Barbara Koyle Thomas Russell was born on March 30, 1933, to Lillian Averett Thomas, in Kanab, Utah. Her father, Koyle Thomas, had been killed in a tragic construction accident four months before she was born. She died on March 6, 2022, nine hours after her husband, Bob, passed. It wasn’t conventional, but theirs was a love story.
As the only child of a single mom reared during the depression, she learned how to work hard, to love music, how to sing and harmonize, to laugh a lot, to love travel, and to be independent. She was particularly fond of her cousin Jo, Aunt Tiny and Uncle Del; Aunt Allie and Uncle Ern, and was grateful throughout her life for their influence during her childhood.
She was an insatiable reader. She had a keen intellect and wonderful sense of humor, and could engage in an intelligent conversation on a broad variety of subjects.
She enjoyed literature, poetry, theater, and British comedies. You never saw her without a book nearby.
She was a beautiful woman, and a talented singer and dancer. She had an alto voice and participated in a number of musical groups over the years, including notable stints with the “Allstate Choir” as a Provo high school student; and with “The Singing Mothers” and “The Choralettes”. Music was important to her. The fact that her daughters sing like a couple of old trucks grinding up though the gears was a bitter disappointment.
She spent her early years amongst the red hills of Kanab. In 1947, she and her mom moved to Provo, Utah, where she established many dear friendships, and graduated from Provo High School.
She attended Brigham Young University for two years, where she studied to be a secretary, but enjoyed learning across many disciplines. She remained a lifelong learner.
She was employed as a secretary for the geologists at Geneva Steel for several years. She very much enjoyed her association with them and was fascinated by their work.
In 1962, she was set up on a blind date with Bob Russell, a rough around the edges government road surveyor from the Bighorn Mountains in Wyoming, who was in Utah, working in Cottonwood Canyon. He was immediately smitten. She required some convincing. He ultimately won her over with his tenacity, and his silver tongue: “I don’t know why I always like women who are so independent they’re almost masculine.” Mostly it was his tenacity.
They were married on November 1, 1962, in Santa Barbara, California. Bob never had eyes for anyone else and for the rest of his life marveled at his good fortune that Barbara would consent to marry him. Toward the end of her life she often said, “He drives me crazy, but I just don’t know what I’d do without him.” They weathered a lot of health challenges in their later years, but took care of and kept living for each other.
She and Bob lived in Buffalo, Wyoming; Denver, Colorado; Moab, Utah, and Cedar City, Utah, before they settled in Kanab and built their business, the Kanab Frostop, which they successfully operated for 30 years. They enjoyed most of the associations they established in that capacity, with a few notable exceptions.
After Barbara and Bob retired, they were tireless caregivers for her mother, and for her Aunt Allie and Uncle Ern, until their passing.
The natural world brought her peace and joy. She loved the ocean and mountains, flowering things, and the red sandstone hills of southern Utah. She especially enjoyed bird watching as she grew older, and always had a special place in her heart for the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Kaibab Forest.
She supported Bob when he served as a county commissioner, and they were both active in the Lion’s Club and American Legion. They had a delightful time travelling and meeting new people as they served.
She was active in the Kanab Women’s Civic Club, and Daughters of the Utah Pioneers for many years, and was appreciative of her heritage.
Her greatest joy was her family. She was proud of her daughters Lynn (Barry) Nielsen, and Gina (Mark) Lloyd, and delighted in her grandchildren: Devin (and Kristen); Derek (and Jenna); Alec (and Kia); Madelin (and Wyatt); and Allie. She so enjoyed supporting them in their musical, athletic, and dance endeavors. The great-grands, Amillia, Olivia, and Lilly were the icing on the cake. She’d have been thrilled to know she has another one on the way.
She was predeceased by both parents, her aunts and uncles, and an awful lot of her cousins and friends. Bob passed ahead of her by nine hours. We are sure he was just making sure things were ready for her.
She is survived by her daughters and their spouses, grandchildren, and great-grands, nieces and nephews, one brother-in-law, and three sisters-in-law.
Her family would like to extend their gratitude to Marlin (he wasn’t supposed to pass first) and Delores Brown; Ron (neither was he) and Cindee Glover; Susan and Jerry Glover; Bill Blasdell; her ministering sisters; Rinda Alldredge and the Kanab Seventh Ward; and special friend Kim Peterson, for their love, friendship, assistance and concern. Much gratitude to everyone at the Kanab Clinic, Kane County Hospital and skilled nursing facility, and the Kanab Pharmacy, for their years of service and care; for her friends at the library; and recently, the staff at Zion’s Way Home Health and Hospice. Special thanks to caregivers Priscilla, Sharon, and Ann for their compassionate assistance; and to the Kanab City Police and other first responders for their service in recent years.
Barbara’s wishes were to be cremated. A private family gathering will be held at a later date.
My family & yours have connected through out my life. Sincere condolences to you & your families. My oldest sister was your Mothers age & in a dance group with her before she moved to Provo. (Barbara Pugh) there is a picture of the two of them in the now closed Kanab Museum. My daughter worked at the Frost Top – her comment “Bob scared me to death but he was a good Boss!” Nancy Chamberlain Loy & graduated with Gina. I worked with your Dad many times. I was the Clerk/Auditor while he was county Commissioner. I have nothing but respect for him. So logical & fair in decisions.
Such a wonderful legacy you girls have to follow.
Kathy Chamberlain née Pugh