Barb Thomas, 1954-2019

Barb Thomas and her grandkids

The subject line always makes my heart jump into my throat: “Loss of a Coworker / Friend.” Whether I knew the person or not, it always hurts a little to have death made real, and I always feel for their immediate co-workers and family.

When it’s someone I know, though… it can be heartbreaking.

I didn’t know Barb well enough to wax poetic about her for very long, but I know she was a strong woman, a fighter, and a fascinating combination of optimist and pragmatist.

She and her son came to my house years ago to rid me of the trumpet creeper that caused me so much allergic grief. I got the impression she volunteered her son to dig it up and take it away for me, but she insisted that they’d love to have this flowering vine at their house, since they weren’t allergic like I was, so it was a win-win situation. (They didn’t actually get to enjoy its flowers, unfortunately, as they moved to an apartment not long after.)

Kevin pulling vines while Barb looks on

She loved her grandkids and would gladly talk about their various triumphs, academic and otherwise. I got the impression she was the rock of her family, and my heart hurts thinking of what they all must be going through right now.

Several of us at work had been wondering where she was and how she was doing. Turns out that she’d been on medical leave recently; she made it no secret that she was a survivor of cancer, among other medical issues. I only wish I’d sought her out while she was still alive, instead of just assuming she’d be back soon to tell us all about her medical leave and how she made it through once again.

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