August 4, 1920 – November 27 2019
On August 4, 1925 in Flint, Michigan, Jacqueline Barbara Ann Jacobs was born as the fourth child of Alice and Willard Jacobs, joining her older sisters Ruth (Betty) and Phyllis, and brother Buster. She was a much loved child, playful, precocious, fun loving, intelligent and mature for her years… traits she continued to demonstrate throughout her long life. In 1946 she married a handsome WWII soldier returning from years of service in Europe (Third Division Army), Kenneth Schoolcraft. She converted and became a Roman Catholic, took Mary as her confirmation name, wed in the cathedral in Detroit, Michigan and she became Jacqueline Barbara Ann Mary Jacobs Schoolcraft, otherwise known to family and friends as Barbara Schoolcraft.
Barbara and Ken Schoolcraft built a house together in Farmington, Michigan, with other WWII veterans. They worked together on building each other’s houses, each one skilled in a different building trade. During this time they had three daughters, Susan Barbara, Patricia Ann, and Mary Theresa. They built a beautiful home which they expected to live in forever, as rooted, native Michiganders. Their oldest daughter, and then Ken, were besieged with bronchitis and pleurisy and the doctors advised that they need to leave the cold winters of Michigan and find a dry, warm climate for their health.
So, they sold everything and bought a trailer to move their young family across the country to a dry, dry climate… and discovered Phoenix, Arizona in the summer of 1958. Despite the blazing hot temps, they immediately fell in love with everything Western, and embraced the adventure of living in the desert, scorpions, and cacti. Within a few years her parents decided to retire in Phoenix, and spend their winters near their youngest daughter and granddaughters. Barbara had a great sense of adventure, loyalty and deeply loved Ken so she welcomed the move to remote Page, Arizona where they lived during his work on the construction of Glen Canyon Dam. During these years she learned to shoot a pistol, hunt rabbits, ride horses, and be a Girl Scout leader, as well as being an “extra” in the movie, “The Greatest Story Ever Told,” which was filmed on location in the canyons outside Page, AZ.
In 1963, Barbara and Ken brought their young family back to Phoenix for a few years, had a surprise fourth daughter, Jeanne Marie, and then moved to back to Detroit, Michigan for one year at the death of her mother. That year was an immersion into the extended family…brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and even her grandmother, Ruth LaBarre, who celebrated her 91st birthday with 89 descendants at the family picnic.
They returned to Phoenix in 1964 and remained there for the next several decades. They lost Jeanne to a sudden death when she was only 22 months old, a tragedy that rocked the family. Barbara’s faith was strong and even in her grief she proclaimed, “God is Good.” Barbara went to work for Sears as a cashier in their Automotive Division, and later in the Parts Department. She loved the masculine energy and enjoyed working with so many men. She proudly became the first woman Parts Manager for Sears on the West Coast. The friendships forged at Sears during her twenty years of employment endured for decades after her retirement. She also took care of her elderly father, and her mother-in-law who lived in senior living facilities.
Barbara and Ken moved out to then vacant desert in 1971, and became founding members of St. James Parish. They were very active in the Young at Heart Senior group. Ken died on January 1, 1990, leaving Barbara as a widow for almost thirty years. She consoled herself by working at almost every job in the church, from organizing Bingo, working with St. Vincent de Paul, becoming a Eucharist minister, visiting shut-ins, serving on the Finance Committee, counting the collection money every Sunday. When the new pastor arrived, Fr. Robert, she enthusiastically supported his work and mission to help the school age children in his native Uganda, and helped organize many fundraising events for the EEUU and the church festival. She was affectionately called the “Boss” and Mom, by Fr Robert and many others. She took great pleasure in people, and in life…and in traveling and seeing different parts of the country. After Ken’s death, Barbara and her friend Betty Clark took 22 trips together, one or two or three each year… from California, to Hawaii, and Canada. They earned the nicknames “Thelma and Louise” when Mom drove them on a cross-country trip to Iowa and Michigan.
In 2007, at the age of 82, Barbara decided to visit the EEUU programs in Uganda. Patricia and Mary jumped on board and they traveled to East Africa together for five weeks, visiting Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. Barbara’s energy was legendary… after a trip of 24 hours with two overnight flights they arrived in Nairobi and were met by the priests of Fr. Roberts order, The Apostles of Christ. When they offered a tour of the city, Barbara immediately said “Yes, just give us 10 minutes to change our clothes and we’ll be ready to go.” Whew!
Barbara was a very compassionate person and did a lot to care for the poor, struggling, and disadvantaged, including helping her ailing daughter, and her grandchildren through college. We nicknamed her “Blessed Barbara,” despite her feisty, “take-no-sh*t” attitude. Barbara approached every hardship she faced in life with a positive attitude, believing that there must be a higher reason for it and that some good comes out of everything. Her sense of humor and her willingness to laugh whenever she could brought joy to all around her.
When her oldest daughter Susan, who had been very seriously ill for several years and living with her, passed away in early 2018, Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, and moved from her home into Thunderbird Senior Living. She continued her Independent Living there, smoking her cigarettes on the patio and drinking her strong black coffee, under the care of a devoted caregiver and friend, Cindy Franks. Her daughters, Patricia Brandenberger and Mary Sky Schoolcraft were attentive and regular visitors, continuing to enjoy the zest for life and good humor of their mother
In March, 2018 Barbara Schoolcraft moved to Mountain Park Senior Living, to be closer to Patricia’s new home and to enjoy the social and supportive community there. Her warm smile and wit quickly earned her a place in the hearts of all the staff and caregivers at Mountain Park, and her circle of friends in the Residents Club.
Barbara Schoolcraft was a mother of four daughters, a grandmother of five, and a great grandmother to four. But more than that, she was a legend in her own time… she was a strong, independent, resourceful, loyal, family-oriented, fun loving woman who lived courageously with a great sense of humor and solid faith. She faced many adversities in her lifetime with graciousness and a sense of purpose, never with any self-pity or helplessness. She found the strength within, and in her faith, to maintain a positive, loving attitude of acceptance and to celebrate life in every way.
As she said just a few years ago, at age 92, “I just try to have as much fun as I can every day, that’s how you have a good life. That’s what you should do… just try to have as much fun as you can every day, and in the end you’ll find that you’ve had a good life.”
On November 27, 2019 at 4:30 am, she passed into the next chapter of her journey. Barbara Schoolcraft, you had a good life, a long life, and a well-loved life. We honor you; we celebrate you, and we will miss you.
A Funeral Mass will be celebrated at St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic Church, 3450 W. Ray Road, Chandler, on Friday, December 13, 2019 at 1:00 P.M. Interment will take place on Monday, December 16, 2019 at 10:00 A.M. at the National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, 23029 N. Cave Creek Road, Phoenix. In lieu of flowers donations can be made in her memory to E3Africa.org
August 4, 1920 – November 27 2019