Barbara Ann Reilly-Ryan

Barbara Ann Reilly-Ryan passed away peacefully on February 6, 2024 at Mercy South Hospital. She was born December 8, 1945 in St. Louis, Missouri, the second child of James and Esther (Miller) Reilly.

Barb attended East St Louis High School and graduated from O’Fallon Technical with a cosmetology license in 1965. She was a popular hairdresser, working at iconic St. Louis salons like Ragsdale Beauty and The House of High Styling before eventually becoming the owner of Hampton Beauty Salon in St. Louis Hills.

When her children were younger, Barb was an active member of the Christian Mothers’ Association at St. Martin of Tours Church and School in Lemay. She volunteered at fish frys, school picnics and blood drives, and served as the school “Lunch Chip Lady” for several years.

Later in life, Barb returned to school to obtain her cosmetology instructor’s license, so she could share her experiences behind the chair with budding new stylists at the National Academy of Beauty Arts. Long after her teaching career ended, Barb would occasionally run into an old student at a store or restaurant. Without fail, she would hear “Miss Reilly!” squealed from across the room and see someone running over to hug her, always saying the same things. “You were my most favorite teacher!” “You were like a mom to me!” “You taught me so much!”

In 1994, Barb made the difficult decision to retire when the progression of her degenerative joint disease and psoriatic arthritis left her unable to stand for long periods of time. The struggles of living independently in an electric wheelchair eventually led Barb to the Disability Resource Association in Jefferson County, where she discovered a whole new passion for teaching and advocacy.

Barb was a regular volunteer at the DRA and later served multiple terms as the President of their Board of Directors. She traveled frequently on their behalf to Jefferson City and to Washington D.C. as a disability rights advocate. Sharing the story of her physical challenges with legislators and budget committees, Barb played a pivotal role in securing grants for independent living assistance, accessible senior housing, and stricter enforcement of the Americans with Disability Act in small communities.

Barb’s lifelong passion for helping and caring for others was only surpassed by the unconditional love she had for her own family. She was “Barbie”, a devoted fan of the jokes and antics of her brother Jim and cousin Bob. She was “Aunt and Cousin Barb”, always scissors in hand, giving out thousands of free haircuts, colors and unfortunate perms to any and every relative… Barb radiated the nurturing love of a mother, always picking up the phone, and always leaving the door open for anyone to visit, snack, nap, breathe, heal and belong.

To her children and grandson, she was the omnipresent “ma”, “momma”, “grandma” and “GBarb”. She had super-secret friendships with the Easter Bunny, Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus. (She was Mrs. Claus’ hairdresser, of course.) She could tell if you were fibbing just by looking at the color of your tongue, and she could stop you right in your tracks with a sideways glance and your first and middle name.

Mom cherished and displayed every glued yarn/soup can/macaroni/pencil cup/art project that she ever received for her birthday or Mother’s Day, and as far as she was concerned, her grandson Andrew literally hung the Moon.

She was a fancy old bird who smelled like Elizabeth Taylor, had jewelry to match every outfit and long, perfectly-painted nails that gave the best back scratches this side of the Mississippi.

Mom snapped her fingers to Motown, swooned when she heard Johnny Mathis, and knew the lines to every Barbra Streisand movie by heart…  She loved black licorice, Ted Drewes, Gus’ Pretzels and Cardinals’ baseball… She made us fall in love with musical theater from the free seats at the Muny, and taught us all “Pig Latin” on the way to the St. Louis Zoo.

Mom absolutely hated saying goodbye at the end of any phone call, and when she was sad or bored, she’d go junk shopping and bring home treasures like an “official” Hostess Twinkie holder, or a collection of metal Cajun jazz musician frogs for the yard, or a pocket-sized emergency guide to avoiding shark and bear attacks.

Mom survived depression, divorce, breast cancer, nine major surgeries, the heartbreaking loss of her only son, and more recently the loss of her best friend and brother Jim.

Through it all, she showed us how to lean into laughter, how to shoulder sorrow and unimaginable grief… and how to persist in curiosity and generosity no matter how many lemons life hands you.

Her magical hugs could dull any heartache. Her ears never tired of listening and her love never, ever expired. Rest easy, my sweet, sweet Momma.

Barbara is survived by her daughter, Marnie (Tony) Balin and grandson Andrew; siblings Bonnie (Rennaux) Guinn, Kevin Rennaux and Denise Rennaux; nieces and nephews Paige, Jennifer, Kevin, Christopher and Sam; as well as countless aunts, cousins and friends.

She was preceded in death by her son Kenneth J. Ryan, and her brothers James (Luvella) Reilly and Kris Rennaux.

Barbara wished only to be cremated and join her son at Park Lawn Cemetery in Lemay, Missouri. There will be a private service for her immediate family later this spring.

 

Sympathy donations may be directed to support the

Disability Resource Association

130 Brandon Wallace Way

Festus, Missouri 63028

Dra4help.org

4 Comments

  1. Joyce Bickel on February 10, 2024 at 12:50 pm

    Beautiful tribute for a beautiful person.
    RIP Barb, you will certainly be missed.
    Thanks for all the memories



  2. Lisa Reynolds on February 10, 2024 at 1:25 pm

    So very sorry for your loss. What a warrior she was. I’m so sorry for your pain, Marnie, May you find some comfort in your faith, family, friends and the many happy memories you have…and the love.



  3. Patti Cox on February 10, 2024 at 5:16 pm

    This is such a beautiful tribute to your Mom. She was lovely and I am truly so sorry for this huge loss. Big hugs to you, Marnie and family.



  4. Vanessa Stellone on February 11, 2024 at 11:56 pm

    Beautiful Tribute to Barb. She was the best teacher of Cosmetology. And the nicest person. She always made me laugh. Thanks to Marnie & her family, for sharing Barb with all of us. Once you meet Barb, you are never the same. Barb is that special 💟✝️



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