We at Dakota House Residence recently lost a very special person — a sister, a friend, a generous esteemed member of our tenants group — St. Vital’s Barbara Barnard.
Barbara was also a scholar, an innovative member of the nursing profession, an administrator, and an ardent woman of faith. It is in this respect that I got to know and appreciate her in the latter part of her life. She died at 89 on July 8, 2013.
Barbara joined Virginia Andrew and me at our dinner table after she and her sister Thelma arrived at Dakota House, and a new relationship was born.
Together we attended the Winnipeg Symphony Pops concerts. Barbara had poor vision, and she once wandered the hall looking for us at concert’s end while we combed the place looking for her. When we finally met up, she asked: "Were you lost?’’
With this self-reliant attitude, it’s no wonder she ended her nursing career as dean of the health, family and applied sciences division at Red River College.
In addition to her nursing certificate, Barbara earned a bachelor of nursing degree as well as bachelor and master of education degrees at the University of Manitoba. She also served in the Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve — another way of giving of her gifts to others.
Yes, Barbara was the scholarly type — good at vocabulary quizzes and clued in to the real world, as witnessed at the in-house "Reading the News" discussions of world events which I conducted weekly.
Barbara arranged for a teacher-colleague to read to her and Virginia once a week. Virginia remembers Barbara as a very intelligent lady, judging by the perceptive questions she raised.
My own admiration for Barbara is more personal. In the absence of her preferred Anglican services at our residence, she asked me to help her attend our televised Roman Catholic mass on Sundays. Being Barbara, she had already researched whether she could take communion with us. The church, she found out, had long ago approved of this crossover; in fact, all who were baptized were welcome to partake, she was informed.
It was here that her generosity blossomed. She arranged for a bouquet of flowers to be delivered each week to adorn our makeshift altar — she would foot the bill.
She then asked me to help select people from our residence to receive the flowers after mass, suggesting that it be someone needing a lift: the ill or bereaved or the lonely.
In so doing, she started a program that will be continued long after she has gone — for our congregation has stepped up and taken it over.
That’s Barbara’s legacy: a gift to all of Dakota House, a gift that keeps giving. May she rest in peace in her heaven, even as she wished all of us peace here on earth.