August 26, 1924 - July 29, 2019
Bobbie Ruth Wright was born to Robert Floyd Wright and Hazel Rose Bishop Wright August 26, 1924 in Godley, Texas. Moving to Fort Worth as a young child, Bobbie Ruth was raised by a village—her mother, four aunts, and one uncle—in a family apartment building owned by Uncle Dave David. All five sisters worked together next door at the downtown restaurant owned by Uncle Dave–the B&B Restaurant. By age 12, Bobbie and her mother moved to Oak Cliff with stepfather Eugene Roundstream.
Ever feisty, little Bobbie refused to answer the daily attendance roll call and when challenged, she insisted that the teacher call her Barbara. Bobbie/Barbara’s mother was quite surprised to learn this when, at a ceremony held on the LAST day of FIRST grade, Barbara Ruth Wright was crowned “Queen of Knowledge”. From that day forward, the world knew her as Barbara.
The 1941 class of Dallas Technical High School (to become Crozier Tech) yearbook describes Barbara: “Beauty, intelligence, a charming personality and alertness go into the prescription for this year’s ‘Best All Around Girl’ Barbara Wright. Barbara adds blue eyes, blonde hair, and five feet four inches, 109 pounds of vim, vigor and vitality. Completing this prescription, she adds Editor-in-chief of Tech Talk, class secretary, the National Honor Society and three Linz Awards.” Upon graduation, she was honored with a full scholarship to SMU. Though she did not complete her degree at SMU, she was the model for the value of lifelong learning.
At nineteen, she met and soon married a handsome serious-minded engineer from Washington State, William Staff. Together they would build a business, raise a family, become political activists and travel the world. As newlyweds, they embraced the adventure of entrepreneurship and began a camera repair business, Staff Laboratories. Bill would dazzle with his expertise while Barbara would wow! the customers with her charm. During WWII, Barbara hand delivered the repaired cameras by traveling by buses across town with a camera around her neck and a baby on her hip. One of Staff Laboratories’ best customers owned a car dealership and while making a camera delivery she talked the owner into moving her to the head of the long wait list enabling them to take delivery of the first new car to arrive in Dallas after the War.
Along the way Staff Laboratories joined with a small two-man engineering firm, Haag Engineering. Bill’s camera repair made way for engineering investigation and Barbara remained actively involved. Though secretarial support was always available, Bill would allow Barbara ONLY to type his long–complicated and technical–engineering reports. Barbara made the new electric typewriter whirl throughout the night and by day she served as an active civic volunteer for the Salvation Army, First Baptist Church, Camp Fire Girls, various PTA’s, Parkland Hospital, The Dallas Newcomers Club and the Dallas Historical Society. Barbara wrote the first docent training manual and taught eager tour guides at the newly founded Dallas City Park (now known as Dallas Heritage Village). Her love of history–especially Texas History–blossomed into volunteer stints with the Texas Historical Society and the Texas Historical Commission.
Through the Texas Historical Commission Barbara was introduced to the world of politics and, as a result, many were introduced to Barbara. Barbara began her passionate involvement in politics with a new-soon-to-be Congressman–Jim Collins. She became President of Preston West Republican Women’s Club and then the Dallas County Council of Republican Women. Additionally, Barbara worked on the campaigns of Governor Bill Clements, Presidential candidate John Connolly, Congressman Steve Bartlett, Mayoral candidate Tom Dunning, and County Commissioner Jim Jackson. But her most engaged and enthusiastic involvement was with the candidacy of Ronald Reagan. Barbara served as one of three State Chairmen of the Reagan campaign and headed the Texas delegation to the 1976 National Republican Convention. She travelled the State giving speeches, raising funds, and entertaining. After filming a TV ad for Governor Reagan, she (to the horror of her family) dramatically ran through the grocery store aisles mugging and declaring to all “Please, please, no autographs today.” All work was accomplished with great humor and fun. Barbara’s love of politics continued. Her final request was that her voter registration be updated. And it was.
As Haag Engineering expanded, work took Barbara and Bill around the world. Back in Dallas, Barbara focused on church, sewing, reading, taking college courses, playing the organ and Bridge. Her Bridge buddies became extended family and she constantly sought an opportunity to expand her family with an additional game.
Barbara’s journey of faith never wavered and throughout her life she was an active and contributing member of her neighborhood churches: First Baptist Dallas, Royal Haven Baptist, Prestonwood Baptist, and Saint Andrew Methodist. Her involvement in bible study gave her intellectual stimulation, personal gratification and buoyed her through life’s challenges. Scott Engle’s Bible Study at Saint Andrew was most meaningful to Barbara. Once a week, family members became the audience for her dramatic recitation recapping Scott’s lesson. At Bible Study, Barbara became known for raising her hand during each lesson. She prefaced each question with the imploring, “But…Scott…” Barbara spent hours embroidering baby quilts and pillowcases on behalf of the Saint Andrew’s Christmas Bizarre and the effort gave her great joy and the opportunity to tour Hobby Lobby frequently. Knowing how important her faith has always been, her son-in-law Paul Causey built Barbara a replicated 1860’s Texas chapel on a hillside at the family property outside of Saint Jo, Texas. Scott Engle dedicated the chapel in the presence of 100 family and friends at her 90th birthday celebration. The chapel stands today as a memorial to Barbara and her faith.
Bobbie Ruth survived life’s valleys with dignity and grace and depending when and where you came into her life; you were most probably unaware that she dealt with much. Through all, she taught her family well. She survived her home burning to the ground, she laid under a heavy piece of equipment as a tornado roared through and flattened Staff Laboratories, she kept her daughter’s home running while her first born gallantly fought and lost a lengthy battle with cancer. She survived numerous back surgeries and lived daily with a broken steel rod welded to her spine. She survived her husband’s debilitating stroke and overcame a personal battle with cancer and a heart attack on the Island of Rhodes. By example, Barbara taught lessons in the importance of friends; she stressed the value of lifelong learning; taught that housecleaning is much more fun when done with music blaring. She imparted a love of history, politics, and debate while preaching that the best material possession is a beloved book. She opted to read Norman Vincent Peale’s motivational stories to her children instead of the more traditional bedtime stories. She demonstrated the value of loving good food and showed passionate lifelong loyalty to—Heinz ketchup, vinegar and pickles. She infused humor into the darkest days and showed that you can never have too many clothes, purses and jewelry. Above all, Barbara demonstrated daily the beauty of simple faith, kindness, and joyful living.
Barbara left a legacy of fun and family. She was preceded in death by husband William Staff and daughter Barbara Ellen Kimberly. She is survived by her daughter and son-in-law Susan and Paul Causey, David and Dorothy Kimberly, grandchildren Suellen and Robert Payne, John and Gina Kimberly, Morgan and Jacob Waggoner, and Mackenzie Kate Causey. Barbara’s legacy continues with twelve great grandchildren, two great-great grandchildren, her beloved June Kieske, Jim and Petey Hale, Liz Weissenborn, her Tradition’s family, Scott and Patty Engle, and our special angel, Ralph McMillan.
A celebration of Barbara’s life will be held Tuesday, August 27th at 1:30 p.m. at Saint Andrew Methodist Church, 5801 Plano Parkway, Plano, Texas 75093. In lieu of flowers, memorials honoring Barbara may be made to Saint Andrew United Methodist Church, Scott Engle’s Teaching Ministry.
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Arrangements under the direction of:
Aria Cremation Service and Funeral Home
19310 Preston Road
Dallas, Texas 75252
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