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Hunter, Barbara J.

Barbara J. Hunter

Aug. 6, 1921 – May 28, 2019

Barbara J. Hunter passed away on May 28, 2019, two months short of her 98th birthday. She was born August 6th, 1921, in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.

Barbara was the oldest of three children born to Genevieve (Fordham) and Joseph T. Juhan. Genevieve was the daughter of E.E. Fordham, an Englishman who came to Colorado and became a banker, local government official, and prominent state legislator. Joseph was the son of a blacksmith. He was a geologist, engineer, miner, and an oil and gas landman and wildcatter.

Barbara grew up in lean years in the twenties and the Great Depression. She knew the pressure of going to the grocery store to ask for food on credit, and the anxiety that came from living in a family where income was intermittent. Barbara never forgot those lean times, and lived frugally for her means the rest of her life. She was a gentle and compassionate soul. She enjoyed sharing her resources with others and provided help to many friends as well as family members.

Barbara was smart, and a good student. She graduated at the top of her class at Glenwood High School, where she met another smart student, Elmer Hunter. They competed for the top marks in every subject, and to see who could raise their hand first for every question from their teachers. They became a couple and would go on to tie the knot in 1942.

First though, was college. Barbara went away to Principia College, and after a year transferred to the University of Colorado and then Colorado State University where she joined Elmer. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from CSU. Barbara and Elmer were married, and like so many couples of the day, were quickly separated by World War II. Elmer went with the Army to Europe, and Barbara went to the University of Chicago for a Master’s Degree in social work.

During those war years, Barbara did social work in Chicago, and saw the effects of poverty on children and families in one of our largest cities. She was compassionate by nature and would spend the rest of her life helping others in need. After the war, reunited with Elmer in Colorado, Barbara did county social work for several years before lending her effort to the baby boom.

Barbara and Elmer had three children – David, Carroll Jo, and Chuck. Barbara’s family became her primary focus, and she raised her children with love and kindness, first on a ranch in Rifle, Colorado, and then in Fort Collins, Colorado. She was the nurturer, the teacher, the supporter, and the care giver for her children, and especially so for Carroll Jo, who developed diabetes at the age of 12. As a mother she was kind, interested, and involved. She had high expectations for her children for school, for values, and for character.

She was a great listener, who wanted her children to develop their own voices. Barbara let her children know their opinions mattered. Barbara was the champion of her children, and gave them the opportunity to grow, take risks, and become independent. Allowing Dave to drive up icy mountain passes in a beat- up old ford to teach skiing, or supporting Carroll Jo in an interracial marriage which was controversial in the day, or allowing Chuck to hitchhike around New England to look at colleges, gave them room take risks and grow. Her children developed self confidence that served them well in life.

She was honest with her children throughout her life. She would talk with them about any subject, and no question went unanswered. Sometimes those answers included details that were surprising in their openness, even in her later years.

In 1967, Barbara moved with the family (minus Dave, who was off to the University of Colorado as a freshman) to Darien Connecticut where Elmer had taken a new job. She had to adjust to a very foreign east coast lifestyle, make new friends, and learn how to cope in a new world of corporate culture. She plunged into a new world of entertaining, gourmet dinner clubs, and the cultural activities of New York City. She was determined to adjust, and succeed, and she did.

In 1972, with all the children out of the roost, Barbara and Elmer divorced after 29 years of marriage. Barbara moved to Tucson, Arizona where she could help both her mother and her beloved daughter Carroll Jo, who was coping with more serious complications from her diabetes. Carroll Jo died in 1985 from complications of diabetes.

In Tucson, Barbara met a warm, caring and thoughtful Henry Scibienski – a good match for her own caring soul. They were married in 1975. Barbara and Hank had 21 good years together. They enjoyed their several Tucson homes, traveling the country, going on cruises around the world with friends and relatives, and visiting Montana.

Barbara loved the mountains, being by a stream or a lake, and getting a fresh trout in the pan as often as possible. Barbara and Hank decided to begin spending their summers in Montana, and the family joined together to purchase a cabin on Placid Lake. The cabin provided happy family times, where Barbara could be with her sons and watch her grandchildren splash in the water. Many hours were spent playing games around the table, and Barbara proved her mastery of geography by knowing every map related answer to trivial pursuit.

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Following Hank’s death, Barbara moved to Montana in 2007, to be with her family full time. Living first by herself, and later moving to the Waterford (now Touchmark) she became a part of the Helena community. In her years at Touchmark, she made many dear friends, and organized many activities. She was recognized by her peers as a leader, and as a friend to all.

The Christian Science Church was central to her life. Over the years she served as the chair of the board, a lay reader, Sunday School teacher, nursery worker and on the music committee. Her favorite volunteer time was serving in the Christian Science Reading Room which was a combination of library and office. She enjoyed the contact with the public and getting to talk with people about the church.

Barbara was also recognized in the community as a philanthropist. She made significant gifts to the Myrna Loy which allowed the Myrna Loy to upgrade their movies to digital formats. She supported her church, the Montana Community Foundation, PBS and made contributions to many other charitable organizations in Helena and around the country. She was always involved in helping others at the personal level too, whether it was purchasing a used car for a friend who had no transportation, or paying the rent for a friend in need, she provided support and comfort to many.

Barbara was sharp and intellectually curious to her last day. She read the paper every day because she wanted meaningful conversations. She read the paper not only for things she was interested in, but for things those around her were interested in, so that she could draw them into conversation that allowed them to express themselves.

Barbara was determined to be in charge of her own life, and she did not want to be a burden to anyone. She gave up her car voluntarily so no one had to take the responsibility to take it away. She moved herself to Touchmark so no one had to suggest she shouldn’t live independently and moved herself to assisted living because she wanted that too to be her own decision.

Even as she grew more dependent on a walker and oxygen, she made her own arrangements and remained independent. On the way to the hospital a few days before she passed, she insisted on walking herself out of Touchmark and into the hospital, declining a wheelchair.

Barbara is survived by her two sons, David (Linda) and Chuck (Casi); and four grandchildren, Jeff of Seattle, WA, Tia Dostal (Mark) of Seattle, Tyler Bracken (Becca) of Helena, and Cole, of Santa Clara California; and four great grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her daughter, Carroll Jo. Cremation has taken place. A family event will take place later in the summer and there will be a public memorial service for friends. In lieu of gifts or flowers, please make a donation to a charity, or simply do a kindness for another in Barbara’s memory.

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