Barb Eckhoff was my beloved older sister, the matriarch of our family that included six siblings. During her retirement years she spent her winters in Tucson where she volunteered daily at the Beads of Courage headquarters every morning, followed by a ride in the afternoon with her husband Scott on their Harley.
She poured her loving kindness into every bead she touched and individually packaged. In her passing, I asked my employees, “How many beads in total do you think Barb packaged?” Without hesitation, their response was, “easily over 1,000,000 beads.” This does not include, as Jess Olma, a former Beads of Courage employee who worked closely with Barb shared, the several thousand she re-packaged if she felt they were not perfectly packaged by others. As Jess said, “she ran a tight ship in her corner.” Every year when Barb started back she would build her own work space off in a corner and out of the way where she could be the most productive. She was a perfectionist, but we all know she took this extra time because she too truly embraced the nature of gift giving that we thrive to represent at Beads of Courage. Every bead we give is a sacred gift to honor the courage of children and teens coping with serious illness, and they are given during a time that requires them to have great courage and strength to persevere.
Another very important and critical job where Barb was instrumental in was the cutting of our program string. It seems like such a simple task, but if you ever cut this string you would quickly agree that it is challenging at best. Children who receive Beads of Courage during their treatment for cancer or another serious illness begin to tell their story when they first receive string, and then their name is spelled out with alphabet beads before they receive their first dose of narrative medicine. According to Carlos, our Operations Manager, it is estimated that Barb cut over 200,000 strands of our program string. 200,000 strands which represents 200,000 children who received the loving kindness, and tough grit of my sister on a day that begins the toughest journey in their life. Thinking of her impact brings me incredible peace in the acute stages of experiencing tremendous grief in her passing.
In addition to caring personally for the mission of Beads of Courage and doing whatever needed to be done, Barb cared deeply for the volunteers and staff at Beads of Courage. Like a true “Gribbon Girl” she expressed this caring and love through homemade food to nurture. Weekly, sometimes twice-or-three-times weekly Barb would bring a homemade baked dessert or “bars” as we say in Minnesota to the Beads of Courage headquarters to share with our community of caring people. It brought me great joy that she was able to express another ART in our Arts-in-Medicine mission…the art of feeding people beautiful food that is so essential to maintaining the human spirit.
Thank you for your gift in honor and memory of my legendry sister Barbara Anne. Financial gifts made in her memory will be used to establish a legacy fund to help cover Beads of Courage community engagement events that involve the bringing together of the children coping with serious illness, their families, and the caring clinicians who care for them during their treatment for a serious illness. These events always involve the serving of food to nurture, and we will be able to provide this food with the financial gifts we receive given in her name honoring one of Barb’s greatest gifts and passions.
With a grateful heart,
Jean Gribbon, “baby” sister of Barbara Anne
Executive Director and Founder
Beads of Courage
My sister Barb departed us July 8, 2016. Her time on earth with us comes to an end. Today begins living a life forever missing my sister, the oldest of our family of 6, our matriarch.
“Anyone who met her will be saddened by this news,” – Elaine, a fellow Beads of Courage co-worker shared with me today during my deep grief. Fitting words as I too know this to be true. It is true of anyone that is afforded the opportunity to meet a legendary human being.
Barb was a living legend. Fortunately for me, she was my sister and I grew up watching her, learning from her, and always loving her. Because of my good fortune of being her sister, I pursue a legendary life. I know what hard work looks like from a very young age watching her care for a community through her homemade food at “Barb’s Cafe.” I remember feeling sadness for all the truck drivers who would no longer get a piece of her perfect pies and hear her sincere laughter and voice of caring from the kitchen when she closed her cafe. I know how loving and nurturing others can be experienced through a homemade pie with perfect meringue, or the simple gift of a jar of homemade barbeque sauce.
Since she began spending her winters in Tucson, I continued my lessons from my legendary sister in a “life in full circle” moment when Barb began serving my ministry and working tirelessly at Beads of Courage. She sought perfection in what she put her mind to. She did so many things better than anyone else because legends believe it can always be better, and sometimes that means you make it better with your own two hardworking hands. And sometimes, like Barb, it was your birthright, born in August, a stubborn, perfect Leo.
She will be deeply missed by all of our volunteers, our artist neighbors, and my co-workers. Sometimes I don’t know how I can hold my heavy heart inside my petite frame. But I am ever reminded that time is all we have. Time with those we love is always time best spent. Have a piece of perfect pie this week and say a prayer of peace for my dear sister Barb, my brother-in-law Scott, my nephew Paul, her precious grandchildren, and her many, many friends grieving the loss of a legendary woman. Barb, enjoy your time with mom and dad and with God’s grace, hopefully you will have many years as an only child in heaven with them.
I love you, and now will forever miss you.