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From Appalachian Roots to a Funding Legacy: The Heatherly Sisters

From Appalachian Roots to a Funding Legacy: The Heatherly Sisters

When a man snatched her purse in Washington, D.C., Anna Heatherly, then just a teenager, tackled him, retrieved her purse and, for good measure, scolded him as he ran away. Heatherly went on to become the first woman to graduate from the University of Virginia with a doctorate, in 1970. Her strong nature, generosity and dedication to what is right served her well, and eventually served researchers in the Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopaedic Surgery.

Her older sister, Julia, was similarly independent, having served in the U.S. Army for two years and as a registered nurse working with psychiatric patients at Walter Reed General Hospital. With her colleagues, Julia established a methadone clinic in Alexandria, Virginia, reflecting her dedication to those in need.

The sisters came from a working class family in the Appalachian region of eastern Tennessee. Their devotion to each other, to their mother and to the values they were taught—namely, to give back—were defining attributes. They were proud of their modest roots but determined to leave a legacy.

When they needed health care, both sisters came to Johns Hopkins. They appreciated the sophisticated care they received from Edward McFarland, M.D., director of the Division of Shoulder Surgery, and Lee Riley, M.D., spine surgeon and vice director of clinical operations. McFarland recalls, “They made a terrific pair. Office visits were wonderful, with their quick wit and intelligent discussions.” The admiration was mutual.

Julia, who dedicated herself to serving others through health care, and Anna, who became a leader in the field of reading education, recognized the difference that expert orthopaedic care made in their lives and wanted to give other patients access to the same.

To honor their doctors, the sisters made a bequest in the form of the Anna and Julia Heatherly Fund, which supports the work of Edward McFarland and Lee Riley. “Funding for clinical musculoskeletal research is limited, and most of my research is funded through philanthropy,” McFarland says. “The support of donors has made all the difference in what we can accomplish.”

The Heatherly sisters were not only generous. They were also self-taught investors and businesswomen. Through a life of careful consumption and dedicated saving, they were able to leave a legacy—an endowed fund that provides a steady stream of research support to a cause they believed in. Thanks to their donation, McFarland says, “We have been able to improve the health of people around the world through biomedical research.”

There are many ways to support the Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. A gift through a will or trust, or by beneficiary designation like the Heatherly sisters’ gift, supports our future and allows you to remain in control of your assets during your lifetime. For information about leaving your own legacy or how to support the physicians’ work, please contact Donna Clare in the development office at 410-955-6936 or 

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