Barbie: role model for girls, fun to play with, brought joy to many.
I’m not talking about the Mattel toy, or the Hollywood blockbuster. I’m talking about Barb O’Brien. A couple of years ago, I didn’t even know who she was. But thanks to the esprit de corps that pickleball engenders among “the regulars” at any particular set of courts, I got to know Barb (a.k.a. “Barbie”). And to know Barb was to love her. How could you not admire someone who was battling cancer but still kicking butt on the courts… and doing it all with a positivity that was absolutely infectious.
Age and ailments slowed her down, but they never kept her away from the courts for too long until recently. To say Barb “lost” her battle to cancer would be wrong – she left the courts (and this world) with her head held high and a smile on her face.
I knew Barb was a tennis star in her youth, but it wasn’t until I read her obit that I realized what a trailblazer she was:
Barb was a fierce competitor, earning a spot on the Withrow High School Boys Varsity Tennis team in 1972, prior to Title IX and dedicated womens teams. Barb went on to attend the University of Cincinnati where she played tennis, achieving a ranking of #2 in the state of Ohio.
My pickleball pal Mitch Dunn wrote a great tribute to Barb on Medium. Here are a couple of excerpts:
Barb was a greeter, a welcomer, an ambassador, and a connector. She was a grinder, a laugher, and a lover of the game. She made an indelible impact on me and many others. She not only helped create other lovers of the game, but other ambassadors, connectors, and welcomers. They are all Barb’s legacy, and they are all longing for the old days.Mitch Dunn in his Medium post linked above
Barb’s friend Sue posted the news of Barb’s passing on the group chat for the Clear Creek pickleball crew. Dozens of people posted notes like these:
Barb’s daughter Marci joined the chat via Barb’s account:
Barbie Summer is over. But Barb’s influence will go on for years.