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Barbara Penelton

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Barbara Penelton Obituary

PEORIA - Dr. Barbara S. Penelton, 75, of Peoria, Ill., passed away at 11:55 p.m. Monday, March 18, 2013, at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center.

Barbara's natural gift was her tireless ability to give to others. What she gave depended on the person and the situation, but it always seemed right for the moment. Her gift wasn't necessarily monetary or material, it was the ability to understand another person's needs and to resource within herself to fulfill that need with an appropriate response.

She listened, volunteered, found information, was a best friend/trusted colleague/confidant.

Her close friends and her children grew to understand that the other bedrooms in her home would rarely be unoccupied, even after her children reached adulthood, because Barbara embraced and opened her home to others.

If a situation became tense or uneasy, Barbara had an uncanny ability to recall a humorous or even ridiculous anecdote to relieve the tension.

Barbara loved and enjoyed her entire family. Her extended family, like many others, encompasses a breadth of surnames, including Spencers, Shores, Peneltons, Smiths and more. But the culture of her family life also serves as foundation to Barbara's nature of giving and sharing.

The motto "Those who claim heritage through affirmation or affiliation, through conception or consent . . ." illustrates who you might encounter at her Thanksgiving table. In her family, it never mattered if you were a half, full, or step sibling, a first or a 15th cousin, or a current or former spouse - it just never mattered. She was Mommy, Bam, Auntie Barbara, Cousin Barbara, Barb and Barbara Jeanne.

She expressed love fully in these roles and her nieces, nephews and Godchildren were loved and embraced as her children and grandchildren.

Barbara was born in Chicago on April 8, 1937, to Ruth and George Spencer.

She received her early education in Chicago Public Schools and realized at an early age that she wanted to become a teacher.

She earned a BS and an MS in education in 1958 and 1961, respectively, from the University of Illinois at Champaign-Urbana. In 1957, while studying at U of I, she met and married Frank Smith, a fellow Chicagoan who was then an art student at the university. To that union were born two daughters, Kim and Lisa. They divorced in 1965. In 1966, she met Peoria journalist Richard Penelton. They married in 1968 and Penelton adopted and raised their girls until his untimely death in 1972.

Professionally, she taught for Chicago Public Schools until 1966 (Harvard and McCosh). In 1966, she moved to Peoria, Ill., after accepting a position as director of education for the Peoria Tri-County Urban League.

In 1969, Penelton became the first African-American female faculty member at Bradley University, also in Peoria, where she taught and served as chair of the university's Department of Teacher Education in the College of Education and Health Sciences.

She is survived by her father, George Spencer Sr.; brother, George Spencer Jr.; two daughters, Lisa Penelton and Kim (husband Frank) Campbell of Chicago; and two grandchildren, Franklin and Julian Campbell. Additionally, Barbara is survived by four of her other children, Toby Smith of Los Angeles, Calif., Sheri Mathis of South Holland, Ill., Dominique Brown of Peoria, Ill., and George Lyon Spencer of Houston, Texas; eight other grandchildren, Nishay Brown, Daejunique Brown, Jordan Carter, Nathan Carter, Sydney Mathis, Joseph Mathis, Geordan Spencer and Skye Spencer; one Goddaughter, Karlyn Miller Singleton of Detroit, Mich.; one Godgranddaughter, Tamara Camille Butler of Peoria, Ill.; and a host of other much-beloved children, family members, book club sisters, sorors and friends.

Funeral services will be at 4 p.m. Sunday, March 24, 2013, at New Cornerstone Baptist Church in Peoria, with a visitation two hours prior beginning at 2 p.m. Dr. Mark A. McConnell, Pastor, will officiate. A memorial service will also be in Barbara's hometown of Chicago on Monday, March 25, 2013, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Southside Unity Center, 9320 S. Ashland Ave., Chicago, IL 60620. Barbara will be entombed at Lincoln Cemetery and Mausoleum in Alsip, Ill.

In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the Barbara S. Penelton Scholarship Fund at Bradley University, the Peoria Tri-County Urban League or to New Cornerstone Baptist Church.

Simons Mortuary has been entrusted with arrangements.

Online condolences may be made at the simonsmortuary.com website.

Published in Peoria Journal Star on Mar. 22, 2013
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