Barbara Jane Austin, age 69, a long-time resident of Victorian Village, Columbus, died on Saturday, August 26, 2017, from complications from Type 1 diabetes, a condition which she had battled since she was a teenager. Born in Dayton, on December 31, 1947 (the whole world threw her a birthday party every year thereafter), to Harold B. and Jane Myers Austin, Barbara received her Bachelor of Science in Education from The Ohio State University in 1970. After teaching mathematics in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, working at the former Columbus State Hospital as a dance and movement therapist, and serving as a vocational counselor for the Ohio Rehabilitation Services Commission, Barbara earned a Master of Science in Rehabilitation Counseling from Wright State University in 1980.
Meanwhile, from 1977 to 1990, Barbara was a vocational evaluator and rehabilitation counselor for the former Career Development Center, which performed work evaluations, and based on labor market analysis, recommended a realistic course of rehabilitation and employment, for disabled workers. From 1990 to 1998, Barbara served as a counselor, case manager, and as Chief Case Manager, for the J. Leonard Camera Center, Bureau of Workers Compensation, again recommending courses of rehabilitation and re-employment for injured workers and working with treatment teams. Barbara was active in the Ohio Rehabilitation Association throughout her career, and served as ORA’s Governmental Affairs Chair, and on its Executive Board, from 1993-95. She was also Secretary of the Brick Street Arts Association, responsible for several public arts installations in the Short North neighborhood.
In 1983, Barbara met her surviving husband, Jack W. Decker, an attorney, to whom she was married in Cooper Stadium (Jack’s initial negotiating proposal) in 1987. Barbara was twice hospitalized, in 1987 and 2013, for diabetic comas thought to be terminal, but from which she recovered, weakened but unbowed. Barbara was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1992 and suffered a heart attack followed by triple bypass surgery in 1998, which, along with her diabetes, became simply too much to manage while remaining in the workforce. Barbara enjoyed her disability retirement, cultivating vegetables and flowering plants in her back yard, cooking, walking in Victorian Village, enjoying her dogs, cats and, when able, travelling with her husband.
Barbara was a delightful person, known as Saint Barbara for her stoic endurance of her husband. She created for him a wonderful home filled with love and support that made him an immeasurably better person than he otherwise likely would have become. Generous, optimistic, funny, cheerful, giving, wise, and beloved by all who knew her, Barbara’s positive personality and steadfast character remained strong, even as her body weakened. Through all of her health problems, she never lost her remarkable and uplifting courage and irrepressible sense of humor. She was a battler who never gave up until, at the end, progressive disease overwhelmed her.
In addition to her husband, Barbara is survived by her sister and brother-in law, Sandra and David Kilheffer of Surprise, Arizona, and by her nieces Jennifer Kilheffer of San Antonio, Texas, and Anne Kilheffer Schultz of Atlanta, Georgia.
Visitation will be held at Shaw-Davis Funeral Home, 34 W. 2nd Ave. Columbus, Ohio, on Friday, September 15, 2017, from 1 pm to 2 pm with a memorial service to follow at 2 pm. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Barbara’s name to the Friends of Goodale Park, P.O. Box 8266, Columbus OH 43201.