Sunday, July 12, 2015

Aunt Barbara

I was working on a different post for this week, but I don’t think it would be appropriate now. I’ll put it up later in the month.

Barbara Sue Snyder Rainey (1934-2015)

Climbing My Family Tree: Barbara Sue Snyder Rainey (1934-2015)
Barbara Sue Snyder Rainey (1934-2015)
Click to make bigger
My Aunt Barbara, my mother’s sister, died last Sunday, and was buried yesterday. She was very ill and this is what she wanted. Her family, her children, and her sisters miss her terribly, as do her students. I feel, well, odd. I do miss her, but after I grew up and got out on my own I didn’t have a lot of contact with her. Then she, and I, joined Facebook, and friended one another, and, while we still didn’t interact whole lot, I saw what was happening in her life, and she in mine, and we “liked” each other’s pictures, and occasionally commented, and there is an “Aunt Barbara”-shaped hole in my life now. But what I’m seeing, in the outpouring of grief at her passing, is that I missed a whole lot in not knowing her better.

When I started my family research, I reached out to my aunts and uncles on both sides of the family with a series of questions about their families (the one they grew up in and the one they created), and their own lives, but this is where it does the family or at least individual members of the family, a disservice to have the one doing the family history be an overworked, insomniac introvert. Some family members responded with a lot of information, some responded with a little information, and some didn’t respond at all, and when they responded a little or not at all, I didn’t push it. I did still do online research on them (census, directories, newspapers – I thought I had more time), but perhaps I should’ve thought of different ways to contact them or tried to ask different questions for their perspective. I haven’t. And, in at least one case, now it is too late. Siblings and children and friends never have the same interpretation or understanding of your life that you do. [In my career I have found that no two or more people will have the same recollection or interpretation of any given event, or person, as we all see life through the lenses of our own personal history and emotions; and if the witnesses testifying before me do all have the same exact recollection of an event, it didn’t happen that way (collusion after the fact).] 

I can’t do a bio piece on Aunt Barbara the same way I have done with my ancestors, as much of her life is wrapped up with people who are still alive, and I won’t name people who are still alive in my blog, other than as a title. But in seeing the outpouring of love and respect in the past week, I did want to try to capture a bit of the Barbara I knew and wish I knew better.

Climbing My Family Tree: Mabel LeRe Erwin Snyder and her girls (Barbara is to the right of the girl in yellow)
Mabel LeRe Erwin Snyder and her girls
(Barbara is to the right of the girl in yellow)
Click to make bigger

By way of a bit of background, Barbara Sue Snyder Rainey was born in Findlay, Ohio, on July 21, 1934, to Mabel LeRe Erwin and Clarence Weldon Snyder, both age 24. Her father was a teacher. Both of her parents’ families were largely from Findlay, Ohio, and/or Hancock County, Ohio, but Barbara was born at the height of the Great Depression when it was very difficult to find work to support one’s family, and if work was available you moved where it was. By 1935, the family had moved to Jewett, Ohio, in Harrison County, where her father taught science in the high school. Within the next five years, Barbara acquired three younger sisters, and later another sister and a brother. As the country was ramping up to join to World War II, the family moved to Huron, Ohio where her father worked in one of the nearby defense industries; Barbara was eight. After the war, her father became a traveling toy salesman. The family remained in Huron until Clarence retired. Barbara attended most of her school years in the Huron schools and graduated from Huron High School.

Climbing My Family Tree: Barbara Sue (Snyder) Rainey on her wedding day
Barbara Sue (Snyder) Rainey on her wedding day
Click to make bigger
After graduating from high school she attended Heidelberg College (now University) in Tiffin Ohio, where she majored in music, was a member of the famed Heidelberg choir, the Hesperian Literary Society, Triad Club, and the Ohio Music Educators Association. She also participated as a soprano soloist in frequent radio and TV engagements. 

While at Heidelberg, she met and fell in love with the man who was to become her husband, who also performed with the Heidelberg choir. They married on August 28, 1954, in a beautiful ceremony (the newspaper described lovely gowns for Barbara, her maid of honor, bridesmaids, and flower girls, all of which, according to my mom, were made by her mother who was a skilled seamstress) and after a honeymoon to Michigan and Canada, the bridegroom moved to St. Louis, Missouri to attend Eden Seminary, and Barbara remained in Huron, living with her parents, while she taught sixth grade in the Vermillion OH schools. Two children were born by 1958, when the couple moved in 1958 to in Elgin Illinois, where her husband had his first pastorate. By 1962, they had moved to Toledo, Ohio, where a third child was born and her husband had obtained a new pastorate where Barbara became active in the music program, and taught in the Toledo schools. According to her obituary, during her career she taught at Shoreland Elementary, Whitmer High School, Regina Coeli and St. Stevens, in Toledo, Ohio.  She was the choir director at Point Place United Church of Christ, Lambertville United Methodist, Hampton Park Christian Church and New Hope United Methodist Church. Additionally, she directed plays at the Westgate Dinner Theater and the Toledo Music Theatre and sang with the Toledo Symphony Chorale.

Climbing My Family Tree: Barbara performed as a soloist in 'The Messiah' in 1970 (her picture is on the left)
Barbara performed as a soloist in 'The Messiah' in 1970 (her picture is on the left)
Click to make bigger

Climbing My Family Tree: Rehearsing for an Ecumenical Program in 1971, Barbara is in the middle
Rehearsing for an Ecumenical Program in 1971, Barbara is in the middle
Click to Make Bigger

Climbing My Family Tree: Barbara's production of Jesus Christ Superstar was booked to play the Toledo Masonic Auditorium - a first!
Barbara's production of Jesus Christ Superstar was booked to play the Toledo Masonic Auditorium in 1974,
marking the first time a professional producer booked a production by an amateur company
into the Masonic Auditorium, a 2,424 seat concert hall in Toledo, Ohio.
"Shaw felt the quality of the show and the favorable public response were such that it merited wider exposure."
(I saw it there when I was 14. The hall was packed! And the show was amazing.)
Click to make bigger.

In the 1980s, she lost her father and her marriage ended in divorce. In the 1990s, she lost her mother and her brother. She continued to be well-known as a musical director in her community and her church, and interviewed as a respected source by the Toledo Blade Religion Editor to contribute to an article on Cantatas and music as a Christmas spiritual tradition. 

Climbing My Family Tree: Barbara quoted in Toledo Blade article on Cantatas in 1997
Barbara quoted extensively in last third of article, in 1997
Click to Make Bigger

In 2007, she officially retired at the urging of her children but stayed active in music and as a grandmother. After a series of health problems, she died July 5, 2015, at the age of 80.

Those are the cold foundational facts, but my Aunt Barbara wasn’t your usual person, as I have seen from the outpouring of love and honor from her students in the past week, posting tributes on her Facebook page and the message section on the online obituaries. So very, very many students, from multiple decades remember her as the person who gave them the guidance and the support to find their confidence and be themselves. They described her chorus class as the one class they looked forward to all day or remembered her guidance in theater productions. Others remembered her as their piano teacher after school or on the weekend. She had a significant positive impact on the lives of many, many people. How many people can say that?

The Washington Local Schools upon learning of her death posted this on their Facebook page:
“Long-time Washington Local teacher, Barb Rainey, has passed away. Barb taught at WLS from 1969 to 1994 and was the choir and show choir teacher at Whitmer for several years. She received many accolades for her accomplishments and for the awards that the students won. Barb spent many spring breaks traveling with her students to Canada, Florida and other places to perform—the groups often won 1st and 2nd place for their performances. She loved her students, was a second mother to them and kept in touch with many of them after graduation and into adulthood. Barb was a very special person who loved kids and helped so many in their life journey. Please keep her family in your thoughts and prayers.” Following the post there are many lovely comments describing her as a great or awesome teacher.

Her obituary, written by one of her children, published in the Toledo Blade, was wonderful! Per my blog policy, I don’t name living people so I have edited the obituary to delete references to the living, which means we lose most of the first paragraph:

Not your ordinary obituary. Most obituaries start in pretty much the same way, this one will be no different. Barbara S. Rainey passed away peacefully at St. Luke's Hospital on July 5th, 2015 surrounded by family. She was preceded in death by Parents Clarence W. and Mabel L. Snyder, Brother John & Johanna Snyder (Sister-in-law) and Michael Miller (grandson). She is survived by [4 children] ... [11 grandchildren] ...[great-grandchildren, and her 4 sisters] . Barbara spent most of her school years in Huron, Ohio, graduating from Huron High School. She was also a proud graduate of Heidelberg University and The University of Toledo. After graduation, she went on to marry, have children and teach at Shoreland Elementary, Whitmer High School, Regina Coeli and St. Stevens. Barb, was the choir director at Point Place United Church of Christ, Lambertville United Methodist, Hampton Park Christian Church and New Hope United Methodist Church. All before her children imposed a mandatory retirement 2007.

"Now, remember we said at the start that this was no ordinary obituary. You see, Barb, Mrs. Rainey, Mrs. R or Mom, as she was known, had an undeniable love and passion for her students. If she wasn't helping them excel both on and off stage, she was shuttling a van load of them to a "must see" show. Whether you needed help with upcoming contests, auditions, Spanish homework or just her world famous "life advice"? There was Mrs. R. She might not approve; but she'd deal with that later. "Barbs kids", believed they could do the impossible and with her guidance, they usually did. She took an odd little show called the "Whitmer Circus" and turned it into must see "Extravaganza", "Varsity Swing Chorale" became "FanFare". She directed the 1st off Broadway production of Jesus Christ Superstar and The Fantastics right here in Toledo. Barb was a fixture in the early days of the Westgate Dinner Theater, Sang with the Symphony Chorale, created the Toledo Music Theatre; she even did a stint with the New Bedford singers. She used her unimaginable talents to produce and direct mesmerizing High School musicals and community productions, laying the groundwork for many more years of "remember when(s)" to come. All the while molding performers and non-performers alike.

"So, now you see why this couldn't be any ordinary obituary; she was certainly no ordinary lady. As her family, we got to share this extraordinary woman with the world and we couldn't be more honored. To us, there will always be a little bit of her in everyone she touched along the way. There will never be another.

"Friends are invited to visit after 10:00am Saturday July 11th 2015 at Ansberg-West Funeral Home, 3000 W Sylvania Ave, Toledo, OH 43613 where services will commence at 1:00pm. With mom's love of the arts, the family is asking that in lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to a fine arts organization of your choice. A few suggestions: The Stranahan Theater & Great Hall, Toledo School for the Arts, The Toledo Jazz Society or any other organization in your area. You may also want to consider a lighthouse preservation project in your area.”

Rest in peace, Aunt Barbara.

Climbing my Family Tree: I love this picture of my Aunt Barbara!
I love this picture of her! 

(For more complete citations contact me)
Ohio Birth Index; 1940 U.S. Census, Sandusky Register Star News, 23 July 1954, p. 8 (found at; Sandusky Register Star News, 4 September 1954, page 5 (found at; The Toledo Blade, 24 August 1962, p4 (found in Google newspaper archives); Toledo Blade, May 6, 1970, p 23 (found in Google newspaper archives); Sandusky Register, 12 December 1970, p. 2 (found in Google newspaper archives); The Toledo Blade, Saturday, April 3, 1971, p 13; caption to picture in upper right corner (found in Google newspaper archives); The Toledo Blade, 5 September 1974, P-2 (found in Google newspaper archives); Findlay Republican Courier, 30 September 1974, p. 22 (found in Google newspaper archives); Toledo Blade, 16 May 1979, p 17 (found in Google newspaper archives); The Toledo Blade, 26 March 1981, p7 (found in Google newspaper archives); The Toledo Blade, 13 December 1997, p 20 (found in Google newspaper archives); Elgin Illinois City Directories for 1958 and 1959, Washington Local Schools, Toledo Ohio, Facebook Post, July 6, 2015; Obituary, Published in the Toledo Blade on July 10, 2015, (found at


  1. You did an excellent job capturing my mother's life in your blog. Your research was excellent.

    1. Thank you, Kevin. I really wanted to. It means a lot to have you say that.

  2. My condolences, Jo, to you and your family. Your Aunt Barbara sounds like a marvelous lady. May She Rest in Peace.

  3. What a lovely tribute to your aunt. With sympathy and the hope that all your memories will help you through this sad time . . . Marian

  4. I found this today, and really needed it. I'm missing Mom pretty badly. SO, it cheered my up to read your great blog. Thank you, Jo.


Hello! Thanks for stopping by and choosing to leave a message. I read every message and I usually reply via the comment thread. [I recently discovered that I've been having technical difficulties with receiving notification of comments for the last year (2019 through Jan 2020). I think I've fixed that now. I hope. My apologies if you were caught up in that. I think I"ve caught up with, and replied to, all the comments now. EDIT: I continue to have problems. I will respond as soon as I find out there's been a comment.]