Memoir: Barbara Babst
Compiled, Written &
Edited by K. R. Overholt Critchfield, © 8-01-2008
With Stephen Overholt Ford, Jack Sholl & Dennis L.
~~ Updated 8-28-2008 ~~
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
m. (1809) Maria Stauffer
Henry, Anna, Jacob, Abraham, Elizabeth,
Martin, CHRISTIAN, John.
Stauffer Overholt (1824-1911)
m. (1853) Catharine Lippincott Newmyer
Alice, Charles, Mary, Elmer, ANNIE,
May Overholt (1864-1949)
m. (1889) Carl Clayton Law
Overholt Law (1892-1982)
m. (1915) Chester Rowland Babst
Anne, BARBARA, Chester II
Jane Babst (1922-2007)
m. (1946) Franklin Shelly Ford (1919-1985)
m. (1979) Elyse Carnwath
Stephen Overholt Ford
m. (1972) Rita Bellinghiere
Matthew, Daniel, Laura, David
As the Story Goes . . .
Written by Stephen
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.
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
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.
White Dress, c. 1925
Barbara Jane Babst was the third little
daughter photographed in this lovely white dress.
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
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 Peoples 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.
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
Overholt, Annies 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.
Overholt, Annies 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.
who lived with the family included Aunt Martha
(Carl Laws half-sister, who taught Barbara
how to crochet), Aunt Lide (widow of Annies
brother Charles Overholt, who had died in 1881,
at the age of 25), and Aunt Lides son,
back on her childhood, Barbara wrote, You
have to realize that I didnt 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!
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
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
On Sundays, she said,
we werent allowed to play cards or go
to the movies. However, the family did go
to the cemetery every Sunday to visit her
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.
On a Pony, c. 1929
Barbara is seen here happily posing on a handsome
pony. Taken in front of her house, she was about
in a Row, 1933
Barbara, Ches and Anne all dressed up and
the Bowl, c. 1934
Barbara must have just dropped her roller skates,
chucking them down in favor of a bowl of fresh
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.
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.
a Rainy Day, 1942
Anne, Ches and Barbara stood shoulder to shoulder
on the sidewalk in front of their house.
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
pilots 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, Chess 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.
Valentines 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.
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
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.
Note: Look below for more about
Barbara's activities submitted by members of the
OFA, and her son, Stephen.]
Barbara Jane Babst & Franklin
Shelly Ford appeared hand-in-hand in this picture
taken at the home of Shelly's parents in
The Ford Family at Home,
Barbara and Shelly
Ford moved their family into this Wallingford
house in 1952;
Barbara lived here for the rest of her life.
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.
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.
Left to Right/Top to Bottom
Barbara's mother, Katharine
Overholt Law (b.1892)
Barbara's sister, Anne Babst (b.
Barbara Jane Babst (b. 1922)
Anne's daughter, Judy
Judy's daughter, Annie Goehring
Judy's daughter, Sarah Goehring
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
mothers 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
the Back Porch, 1998
Personality shines through as Barbara relaxes on
the back porch of her Wallingford home.
Laws 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.
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
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
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
From the Overholser Family
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,
Barbara Ford - A Gift to
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
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.
Notes & Keeping Records
Barbara Ford is seen writing
another note at the 2006 OFA gathering to
celebrate 100 years of the organization.
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.
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.
Member a Genealogist
With Barbara is a whole room full
of practicing genealogists, including Willard E.
Overholtzer and Dennis L. Oberholtzer.
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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