Who’s that woman?

I am going to brag a little this time!

We traveled to Fairbanks at the first of the month to attend the ceremony where our daughter-in-law was presented with the Woman of Distinction award from the Farthest North Council of Girl Scouts. A double honor was that she was the first recipient ever from outside the immediate Fairbanks area to receive it.

The ceremony was typical of that sort of thing: a nice dinner, silent auction items and lots of speeches. Donna Walker, Alaska’s first lady, was there in the capacity of Honorary Chair. Lieutenant Governor Byron Mallot was also present along with lots of dignitaries from BP and Fairbanks. But little Healy was not to be outdone, as two tables full, seating a dozen each were present, front and center, to cheer Barbara on.

Digression: Yes, her first name is Barbara. You can imagine the laughs we often enjoyed because of that. I have been questioned more than once when for whatever reason I needed to give someone her name and said “Barbara Walters.” And her response has become over the years, “No, I’m not the real Barbara Walters.” To save time and confusion, she uses her maiden name as her middle name when signing things formally and legally. But to people in Healy, just mention ‘Barb” and everyone knows who you mean.

I’ve known Barb was a Woman of Distinction for forty years, when, the day after she and #1 son were married, she left on her honeymoon with two brothers-in-law and a dog tagging along, to get the fish site setup for the coming season. (And more to the point, she’s stayed for 40 years.) Since then, she has presented us with three cute, cuddly, active granddaughters who have become smart, strong, productive women who probably will follow in their mother’s footsteps, almost by default.

The other two recipients were Dr. Mishelle Nace, a Fairbanks pediatrician who, among other accomplishments, does medical outreach to other countries to help children who do not have access to good health care and Wendy C. Dominique, a long time school board member in Fairbanks, and youth activist, responsible for promoting many of the youth programs in the Fairbanks area. Barbara is equally as compassionate and active in her community, working with and for the youth to make the “little town” a great place for kids to grow up. She also recognizes that at times adults need a hand, too, and doesn’t fail to offer that help when called on with meals, rides to town, a good scolding when needed, and lots of uplifting humor and compassion.

She began the trek to “distinction” early. They moved to Healy, where #1 Son had gone to high school, about 1980 after college and other trails and trials. She immediately became active with her church, and signed on to be a teacher’s aide in the early elementary grades, where she stayed until kids of her own changed her focus slightly. Throughout that time, if there was any community activity needing an extra hand, Barb was there to help, usually without being asked.

She became a storyteller, and donned many hats, including Santa Claus when needed. She was a can-can girl in a local group that performed for fund raising events, and even managed the hockey team when no one else was available. Her daughters were spaced so that she spent over twenty active years supporting the Tri-Valley school in every capacity from lunch room mom to math tutor and still found time to fill-in as librarian at the combined school/public library when the paid person needed time off. Story-time is still one of her favorite activities and she “can’t quit now because Nicholas (our great-grandson) is ready to go.” And in between all the volunteer community activities she worked on, she found time to be active in her church duties as Pastoral Administrator, which included going to the church on cold Healy mornings to make sure the furnace was still operating, and shoveling snow on Sunday if the regular shoveler didn’t show up.

Rereading this makes her sound like the perfect person but she is quick to remind anyone who might even suggest it that she has her flaws. We still laugh about the first family reunion she attended and next day an older cousin remarked, “I’ve never seen anyone drink so much tequila and still walk away” and the summer she worked as fish counter on the river for Fish and Game (before the in-river counters, they set a net and counted the salmon after a determined period of time) when she didn’t know a red from a king. Or, even learning to cook because she was not allowed in the kitchen growing up. Lots of trial and error.

We’ve known Barb through most of these burps, and through all of her good deeds and WE know who the “real” Barbara Walters is.

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