Barbara Gill Lee Wise former resident of Orinda, passed away peacefully in Walnut Creek on Wednesday July 24th after a brief illness, with all of her children by her side. All those who knew her, loved her for her gentility, sweetness, humor, incisive intellect and loveliness, both inside and out.
Barbara was born to Murray and Mildred Gill in Fort Worth, Texas on July 9, 1926 and spent much of her youth in Wichita, Kansas with her parents and her brother, the late James Gill. The complete package of beauty and brains, she graduated in 1948 from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, with a degree in business administration and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta Sorority. After finishing her bachelor's degree Barbara worked in New York City. While she was proud of her nascent career, a far more impactful event in her life also took place in NYC. She attended an alumni gathering for University of Wisconsin grads and there met Thomas Edward Cameron Lee. It was love at second sight for both. Apparently they had met once back in college, but this time sparks flew! They were married on March 17, 1951 and shortly thereafter, moved to Harford, Connecticut. Barbara's business career was sidetracked by the birth of her first child, Randolph Murray Lee and a year later by the arrival of her daughter, Elizabeth Gill Lee.
The young family moved to Kalamazoo Michigan when Tom was transferred and while there, the final child, Thomas Cameron Lee joined the family. Another transfer took them all to Ladue, a suburb of St. Louis, Missouri. While living there, the Gateway Arch was built and Cardinals won the World Series. But after a 1968 vacation to San Francisco, Barb and Tom were so entranced by what they saw and experienced, they bought a small scientific manufacturing company in Berkeley, returned home and announced the whole family would be moving to California!
While Tom flew ahead to tackle the challenge of running the business, Barbara bravely piloted the family station wagon all the way from St Louis to California with three kids and a Springer Spaniel, Sam, in the back. Despite a breakdown in Lubbock, Texas on a scorching June day, with Barb in charge, the family arrived safe and sound to settle in Lafayette. Barb and Tom built a family home and even put in a back yard swimming pool! With her exceptional skill at bridge, tennis and golf, Barbara soon made many new friends who remain her dear friends to this day. She was President of the Orinda Cancer League and an active member of the Junior League, the Orinda Country Club, The Orinda Garden Club, and the Hospice of the East Bay support group. To paraphrase a Girl Scout song, she made new friends but kept the old. Her Holiday card list was so many pages long, one could not blame her for finally resorting to sending one and all a Christmas Letter.
Tom and Barbara not only had a idyllic 34 year marriage and a happy family, over the years, they built the little company they bought into a little bigger company and eventually sold it to America Hospital Supply in 1984. Tragically, Tom fell ill on a 1985 trip to England and passed away while they were abroad. Distraught, Barbara never left his side until the end and this loss devastated her profoundly. She loved, missed and thought of him every day for the rest of her life.
However, she bravely soldiered on and joyously welcomed the arrival of her first two grandchildren. A few years later, her re-acquaintance with an old friend, Robert Wise of Wichita, who had lost his wife, brought her a second lease on love. Barb and Bob married in 1990, Barb was blessed with two more grandsons and together, they enjoyed 23 years together traveling, socializing with their many mutual friends, and celebrating holidays and birthdays with both famies.
Barbara's kindness, wisdom and beauty was the gift she shared so generously with her beloved family and friends. Just as she did for her aored Tom, her family will love miss and think of her every day for the rest of their lives.
Barbara is survived by her loving children, Randy Lee, of Reno, Tom (Kathryn) of Englewood CO and Elizabeth (John) Delahaye of Orinda, her precious grandchildren Laura Delahaye , Thomas Nicholas Delahaye, Seth and Dane Lee. her step children Marc Wise, Steve (Robin) Wise of Denver, and Scott (Jennifer) Wise of Wichita, her step grandchildren, Lindsey Wise, Shannon Wise, Adam Wise, Jeff Wise, Jessica Wise and Daniel Wise and one step great grandchild, Lea Burke.
In lieu of flowers the family requests a donation in honor of Barbara Lee Wise to Hospice of the East Bay, 3470 Buskirk Ave Pleasant Hill 94523.