At the family's request memorial contributions are to be made to those listed below. Please forward payment directly to the memorial of your choice.
Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes
901 Portage Street
Kalamazoo, MI 49001
Below is the contact information for a florist recommended by the funeral home.
Life Story / Obituary
All who knew Barbara Sheldon would agree that she was truly extraordinary. She was hardworking and compassionate, gracious and genuine with a heart that was devoted for making the world around her a better place. Barb was the rock of her family who delighted in being a wife, mother, and grandmother more than anything else. Although she accomplished so much of which to be proud, she was a humble woman whose greatest source of pride and joy was found in the family she shared with the love of her life. Barb was known for her strength, her courage, and her resilient spirit, but most of all she will be remembered for her unconditional love. Life will never be the same without her here, but the lives of countless others will be forever changed because of her touch.
Life during the 1930s was anything but easy as the entire decade was cloaked in the hardship of the Great Depression. Jobs were scarce, which sent the unemployment rate soaring, and a drought that covered our nation’s heartland for nearly two years only further crippled our nation. Despite the trials around them, Stanford Barbee and Carol Leona (Kiefer) Wallace were able to shift their focus to an exciting time in their own lives as they announced the birth of the baby girl they named Barbara on September 21, 1937, in Geneva, Illinois. Raised in Batavia, Illinois, she was the only child in her family and greatly helped on the family farm as a young teen. Among her farm chores were raising chickens and selling their eggs. Barb also developed a love for riding her horses while living on the farm. Her father also worked for Commonwealth Edison in Illinois in addition to farming while her mother remained home. Barb was drawn to music very early and excelled as a trombone player in the Batavia High Orchestra. By her early college years she was a professional musician, a member of the Chicago Civic Orchestra, and frequently performed in community orchestras in the Northern Illinois area.
After graduating from Batavia High School in 1955, Barb went on to earn her Bachelor of Music degree from Northwestern University in 1962. She later continued her education and earned her Master of Arts degree as a German major from Western Michigan University in 1976.
Not to be forgotten during her years as a young woman was Barb’s introduction to the man who would change the course of her life forever. His name was David A. Sheldon, and he was from Chicago. Love blossomed, and with a desire to spend the rest of their lives together Barb and David were married on August 6, 1960, at the Baptist church in Batavia. With Barbara working, they both completed their Bachelor of Music degrees, and she supported David as he went on for graduate work at Northwestern and Indiana Universities. In 1966, Barb’s husband accepted a position in the department of music at Western, and they remained there for the rest of her life. Together they welcomed their daughter, Anne Elizabeth, into their hearts and home in 1973. Barb was an important part of her daughter’s life, and she was always there for Anne, even when Anne wasn’t so easy to deal with. She was Anne’s critic and her biggest supporter while also teaching her to give everything her all through the example she set. Even when separated by distance, Barb was always just a phone call away, and Barb never stopped offering Anne her unconditional love. She passed on her reverence and compassion for all living beings, and Barb also taught Anne the love, respect, and joy of interacting with animals, especially horses.
Throughout her life Barb enjoyed her work outside of the home as well. In her earliest years she taught third and fourth grades at Oakwood Elementary School in Kalamazoo. When her daughter was born Barb took some time off, but once Anne was a bit older she went back to work. In 1979 she began working as a legal editor for Ordinance Systems of Kalamazoo, and she remained in that position from 1987 to 1990 when the company was sold to Municipal Code of Tallahassee, Florida. In 1990, Barb began her career in the banking industry when she took a position with First of America. She later worked for National City Bank until retiring in 2006 when that company was sold to PNC Bank. While with First of America, Barb received the prestigious James H. Duncan Award for Excellence in recognition of her outstanding service in 1996.
Always one to be busy, Barb was a woman of many interests. Perhaps one of the things she loved most was traveling, especially traveling abroad. Over the years their travels took them to Peru, Russia, Tanzania, Jordan, Egypt, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Panama. Most of David's siblings and their families live in San Antonio so there were also several trips to Texas. When their daughter later moved to Germany, there were also frequent visits to Germany to see Anne and her family. Around home Barb loved gardening and tending to her plants both inside and outside. Throughout the majority of her life in Kalamazoo she was a regular member of the "German group" of the WMU "Faculty Dames." Barb loved reading and had season tickets to home games of the Bronco men's basketball team as this was her favorite team. She almost never missed the opportunity to hear Coach Hawkins at "Fast Break" gatherings. For a while Barb was able to satiate her love of riding as her daughter had a horse. Barb even used Anne’s horse to take lessons in dressage and compete in several shows.
Later in life Barb continued living life to the fullest. Most recently, she used her time volunteering on a weekly basis for Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes. During her retirement years, Barb also developed an interest in local theater and held season tickets to Western's drama productions as well as the performances at Farmers Alley Theatre. Dinner out with friends was always a special treat. She loved watching 60 Minutes and would usually also watch the PBS Frontline series. Although she always enjoyed the Kalamazoo Reading Together books, her favorites always remained some of the classics in German literature (from which she could still quote!) that she read (in German) as a student.
Vibrant, introspective, and fun-loving with a contagious zest for life, Barbara Sheldon was the heartbeat of wherever she went. Although she was private, she was also a social butterfly who enjoyed being surrounded by her family and friends. A friend of Barb’s was a friend for life, and her friends were an important source of strength during her health struggles. Although she was polite and tolerant, she wasn’t willing to deal with unannounced salespeople who came to her door. A realist, Barb could often be heard saying things like, “What will be will be,” and her courage never wavered. Deeply loved, she will be forever missed.
Barbara Sheldon, of Kalamazoo, died May 21, 2016. Barb’s family includes her husband, David; daughter, Dr. Anne Elizabeth (Michael) Knaus; and 2 grandchildren: Thorald Knaus (20) and Sigrun Knaus (13). Cremation will take place. Services will take place Saturday, August 6, 2016, 3 p.m. at the Life Story Funeral Homes, Betzler – Kalamazoo; 6080 Stadium Drive (269-375-2900). A reception will follow in the Life Story Center. Please visit Barb’s personal web page at www.lifestorynet.com, where you can archive a favorite memory or photo of her and sign her online guestbook before coming to the funeral home. Memorial donations may be made to Hospice Care of Southwest Michigan or Kalamazoo Loaves and Fishes.