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Fairmont graduate earns special honor

Above: Julie Nettifee has worked at the NC State College of Veterinary Medicine for more than 20 years.

FAIRMONT – The Nettifee name has been synonymous with animal care for decades in this area, as evidenced by the Carl Nettifee Memorial Animal Shelter in Fairmont, but now that recognition has expanded to a second generation and on a national level.

Julie Nettifee, a 1979 graduate of Fairmont High School and the daughter of the late Carl and Charlene Nettifee, has been named the 2020 American Humane Veterinary Nurse of the Year. She recently was featured in an hour-long special on the Hallmark Channel during a program that also featured the hero veterinarian of the year and seven hero dogs.

“It’s been pretty incredible. It’s been quite the honor,” Nettifee said. “I’m the middle of five kids so I’m not used to the fanfare most of the time.”

American Humane, a society founded in 1877 and dedicated to animal welfare and supporting the human/animal bond, has given the “Hero” awards for the past 10 years. Nettifee had been nominated by her peers for the honor and learned that she was a finalist in August and the winner in September.

In previous years, American Humane would fly the winners to Los Angeles to be wined and dined and be part of the recording of the special program. This year, because of COVID, film crews were sent to the winners’ homes.

Nettifee lives in Apex, N.C., with her son, Jordan, 21, two rescue dogs, one rescue cat, and a rescue bunny. She has worked for the North Carolina College of Veterinary Medicine for 22 years.

“I do a little bit of many things. I instruct. I do clinical research and clinical cases. I’ve got my hands in many different pots,” she said.

After high school, Nettifee attended the animal health technician program at the University of Minnesota-Waseca and worked in Minnesota for a few years. She then took a job at a new veterinary school at Virginia Tech and worked with large and small animals.

“After Virginia Tech, I went back to school. I enjoy writing and natural science and I wanted to be closer to home. Dad was having some health problems so I went back to school full time at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and at the same time, I was working full time at the College of Veterinary Medicine in Madison,” Nettifee said.

She wasn’t planning to leave Wisconsin, but a professor told her of an ideal job in upstate New York working with a public relations firm that focused on the veterinary industry. She took the job but still kept her hand in clinical veterinary work. After several years in that role, she made the move to North Carolina.

Although she has moved around for school and work, the early training for her career started in Fairmont.

Her father, Carl, was an animal control officer for the City of Fairmont and often called upon to rescue animals.

“I went on calls with him all the time,” Nettifee said. “He was a good guy and a good father. He brought many animals to our house, but very few were ever allowed inside our house. Had we had any influence, we would have had a lot of animals, but Mom had a very strict one-dog rule.”

Carl regularly went on calls to remove an owl from a homeowner’s chimney, a squirrel from an attic, or a raccoon from a basement, regardless of the time of day.

Nettifee followed in his footsteps, going above and beyond her job responsibilities to help pets and their owners.

When a hurricane hit North Carolina, a family was separated from their small dog. They didn’t have a car to go searching so Nettifee used her own vehicle to take the family around. After five days of searching, they found the dog under a dumpster.

“Being called a hero is a very powerful feeling,” Nettifee said. “To me, being a hero is helping everybody you can, and that’s just something I’ve tried to do my whole life.”

Since winning the 2020 American Humane Veterinary Nurse of the Year award, Nettifee has been contacted by former classmates and co-workers from across the country. She also received support and congratulations from her siblings, Brian and Diane who live in the Twin Cities area, Alan who lives by Ely, and Lynn who lives in Elk River.

“I look at all the different people that played a part, way before I even went to formal schooling,” Nettifee said. “My dad, my mom, Lucille, and Jim McNerney, the people at the shelter, so many people played a big part in my getting to this point.”

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