Barbara Oakes Romanos of Durham, NC passed peacefully, surrounded by loved ones at the age of 90.
Born May 15th, 1932, in Boston, MA – Barbara lived through the Great Depression and second World War but still managed to have a happy childhood. Her parents, George F. and Mildred (Brander) Oakes, worked hard to provide Barbara and her sisters a safe, loving home. As Barbara would tell it, “We didn’t have much, but we never went hungry and we always knew we were loved.”
Never a fan of sitting around doing nothing, Barbara was a natural fit for nursing school. While out at a square dance for local students, she met a young Harvard man with a funny accent named Valentin Romanos. With little delay, she married the Romanian immigrant on July 5, 1952 and started a family shortly thereafter.
Val and Barbara’s “happily ever after” didn’t follow the typical post-Harvard mold. Val was forced to drop out and enter the workforce and with a growing family, Barbara continued to work full-time as a nurse. The two of them raised their four children (all surviving) – Victoria, George, Eric, and Theodore – in shifts, collaborating to make ends-meet in a time when two-income households were not the norm.
Despite the pressures of being a provider and a nurturer, Barbara never let her family down. After long shifts of tending to patients, she would cook dinner, ask everyone about their days, and always show up for special life events.
She was the rare person who valued your company without demanding it. She loved to visit with family but never had a problem shooing people along to attend to other important matters. Never one to pass harsh judgements, she was always open-minded and chose to focus on the good in others.
Throughout her golden years, she kept a sharp wit and a curious mind. She was keenly aware of family goings-on and the world news of the moment. She never forgot a birthday and always made sure to vote early.
In years past, Barbara attended the Unitarian Universalist church, though she described herself as “not all that religious.” Towards the end of her life, she was asked what she thought lied beyond, to which she replied, “I think your spirit just leaves your body and flies up to heaven where you’re greeted by loved ones who have also passed.”
We’re certain she’s back to enjoying the company of her beloved Val, sisters Florence and Linda, her parents, and even her cat, Millie. For those of us who remain – all four children, five grandchildren (Patrick, Nicholas, Jesse, Marcus, and Austin) and great-grandchildren (Aurora and Valerie) – we will miss her dearly.
A celebration of Barbara’s life will be held at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to UNC-TV, which added richness and joy to Barbara’s life until the very end.
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