Barbara Joy (Olsen) Pahl, age 86, died unexpectedly in her home last week. Barb was born in Appleton on June 12, 1936, the daughter of John—a paper-chemist and dairy-farmer, and Ruth Olsen, a homemaker and school secretary. Though Barbara graduated from Gillett High School in 1954, she spent all but her senior year at Bonduel, where she was an Honor Roll student, earned letters in forensics and cheerleading, sang in chorus, and was drum majorette. After graduation, Barb began working in Appleton at Aid Association for Lutherans (now Thrivent), initially on IBM machines, then as a secretary. At AAL, she met her husband, Fred C. Pahl, and they were married on September 7, 1957.
Their faithful union lasted until Fred’s death on January 15, 2022, although she kept talking to him even after that. Barb and Fred had three children, who survive them: Jon (Lisa) of Clintonville; Andrew (Melissa) of Greenville; and David (Heather) of Shawano. She loved her daughters-in-law like her own, and mentioned frequently how proud she was of them. Mom enjoyed having all her kids nearby for the past six years—or so she said. We know she enjoyed her grandchildren: Justin (Genevieve) of Juneau, AK; Nathan (Kate) of Grand Chute; and Rheanne of Milwaukee; Alexander and Lauren of Milwaukee; Matthew and Amanda of Raleigh, NC, and two great-grandchildren (Jaxon and Kyle, sons of Nate and Kate). Barb also had four siblings—Joanie (d. 2013), John (“Buzz”—d. 2015), Beverly, and Karmen, along with many nieces, nephews, and cousins.
For twenty-two years, Barbara worked as a Therapy/Special Education Assistant for Appleton Area Schools at Highlands Elementary. It was work she found exceptionally rewarding, with colleagues who valued her gifts. She was also active in International Training in Communications (ITC), winning several speech contests, including Nationals one year that took her (accompanied by her sister, Joanie) to the international competition in New Zealand. She had a stellar memory, and she didn’t get stage fright. For many years, Barb also produced and was host of a cable-access television show in Appleton, “Senior Showcase,” where she interviewed local public figures about issues of concern to senior citizens. She was an active and diligent member of Faith Lutheran Church for over sixty-five years, and she attended First Congregational Church as well. She was also active in many local charities and causes, enjoyed the symphony and other arts in Appleton, was always reading something, and had many good friends. She raised her three boys by means of clear communication, a strong will, an abiding faith, unconditional love (but strict ethics), and excellent home-cooked dinners—all this while also keeping an immaculate home and being a skilled seamstress. Mom was always willing to listen—and she usually had something to say, too; phone calls with her rarely lasted less than a half-hour. An avid fan of the Packers, Badgers, Braves, Brewers, and Bucks, she especially enjoyed following her kids’ and grandkids’ sporting adventures in person. In her youth, Barbara was a graceful figure-skater, which led to a life-long love of that sport, especially in the Olympics. Mom savored family gatherings where she would talk with everybody, share her fantastic pickles (or hot dish…or pies), and she also appreciated a good dry gin martini (shaken, not stirred). She will be missed terribly, even as we celebrate her rich life and warm Spirit, now at peace with her labors complete, living fully into the meaning of her middle name for eternity.
A celebration of Barb’s life will be held on Friday, May 19, 2023, at 11:00 AM, at Faith Lutheran Church, 601 E. Glendale Ave, Appleton. A visitation will be held prior, from 9:00 AM until the time of the service.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to the Fred C. and Barbara J. Pahl Family Fund through Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region.