WINFIELD, Ill. – If the adage attributed to Abraham Lincoln is true, then Barbara Page’s years spilled over with more life than anyone could imagine for a girl growing up in a rural, Iowa farm town.
She was about seven months out of Charles City High School, when, in January 1961, at 18, in Des Moines, she met a small-town man, Bob Page, from Springfield, Ill., who happened to be a 25-year-old United Press International reporter, on the floor of the Iowa House of Representatives, where she worked part-time for E. Wayne Shaw (R-Charles City) while attending secretarial school.
It was love at first sight, many in the press corps observed, so much so that the “handsomely compensated” Unipresser went crazy, spending his “high” earnings that day on the biggest lunch he could afford for her – half a cheeseburger at a nearby restaurant.
A child bride, she was married six months later, at 19, and gave birth almost a year to the day after the wedding, when she was 20.
Or, as she liked to tell her son, Doug, with a wink, “You were born on July 24, and we were married on the 30th.”
Hours after the wedding, they drove to Detroit, so Bob could take up his duties as the UPI bureau’s night editor.
Their adventure was one only UPI could provide, moving them nine times during 13 years, with stops, in addition to Detroit, in Grand Rapids, Mich., Indianapolis, Chicago, New York, Boston, London and Hong Kong before returning to New York in 1974.
She died Monday, Mar. 30th, at around 8 p.m. CDT, at Central DuPage Hospital, after battling Alzheimer’s Disease for more than 10 years. She was 72.
In her prime, she could host and prepare a dinner party for anyone – from UPI reporters in Hong Kong, returning from covering the wars in Vietnam and Cambodia, to the company’s senior executives and clients – without ever breaking a sweat.
She was an extraordinary diplomat, gifted with an uncanny ability to engage in conversation with anyone, regardless of their corporate or social position.
Some of her best friends at UPI included Rod and Evelyn Beaton, Jim and Helen Darr, Bob and Angie Schnitzlein, Richard Growald, Al Webb, Vicky Wakefield, Frank and Mary Beatty, Leon and Carobel Daniel, Theresa and Joe Galloway, Sylvana Foa, Annette Holst, Tracy Wood, Arnold and Lee Dibble, Al and Diana Kaff, Marcia and Ted Marks, Luce and Claude Hippeau and Julius and Gabriella Humi.
She could also be very brave. In the summer of 1969, while vacationing with her sons and Luce Hippeau, and her younger son, 9-year-old Roman, on an Italian beach, Barbara noticed Roman was missing, soon spotting him, as she told the story, about 100 yards offshore on a raft. She swam out and brought him back.
“You saved my life,” Roman said to her years later.
Her survivors include her sons Doug and Steve, their wives, Liz and Theresa, and four grandsons, Jeff, Chris, Ethan and Nicholas. Her sister Judy, her husband, Bob, and their children, Leslie and Bobby, also survive her as does her former husband, Robert Page, a retired newspaper publisher and a former UPI general manager, and his wife, Rebeca.
Barbara Lou Allison Page was born June 1, 1942, in Charles City, Iowa, to Phyllis and Raymond Allison. She worked at the Darien High School library in Connecticut from 1984 to 2004 and moved to Illinois, to be near Doug and his family in September 2004, after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s two years earlier.
She lived in an assisted living home, Belmont Village, in Carol Stream, where her health and mental faculty declined in safe, secure and warm setting while receiving excellent care.
She came down with a hernia three years ago and the best medical advice then, and again last week, was not to repair it because, as an Alzheimer’s patient, she wouldn’t understand the recovery.
Her health declined so precipitously last week, due to an infection in her intestines, a result of the hernia, that surgeons thought she’d survive an operation but likely wind up on a respirator, which was contrary to her Do Not Resuscitate order.
She received hospice care at Central DuPage Hospital, in calm, peaceful setting, for about four days before dying Monday night. She died pain free and her sons spent the weekend at her bedside, telling her they loved her and that she was the best mom in the world.