Barbara Quinn passed away on Wednesday, March 6 in Houston following a sudden and brief battle with thyroid cancer. She spent her final weeks surrounded by family and visits from close friends.
Born in Berlin, Germany, she was the daughter, and second child, of Herbert Jacob “Pop” and Lucy Stern. Her brother Herb Stern was born three years earlier. The Stern family had a comfortable life. Connoisseurs of the fine arts, the Sterns enjoyed artwork, classical music, opera, and ballet. Barbara began ballet lessons at age 7 and performed at the WinterGarten in Berlin.
Pop was a lawyer and insurance broker who traveled throughout Europe. Lucy died in 1933 when Barbara was just 10 years old. Shortly thereafter, Pop was arrested by the Nazis for taking money out of Germany and sentenced to two years in prison. Barbara was sent to live with her Aunt and cousin in Czechoslovakia. In 1936, with Pop out of prison, brother Herb was sent to Ohio to live with distant cousins. In 1938, Pop and his new fiancée, Annie Reinman, moved to London and sent for Barbara to join them. Barbara flew out of Prague on September 14, 1938, the night before the Nazis marched into the city. Barbara settled in the English countryside to work as an au pair for a friend of the family in order to learn English.
On August 12, 1942, a young American soldier, James Karr Quinn, whistled at her as she crossed Hyde Park and told her “it’s my birthday, would you like to join me for a cup of coffee?” She agreed after demanding proof that it was his birthday. James wooed Barbara and the following year they were married on December 10, 1943, her 21st birthday. They lived in London until the end of the war. James returned to Austin, Texas in October 1945 and Barbara followed six months later in March 1946 with other war brides.
Shortly after arriving in the U.S., James and Barbara moved to Bryan, Texas. On September 11, 1947, their son Jimmy was born; two and one half years later, on February 9, 1950, twins Sue and Ann were born. The young family moved to Galveston in 1953. James took a position with Sears, Roebuck & Co. the following year, and they moved to Houston. They purchased a home in the Montrose area and maintained that residence for 64 years. Both James and Barbara were active in PTA, Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, school carnivals, and other fund raisers.
The Quinn’s were avid campers and enjoyed the beach at Galveston and the lakes of central Texas. In 1960, they purchased land on Lake Travis and cleared the land and built a cabin that served them summers and weekends for the next four decades.
Barbara worked as a school crossing guard in the late 50’s and early 60’s until a surprise pregnancy. On June 7, 1964, Nancy was born into the family. Years later, Barbara began babysitting, pet sitting, and house sitting for several families that she remained friends with for the rest of her life. In 1977, she began working at Mothers’ Day Out at First Presbyterian Church of Houston, retiring in 1992.
Babs, as she was affectionately known by her close friends, was a great animal lover and dogs, cats, and birds were instantly attracted to her. She loved to travel and toured most of the United States. Her most memorable trips were Santa Fe for the opera, New England for the autumn foliage, a sternwheeler up the Mississippi, and Western North Carolina for her son’s wedding. She also enjoyed trips to Hawaii, Mexico, the Caribbean, New Zealand, Alaska, Canada, Ireland, Austria, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, England, the Virgin Islands, and her dream trip of a river cruise on the Danube.
James and Barbara were married for 45 years until his death in 1989. Their family tree was well rooted by then and continued to grow. Daughter Sue was first, marrying Joe Swenson in 1971. On June 7, 1983, the first grandchild, Heather Swenson, was born to Sue and Joe. Babs then became known as Memaw to friends and family. Jimmy married Lynne Lancaster in 1989 and Babs gained two grandsons, Woody and Jack Quinn. Nancy married Hugo Llamo in 1996. Ann was last, marrying Jerry Todd in 2002. Grandson Woody married Amy Brown in 2013 and Jack married Stacie Johnson in 2014. Great-grandsons Jackson Quinn and Carson Quinn were both born in 2016.
Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Barbara was known for her culinary skills; cooking, baking, canning, and barbecuing. Her family dinners were legendary. She continued baking and preserving well into her 90’s along with sewing baby quilts for babies born in Ben Taub hospital. She remained in good health and lived in her home on Hawthorne until the month before she passed.
Barbara was a profoundly loving, compassionate, and kind wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt, and friend, with an indomitable spirit, who gave of herself her entire life. She is loved by her family and many friends and will be deeply missed.
A celebration of Barbara’s life will be conducted on Saturday, March 23, 2019 from one until four o’clock in the afternoon with a service at two at Bradshaw-Carter Memorial & Funeral Services, 1734 West Alabama Street in Houston. Her family will receive visitors beginning at one o’clock and a reception will follow the service.
The family would like to extend thanks to all friends and family for their prayers and loving support. They also wish to extend their gratitude to the doctors, nurses, and caregivers at Memorial Hermann Hospital and Houston Hospice.
The family requests that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Barbara’s name to either Houston Hospice, 1905 Holcombe Blvd, Houston, TX 77030, or Houston Humane Society, 14700 Almeda Rd, Houston, TX 77053. Condolences may be sent to the family in care of Bradshaw-Carter Memorial & Funeral Services, 1734 West Alabama, Houston, Texas 77098.
“The best part about being my age is knowing how my life worked out.”