Barbara Joy Thies certainly lived up to her middle name. The Forest Park stalwart, who has been such a blessing to our community, succumbed to cancer on Jan. 8 at the age of 57.
Perhaps Barb was so fun loving as an adult because she didn’t have much time to play as a child. Barb’s mother died when she was 12, so she had to take care of her younger brother and sister and be a helpmate to her dad.
When Barb moved to Forest Park 18 years ago, she jumped into community life with both feet. She helped run Little League for six years. Her husband Dave joked that Barb made so many friends through Little League she should’ve run for mayor. But, if you consider all of Barb’s baseball responsibilities, mayor would’ve been a demotion.
After her son Ryan played his last baseball game, Barb left Little League and landed a job at Field-Stevenson as a school secretary. She was a friendly presence in the school office for the next eight years. She also kept her hand in community affairs during the summer, working at the Park District.
But Barb’s contributions to Forest Park life didn’t end with her hard work at the school and the park. She also started a “Birthday Club” for her Forest Park friends. Every month this group of Forest Park mothers lingered at a restaurant table for hours comparing notes on their kids. In between these gatherings, Barb often invited neighbors and friends to join her on her deck.
In December 2005, Barb began getting headaches and was diagnosed with tumors. She underwent all the treatments and would not allow the disease to get her down. Barb continued to walk to her job at the school, despite the overwhelming fatigue from her treatments. Even when the illness affected her balance, Barb hobbled to and from the job that helped give her life meaning.
Feisty until the end, Barb insisted on going Christmas shopping in late December and no one could talk her out of it.
After Barb died, her son Jeff and the rest of her family were amazed by the turnout at the funeral home. Field-Stevenson students, who had made get well cards for Barb, also brought their parents to her wake.
The next morning, the procession started out for Barb’s last trip down Beloit Avenue. It was a stirring sight to see the Park District workers and the Field-Stevenson staff standing along the street to honor Barb.
The funeral mass was celebrated by Barb’s brother, Roy. At the conclusion of his sermon, he recounted a saint’s vision of meeting God in heaven. After God greets the saint, he gives him a simple instruction, “Go play.” I’m sure that God didn’t have to say that more than once to Barb.