Memoir: Barbara Babst Ford
Compiled, Written & Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, 8-01-2008
With Stephen Overholt Ford, Jack Sholl & Dennis L. Oberholtzer
~~ Updated 8-28-2008 ~~

In Remembrance

Just as autumn was ushering in the winter weather, on the morning of November 3, 2007, Barbara Babst Ford was found quiet in her bed. She had passed away in the night. A few days later, I received an e-mail about the sad event, and was taken by surprise, never aware she had been ill.

"I'm Barbara Ford's youngest son," wrote Stephen Ford. "I'm sorry to inform you that my mother passed away on Saturday, 11/3. Thankfully, she died peacefully in her sleep. She had not been in any pain. I arrived Friday afternoon from Omaha with the intention of spending a few days with her. I'm so glad I got to see her before she died. My brother and his wife were also here with her on Friday. She had been getting weaker every day, and we all believe that she was just waiting for me to get here."

In the days that followed, a memorial service was held at Wallingford Presbyterian Church, followed by a reception. The interment was private, as Barbara Jane Babst Ford -- wife of the late Franklin Shelly Ford, mother of James and Stephen, sister of Anne Babst Aufderheide, and grandmother of six grandchildren -- was laid to rest.


The Overholt Family Tree
Barbara’s Branches

Abraham Overholt (1784-1870)
m. (1809) Maria Stauffer (1791-1874)
8 Children
Henry, Anna, Jacob, Abraham, Elizabeth,
Martin, CHRISTIAN, John.

Christian Stauffer Overholt (1824-1911)
m. (1853) Catharine Lippincott Newmyer (1831-1894)
6 Children

Alice, Charles, Mary, Elmer, ANNIE, William

Annie May Overholt (1864-1949)
m. (1889) Carl Clayton Law (1861-1938)
2 Children


Katharine Overholt Law (1892-1982)
m. (1915) Chester Rowland Babst (1886-1925)
3 Children
Anne, BARBARA, Chester II

Barbara Jane Babst (1922-2007)
m. (1946) Franklin Shelly Ford (1919-1985)
2 Children

James, Stephen
<~~ * * ~~>

James Shelly Ford
m. (1979) Elyse Carnwath
2 Children

Allison, Jessica

Stephen Overholt Ford
m. (1972) Rita Bellinghiere
4 Children

Matthew, Daniel, Laura, David


As the Story Goes . . .

Biographical Data
Written by Stephen Overholt Ford

Barbara Jane Babst was born on April 7, 1922, at her parents’ home in the Friendship neighborhood of the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Her father, Chester Babst, was president of the Charles Babst Company, which sold physician supplies. Chester died in 1925, at the age of 38, leaving behind his daughters Anne (age 6) and Barbara (age 2), and his wife Katharine, who was pregnant. Four months later, a son was born, and he was named Chester Babst II.

Following the death of her husband, Katharine and her children moved in with her parents, who lived on the same block. To support her family, she baked cakes and sold them. She also sold Christmas cards and magazine subscriptions.

Barbara never really knew her Babst grandparents. Grandfather Babst died before she was born, and although she was only five when her grandmother died, Barbara wrote in 2001, “It is funny that I can still taste her potato salad."

This photo of Barbara as a child, wearing a white dress, has an interesting story. Beginning with a young Katharine Overholt Law, Barbara's mother, every girl born in the family has had her picture taken wearing that dress. Eventually, all the photos were collected and framed (see the result below). The dress is still being saved for the next little girl down the line.

The White Dress, c. 1925
Barbara Jane Babst was the third little daughter photographed in this lovely white dress.

Walking Along in Atlantic City, c. 1927
Barbara, grandmother Annie May Overholt Law, grandfather Carl Clayton Law, and
older sister Anne were walking along in Atlantic City, when this photograph was taken.

Law Family Values

Barbara remembered her Law grandparents as “the sweetest people in the world.” Her grandfather, Carl Law, was “a very gentle man, looking out for us in every way.” He held numerous jobs -- worked for the H. C. Fry Glass Company in Rochester, Pa.; served as president of People’s National Bank in Ellwood City; and also started his own business, the L & H Transportation Company. At the time of his death in 1938, he was serving his company as secretary/treasurer.

Annie May Law helped raise her grandchildren. Always sensitive to the needs of family, she had an open door policy for any relative who needed a place to stay. At one point, there were 10 people living in her 3-story Victorian house. “She was like a mother to me,” remembered Barbara, “a kind, gentle lady to whom I owe so much for her help in raising the three of us.”

Alice Overholt, Annie’s sister, never married. She lived with Carl and Annie from 1894, until her death in 1939. Barbara recalled wryly that, “My memory of Aunt Alice was seeing her in the pantry eating out of the peanut butter and the pickled beets jars. I never ate either one, because of that.”

William Overholt, Annie’s younger brother, lived with them for a while, after his wife of twenty years died. He married again, but when his second wife died in 1931, he came back to live with Carl and Annie. Barbara remembers being very close to her Uncle Bill. “He had the room next to mine. He called me 'Slim,' and saved his pennies for me. He would sit in his chair and smoke cigars, and listen to the radio. I lost someone very important to me when he died.” Uncle Bill died in 1953.

Others who lived with the family included Aunt Martha (Carl Law’s half-sister, who taught Barbara how to crochet), Aunt Lide (widow of Annie’s brother Charles Overholt, who had died in 1881, at the age of 25), and Aunt Lide’s son, Elmer Overholt.

Looking back on her childhood, Barbara wrote, “You have to realize that I didn’t have a real mother-father family. It seemed to me that there were three little children with a lot of old people, and we had to behave!”

Her favorite pet was Rowdy, a black cocker spaniel, but the family also had a terrier named Teddy, who was killed while her grandfather was walking him. She remembers that her grandfather “carried Teddy home and put him on the kitchen table, and we all stood around and cried.”

In grade school, Barbara received a weekly allowance of five cents. “A movie cost a dime, so I would go every other week, and stay most of the day. I would go to the Enright Theater in East Liberty on Saturday morning, and watch movies. You could stay as long as you wanted to.”

“On Sundays,” she said, “we weren’t allowed to play cards or go to the movies.” However, the family did go to the cemetery every Sunday to visit her father’s grave.

In grade school, she said her biggest problem was “being terribly shy and scared to death of standing up in class.” When the teacher called on her to answer a question, “I let the other Barbara answer it.”

During her high school years, she recalled, a White Castle hamburger cost five cents. “I remember one time on my birthday, when I was walking home from high school with my boyfriend, I saw some poor children outside the White Castle, and I gave them each a nickel and told them that it was to celebrate my birthday.”

In recent memory, Barbara never mentioned what her favorite subject in school was, but her least favorite was math.

Sitting On a Pony, c. 1929
Barbara is seen here happily posing on a handsome pony. Taken in front of her house, she was about age 7.

Siblings in a Row, 1933
Barbara, Ches and Anne all dressed up and standing tall.

Licking the Bowl, c. 1934
Barbara must have just dropped her roller skates, chucking them down in favor of a bowl of fresh cake frosting.

A Young Lady, 1936
Barbara poses in front of her house, about age 14, every inch a young lady in a pert hat and a fashionable long coat.

High School Portait, c. 1937
Barbara was in high school in Pittsburgh, when this lovely portrait was made.

In her senior year at Peabody High School, Barbara was voted Miss Peabody. She called home to give her mother the news, adding that it was too bad that her grandfather was not alive to share in her happiness, for he had died just the year before.

On a Rainy Day, 1942
Anne, Ches and Barbara stood shoulder to shoulder on the sidewalk in front of their house.

Post High School

After graduating from Peabody High School in Pittsburgh, Barbara attended Sullins College in Bristol, Virginia, a 2-year liberal arts college for women. She enrolled in a secretarial course, but was unable to return after her first year -- there was not enough money for a second year.

Barbara was about 21 years old when she took her first plane ride. A friend called, “and said he had just received his pilot’s license, and wanted to know if I would like to go for a ride in an 800-pound seaplane. I said sure, and off we went. We flew under some of the Pittsburgh bridges, and then landed safely. I loved it!”

During World War II, Barbara's brother Ches served in the Army Air Corps for two and a half years. After the war, he married his high school sweetheart, and they had a son. In 1948, Ches’s appendix burst, and he died of peritonitis within a week. He was just 22 years old at the time. Barbara said that her saddest experience was attending his funeral.

After her year at Sullins, and around the time the United States entered World War II, she found employment as a file clerk at Carnegie-Illinois Steel Company in Pittsburgh. She worked there for two years, and then, “due to lack of excitement in that job,” she went to work for the Red Cross mobile blood bank as a secretary. She remained with the Red Cross until the blood bank closed at the end of the war. During the war, she also served as a hostess at the Officers’ Club of Pittsburgh, located in the Fort Pitt Hotel.


On Valentine’s Day in 1946, while visiting relatives in the Philadelphia area, Barbara Jane Babst met Franklin Shelly Ford of Lansdowne, Pennsylvania. The young man had recently returned from four years of active duty with the U.S. Navy, having served as Executive Officer of an attack-cargo ship, attaining the rank of Lieutenant Commander. Before long, Barbara and Shelly were engaged, and then were married in November of the same year.

Barbara and Shelly's first son, James, was born in 1948, and Stephen came in 1950. Two years later, the family moved to a house that became their permanent address in Wallingford, which is southwest of the city of Philadelphia. As time went by, the Fords raised their sons, saw them married (Stephen in 1972; James in 1979) and have children of their own. In the year 1985, at the age of 66, Franklin Shelly Ford died after a long illness.

Thereafter, Barbara continued to "carry on," as a mother and grandmother, serving her congregation at Wallingford Presbyterian Church, and serving the Overholser Family Association for 20 years as their genealogist and editor of the OFA newsletter. In 1995, her OFA activities culminated in the publication of The Oberholtzer Book, considered one of the best volumes of its kind published in recent years.

[Karen's Note: Look below for more about Barbara's activities submitted by members of the OFA, and her son, Stephen.]

Easter Day 1946
Barbara Jane Babst & Franklin Shelly Ford appeared hand-in-hand in this picture taken at the home of Shelly's parents in Lansdowne.

The Ford Family at Home, 1955
Barbara and Shelly Ford moved their family into this Wallingford house in 1952;
Barbara lived here for the rest of her life.

A Ford Family Portrait, c.1955
This is a lovely portrait of days gone by, with Barbara, sons James and Stephen, and Shelly Ford.

In addition to her wonderful sense of humor, Barbara always had a positive attitude, even through two cancer treatments endured in her latter years. In temperment, she was both generous and frugal -- habits learned from her mother and grandparents. The most important thing she learned from her mother, she said, was how to be frugal.Known as a humble lady, Barbara just "did her thing" without trying to draw attention to herself. However, every photograph on this page reveals a personality that was spunky, strong and resilient. She was a deacon of her church, and did volunteer work at Fair Acres Geriatric Center for 35 years. After a long illness, on November 3, 2007, Barbara Jane Babst Ford passed away in her home. She was 85.

The White Dress

Barbara's family has a very sweet tradition. A lovely white dress worn by her mother in a child's portrait has been passed down to each new generation of little girls. Portrait by portrait, each child appears in the dress, standing next to a wicker stool, with one exception -- little Jessica's portrait. The dress makes every picture just a tad more precious than it would be otherwise, and is a lovely way to visually connect the family tree via the daughters.

From Left to Right/Top to Bottom

Barbara's mother, Katharine Overholt Law (b.1892)
Barbara's sister, Anne Babst (b. 1918)
Barbara Jane Babst (b. 1922)

Anne's daughter, Judy Aufderheide (b.1945)
Judy's daughter, Annie Goehring (b. 1973)
Judy's daughter, Sarah Goehring (b. 1977)

Barbara's son Jim's daughter, Allison Ford (b. 1982)
Barbara's son Stephen's daughter, Laura Ford (b. 1984)
Barbara's son Jim's daughter, Jessica Ford (b. 1986)

Written by Stephen Overholt Ford

My mother’s interest in genealogy started around 1966, when she and I visited Deep Run Mennonite Cemetery in Bucks County, where our ancestor Martin Oberholtzer (1709-1744) is buried. Years later she recalled, “We wrote down all the Overholts on a yellow pad.” I was in high school at the time, and helped by taking photos of some of the gravestones.

In addition to investigating cemeteries, Mom began to do research at the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, checking street directories, census records, wills, and deed abstracts. She also joined the Bucks County Genealogical Society and the Delaware County Historical Society. Initially, her interest in family history was limited to her own ancestors and those of her in-laws.

Around this same time, she embarked on a major project arising from her growing genealogical interest. She was in possession of 80 letters written during the Civil War by her great-grandfather, Harrison Law, a bugler with the 148th Pennsylvania Volunteers, who had been killed two days before General Robert E. Lee surrendered.

On the Back Porch, 1998
Personality shines through as Barbara relaxes on the back porch of her Wallingford home.

Harrison Law’s letters had been saved by his widow and passed down through the family, but they remained hidden away in a box for a hundred years. No one in the family had ever endeavored to bring them to light. Mom made the effort to read the fading handwriting -- replete with spelling errors, highly irregular capitalization and an utter disregard for punctuation -- and transcribe everything, so that others could easily read and enjoy the letters. In this work, she used her manual typewriter and whatever scraps of paper she could find, being too frugal to spend extra money on typewriter paper!

Another milestone came in 1987, when Mom became the genealogist of the Overholser Family Association (OFA). She later took over as editor of the newsletter, which was published semi-annually. As the OFA genealogist, she began corresponding with members of the Association, helping to track down ancestors, and researching questions relating to family history.

Then in 1993, she bought a computer and, at the age of 70, taught herself how to operate it and use a word processor. She began creating computer files for all the various family histories she had been researching, both OFA-related and her own. This, in turn, led to another major undertaking -- editing The Oberholtzer Book, which was published in 1995. Not afraid of new technology, Mom got connected to the Internet in 1998, which opened up a world of possibilities for research and correspondence. Eventually, she was e-mailing or writing to hundreds of people, not only in our country, but also in Canada, Germany and the Philippines.

I believe her favorite part of genealogical research was the detective work. She especially loved to debunk commonly accepted “traditions,” by digging into the historical records. She was never satisfied to accept something because family tradition said so; she wanted proof. But even more than the detective work, she loved to help people find their ancestors.

Upon her death, Mom passed on to me her family history files -- the result of 40-plus years of research and related correspondence. More importantly, she long ago passed on to me her love for family history and the quest to learn more about our ancestors and how they lived. From her desire to preserve that knowledge, along with letters, documents and photos, my own appreciation has emerged. And all of this had its beginning on that day we wandered through the cemetery at Deep Run Mennonite Church.

From the Overholser Family Association

President's Column

First of all, on behalf of the entire Overholser Family Association, I offer our condolences and prayers to Barbara Ford's family members. Barbara passed away on November 3, 2007. On that day, a cloud of sorrow and deep shock descended over our entire Overholser family. We lost not only a dear friend, but a devoted researcher, keeper and publisher of Overholser genealogy. To say that Barbara Ford's OFA spirit was indomitable is an understatement. We will miss her very much.

- Jack Sholl, OFA President, February 2008

Barbara Ford - A Gift to the OFA

Barbara knew how to whittle. The several times I visited her at her home, I couldn't help being drawn to her talented sculptures setting about the house. It immediately reminded me of the quiet strength Barbara had flowing inside. Her whittling showed up in many aspects of her life.

When I first came to an OFA Reunion, I had only five generations back on my male line. I had information that my grandfather and great uncle had researched, but included with my info was some incorrect guessing. It was Barbara who taught me how to whittle away at the records that could not be confirmed, in order to find legal proof of the material I wanted to call "my lineage." Without the guidance of Barbara, whittling away at my presumptions, I never would have gone on to find over 90% of my ancestors back ten generations.

Barbara has been such a great blessing to hundreds of OFA members. She began by whittling away at 32 Overholser lines, slowly and methodically verifying ancestral lines in order to weed out the false presumptions of her predecessors. Many of us cannot grasp the invaluable hours it takes to do such a task., and many of us do not have the time or resources it takes to tackle such a giant task. As one who has spent much time in the Library of Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, I cannot help but believe that The Oberholtzer Book is one of the three best genealogical foundation works on family ancestry.

Barbara also knew how to whittle out two very fine young men. The Memorial Service in her honor revealed a solid strength of God's love instilled within their two families. This kind of affection does not happen overnight; rather, it is carved by the careful hands of love. Jim and his wife Elyse shared both joyful and kind moments of their mother, as did Stephen, who came in from Omaha prepared to help move his mother to a hospice, only to be here for her unexpected departure.

Whittled by Barbara
These are models of Barbara's church and the home of son James; the photographs are by her granddaughter, Allison Ford, 2008.

It takes a strong person to stand up for what is true, while being kind and gentle to the one who thinks he or she is correct in the assessments made about a family line. Barbara had the rare ability to do this, and it came from whittling out a life that was pleasing to God, and it was beneficial to all of those who came in contact with her.

Barbara has been a true gift to the Overholser Family Association. She will truly be missed. And it will not be possible to fill her shoes. Most of us do not have the time it takes to accomplish her extraordinary feats. The event of her passing away without much pain, in spite of her failing health, is a true testimony to her whittled life. May she rest in peace with our Saviour Jesus Christ.

- Dennis L. Oberholtzer, November 15, 2007


Years ago, when I began my journey on the World Wide Web, someone wrote to me about Barbara Ford and the Overholser Family Association. I was trying to learn as much as possible about genealogy in general, and Overholt family trees in particular, in order to find as many "long-lost relatives" as possible. However, I did not write to Barbara until after her name showed up several times. If she kept my e-mail correspondence from the beginning, it would be easy to track my progress from those first tentative steps, wading into the shallows of the vast ocean of genealogical research. Back then, my language was bouncy as a ball, so full of sunshine and great aspirations that I could have been a teenager! Over the years, my own e-mail from cousins far and wide taught me that we all sound "bright-eyed and bushy-tailed" (a southern expression) in the beginning. Answers from Barbara were always friendly, trim and to the point, and taught me a great deal about clarity in an endeavor that is filled with murky depths.

By July 2000, I was asking for information about the upcoming OFA family reunion, so that I could advertise it on my new web pages, and by July 2001, I was thanking her for sending me the details to buy my own copy of The Oberholtzer Book. "Thank you so much for the reply," I gushed." Since I have referred so many inquirers to you for the past few years, I often fear I may be the last person you would care to hear from. I will order a copy of the book as soon as I can afford it -- maybe at the end of the month, when my husband's paycheck comes in." But I had to wait until Christmas before sending a check. When the book arrived in the mail, I was very excited, and it did not take long for me to sit down and figure out where my direct ancestors were listed and where their stories fit in with the enormous extended family that was revealed by that volume. From the start, I was thoroughly impressed by the tremendous amount of work it must have been to bring together so much data from so many sources and finally achieve publication. I feel the same way every single time I pick it up to track down information for someone who has written to me.

Making Notes & Keeping Records
Barbara Ford is seen writing another note at the 2006 OFA gathering to celebrate 100 years of the organization.

August 5, 2006

When the 100th anniversary reunion of the Overholser Family Association rolled around in 2006, and I was able to attend, I was so happy to meet Barbara Ford in person! By this time, we had been communicating with one another about family tree matters for several years, but once again I felt like an adolescent kid when I asked if she would autograph my copy of The Oberholtzer Book. But she took the request in stride, wrote "Best wishes Barbara Ford," and then went on with other tasks. I would have enjoyed sharing more time with her, or maybe discussing something important, but my mind was pretty much a blank, and so the moment passed.

The last communication I received from Barbara was an e-mail dated July 25, 2007. I had sent a note to her announcing the publication of my OFA web page and asked if she would check it for errors.

"Hi Karen," she wrote. "Thanks so much for the great job you did on the Overholser Family Association article. We appreciate all your hard work very much." And then she mentioned a couple small corrections. It was her son Jim who was the oldest, not the youngest, and it was son Steve who "has always been interested in the family history and will inherit my files on them." Answering my query about sales of The Oberholtzer Book, she added, "We have sold 13 more books since the reunion, so that should make a total of 631 sold to date. After 12 years since the printing, I don't expect too many sales. Have a good summer. Barbara"

Well, I immediately made corrections and additions to the web page, and sent a "thank you" note, adding, "I hope this year's reunion is a big success! As for future sales of The Oberholtzer Book, I am thinking it will be popular for quite some time. Happy summer!" In the middle of September, I sent to Barbara a copy of my e-mails to a "first contact," regarding all the data I could find that might establish a connection to Ann Overholt (b. abt. 1809/12, Fonthill, Ontario, Canada), just in case she had other data that could help my correspondent. About three weeks later, an e-mail came from Stephen Ford, letting me know the sad news.

It has been a blessing to put this web page together to highlight the life of my cousin, Barbara Jane Babst Ford.


This memoir shows us a little something about a person's life, using a small collection of photos and a short compilation of paragraphs. The intent has been to honor the life of a valued member of the extended family, one who has joined the ranks of our ancestors. Yet, the value we place on any life is shaped and shaded by personal contact and personal experience. Pictures and paragraphs only provide suggestions about the life of someone. If we have actually known someone -- shared common breath, so to speak -- it is easy to feel their loss, when it happens. In contrast, those of us who have found value in mere names and dates -- often artless jots used to register an ancestor's life and death -- we call the exercise "genealogy." Every name and date comes to us from someone from somewhere, someplace in recorded time, and it often takes every bit of imagination we can muster to see the living individual behind what the data merely suggests.

Every Member a Genealogist
With Barbara is a whole room full of practicing genealogists, including Willard E. Overholtzer and Dennis L. Oberholtzer.
Whether experienced or rank amateur, to be a genealogist is to be a scientist, historian, and philosopher, and the kind of person who nurtures the faith that the accumulation of all the facts and figures really matters. We have to believe that someone somewhere will be helped and enlightened by the information, because we have been similarly helped and enlightened by it. First hand, we have experienced an expansion of how we see ourselves, and marked how our single human life transformed into what it always had been -- a singular expression and the extension of many lives from the past. Through the long process of understanding our own family tree, we become many-layered individuals with multiple prospects to belong to the future, especially if we have children. And the preciousness of every life becomes so enormous that we can hardly bear it! What a huge heartache to lose someone we love! What a huge blessing to behold a newborn baby!

Generations should be everybody's middle name, for we are generations, and we are important to each other.

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