Barbara B. Wilson, 99, Bayport, Minnesota, died peacefully at the Pillars Hospice Home in Oakdale on Monday, November 29, 2021. She was born on May 9, 1922 in St. Paul to Maurine (Gossman) and Mahlon Bimer and grew up in Northfield during the Great Depression. When she was sixteen years old, she and her mother moved to Hot Springs, where she enrolled as a junior in high school.
Barbara (known as "Bobbie" to many of her schoolmates) engaged in several activities during her two years at Hot Springs High. She was a reporter and columnist for the school newspaper, a cast member in the Junior and Senior class plays, a singer in the Girls' Glee Club and the boys' and girls' Mixed Chorus, and a member of the National Honor Society. Harry Woodward, the school superintendent, wrote this in her high school yearbook: "A most jovial and wholesome girl is Barbara Bimer. I know she will be able to show herself the way." After graduating with honors, she attended Eveleth Junior College in Eveleth, Minnesota and the Kahler School of Nursing in Rochester.
On Christmas Day in 1942, Barbara married Allen Wilson, her high school sweetheart. Shortly thereafter, Allen graduated from the University of South Dakota, was inducted into the U. S. Army, and was sent overseas to fight in World War II's Italian Campaign. While he was gone, Barbara raised her infant daughter Suzan and alternated between living with relatives in Minnesota and in Hot Springs. Reflecting on that time in her life, she commented: "When I think back now, we were one of so many that were in the same boat, and I think misery loves company. . . . I can't tell you I didn't like being alone raising my baby all by myself, because I had plenty of help from the two sets of grandparents and other relatives."
When the war was over, Allen returned to Hot Springs and got a job at the Veteran's Administration Center. From 1948 to 1951, the Wilson family (which now included daughter Sally and son Stephen) lived in Minnesota, where Allen attended law school. They moved back to Hot Springs in 1951, daughter Shelley was born, and the family was now complete.
During the 1950s and 1960s, Barbara raised her four children and participated in some of their activities. She helped them with countless school projects, served as a den mother for the town's Cub Scout pack, and later became an adult leader for the local Bethel of the Job's Daughters organization. She also was active in the city's social and service clubs, including Game Club, Bridge Club, Shakespeare Club, and PEO's Chapter M (for which she served as president twice and maintained her membership for 67 years). And she continued her long-time association with the United Churches, which she initially joined soon after moving to Hot Springs in 1938.
After Allen retired from his law practice in 1986, Barbara and he became frequent travelers, taking numerous international trips to far-flung destinations. They visited every continent except Antarctica, and they returned to their favorite countries on multiple occasions. Phil Saunders and his wife Lois (Allen's sister) joined them on one of their many foreign sojourns. After they returned, Phil advised his friends "that if you go traveling overseas and want marvelous company-get Allen and Barbara to go with you-they are both tremendous travelers and besides that they can travel anytime to anyplace on anything."
For 27 years, the Wilsons maintained two primary residences-the family home in Hot Springs and a condominium in Scottsdale, Arizona. They also enjoyed visiting their cabin in Custer State Park, which had been in the Wilson family since 1940. A few years after Allen died in 2013, Barbara moved to the Croixdale assisted living facility in Bayport, Minnesota, so she could be near her two youngest children.
Throughout her life, Barbara was known for her enthusiastic engagement with, and devotion to, the people and activities that meant the most to her. She was a loving wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother. She had an infectious laugh, a sense of adventure, and a great zest for life.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her husband, and her granddaughter Kristen Spates. Survivors include her daughter Suzan Spates and husband Kenneth, Chattanooga, Tennessee; daughter Sally Balitsaris and husband Paul, Knoxville, Tennessee; son Stephen and wife Kristine, Roseville, Minnesota; daughter Shelley Campbell and husband Mark, Stillwater, Minnesota; ten grandchildren; twelve great-grandchildren; and many relatives and friends.
A memorial celebration and inurnment with her husband will be at Black Hills National Cemetery next summer. A memorial has been established in Barbara's name to benefit the United Churches of Hot Springs.
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