright light, very vivacious, and friendly and outgoing.”

Neighbors described Dimperio Holowach as a seasonal resident who split her time between Florida and the sleepy island in Maine that has a year-round population of less than 400. She could be spotted almost every morning this time of year walking or jogging the main road of the island. She “took exercise more seriously than the rest of us,” Schmon said.

A family walked by the stretch of coast line where a woman who was swimming had been killed in an apparent shark attack the day before. Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff

Maine Marine Patrol Major Rob Beal said at a news conference, “I’m close with the Harpswell community. It’s a really tight-knit coastal community, kind of iconic to Maine’s waterfront. And, in fact, Julie and her husband are just well-known, very respected individuals, and the community is really at just a tough juncture in trying to process yesterday’s event.”

McCreight said she “sent out a message to make sure members of the book group know [what happened], and messages are flooding in about her being a wonderful asset to the community, and member of the community, and a person who was really, really liked. ... She was a person that you feel like you knew well because she was so outgoing.”


On the occasions that McCreight spoke to Dimperio Holowach, she recalled her as “very easy to be with, very friendly and a person who is at ease and puts others at ease.”

Dimperio Holowach was a fashion industry executive who had retired in 2016, according to Women’s Wear Daily. She had a long career with apparel and footwear company VF Corp. She joined the company in 2000 as president of special markets for the Liz Claiborne brand and was promoted to president of Kipling North America, which makes bags and accessories, in 2006. She remained in that position until leaving the company, WWD reported.

“We are deeply saddened by the loss of Julie. She was an incredible leader who brought out the best in her team and colleagues. She will be missed by our industry, our company, and as a friend to so many. Our thoughts are with her family at this time,” a spokesperson for Kipling Americas said in an e-mail.

The team at Sea Bags, a Maine-based accessories company where Dimperio Holowach was a board member, was reeling from the tragedy on Tuesday.

Don Oakes, the company’s chief executive, said in a statement that the company was “extremely shocked and saddened by the sudden and tragic loss.”

“Her passion for the ocean, the state of Maine, and causes we believe in made her an invaluable supporter and friend. Julie’s longtime knowledge of the retail and consumer goods industry were reflected in her contributions to our business,” Oakes said. “It’s with a heavy heart that we share our feeling of loss with Julie’s family. We will deeply miss Julie’s enthusiasm and positive spirit.”


Jeremiah Manion and Martin Finucane of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Hanna Krueger can be reached at hanna.krueger@globe.com. Follow her @hannaskrueger. Steve Annear can be reached at steve.annear@globe.com. Follow him @steveannear.