Barbara Celeste Watkins died June 28, 2021 in Colorado Springs at the age of 76.
Barbara was born on November 17, 1944 in Austin, Texas. She was the first child of C.A. and Lela Watkins who moved to their ranch in Las Animas, Colorado when Barbara was two years old. As the eldest child of five, she deeply loved and often "directed" members of her family.
She is survived by two sisters, Becky Pritchard and Susan Watkins, and by a brother, Mark (Deb) Watkins. She is also survived by three nephews, Shane Pritchard, Drew Pritchard, and Zane Watkins, and six nieces, Lauri Boyd, Pam Romjue, Lindsay Watkins, Jamie Watkins, Anna Mistich and Amy Maestas. She was preceded in death by her parents and by her brother, Jay Watkins.
Barbara graduated in 1966 with Bachelor of Science degree in food science and nutrition from Colorado State University and headed to Chicago where she was a dietician at the Edward Hines, Jr. Veterans Administration Hospital. That position launched a long and distinguished career with the U.S. Veterans Administration (VA) medical system.
Over a 43-year span, Barbara served in a number of leadership positions for the VA, first as chief of dietetic service at VA Medical Centers in Phoenix, AZ, and at San Antonio, TX. As one of the first women in the VA younger than 40 years old to achieve a 14 Government Service Ranking, she was selected as member of the U. S. Senior Executive Service. Barbara assumed the Associate Director position at the VA Medical Center in Allen Park, MI and was then appointed Associate Director in Oklahoma City, OK. In 2002, she was named Director of the Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Alexandria, La. where she served until she retired in 2009.
Her career of sustained accomplishment was highlighted by a number of awards, among them a 1989 Presidential Meritorious Executive Rank Award, a 2005 VA Secretary's Hero Award, and a 2006 Presidential Rank Award "for sustained superior accomplishment in management of programs for the United States government."
She returned to San Antonio to retire, re-directing her focus to travel, cooking, cheering on her much-loved New Orleans Saints and San Antonio Spurs, and maintaining close connections with family and friends made as a result of her career placements throughout the country. In 2019, Barbara moved from San Antonio to Colorado Springs to be near her sisters and brother.
Barbara was a natural leader, a great cook, and a loyal and generous friend and family member. Her life will be celebrated at a service at 1 p.m. Saturday, July 24 at the VFW Hall, 318 Third St., in Las Animas, CO. The family requests that those wishing to make donations in her honor send them to Haven for Hope in San Antonio (havenforhope.org) or Next for Autism (www.nextforautism.org).