You might spot a flash of light whizzing down the hallway at GHBC and, if you look carefully, it is probably Barb Jonas. This woman has things to do and people to see! Barb has always been a woman on the go: a military wife raising two young children all over the United States and around the world; traveling with her husband Ted Jonas; working in physicians’ offices; volunteering; collecting friends along the way.
Barb’s parents lived in Brooklyn, N.Y. but decided it would be better to avoid the hot summer in the city and for her mother to give birth at a hospital in Utica, N.Y., near her grandmother and aunts. An aunt’s house in upstate New York, her birthplace, has always been a center of gravity for Barb, as she returned there for many summers in her life.
The family returned to Brooklyn where Barb’s dad, Sterling Graves, worked a number of different jobs during the Great Depression. He and Barb’s mother Winnie, a Cornell graduate, married in 1926. Her brother, Robert Sterling, was born in 1929 at the beginning of the Depression. For good reason, Barb was born eight years later and was followed two years later by her younger sister, Ruthie.
|Ringlets and dimples: Barb at 5
||With mother Winnie and little sister Ruthie
Barb showed an early talent for gardening.
Barb’s father ran a garage for many years, doing car repairs and renting limos. After a back injury, he took a job as a stationary engineer in a plant which manufactured medicinal yeast tablets. The family stayed in Brooklyn through 1959.
Barb was a graduate of Midwood High School in Brooklyn, and during her high school years she was active in HiY, played basketball, sang in a choir and was a Girl Scout, all activities in her church. In 1954, between her junior and senior year of high school, the family suffered a terrible and life-changing tragedy. Her older brother Bob, a Marine Corps pilot, was on a training mission, heading back to his base in Cherry Point, N.C. A hurricane was coming, and his plane went down in the bad weather. His plane was found five months later with the ejection seat missing, but Bob was never found. He was a shining light in the family, and they were all traumatized.
Older brother Bob, a Marine Corps pilot
After her brother’s death, Barb felt her life was at loose ends. Her schoolwork suffered, and she did not apply to college. She finally decided to go to Green Mountain Junior College in Vermont and majored in their Medical Secretarial and Assistants program. She says she applied to the Vermont school because she always wanted to ski. She did this at Green Mountain, and it turned out to be a lifelong love of hers and one she later shared with Ted.
After college, Barb moved back to her parents’ home in Brooklyn and easily found a job working for four oral surgeons in the middle of Manhattan. She reconnected with Charlie Wirth, an old beau she had met in high school who had graduated from Navy Flight School in Pensacola. They married in 1958.
From left, Barb's father Sterling, mother Winnie, Barb and Charlie, sister Ruthie
She was off on her adventurous life with her Navy pilot husband, first in Coronado, Calif., a wonderful place to start married life at age 21. A year later, they were transferred to the Philippines where daughter Nancy was born in 1960 followed by son Tom thirteen months later in 1961. The young family spent two years there followed by postings in Corpus Christi, Texas, a tour at the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif., and then to an assignment with a P-3 ASW squadron at Moffett Field, while the family lived in nearby San Jose, Calif.
Barb with Nancy and Tom
When her husband was sent to Vietnam to work on Admiral Zumwalt’s staff, Barb and the children decided to stay in San Jose with her many friends and neighbors. On his return, they moved to a small town on the Pacific coast of Washington where he was the commanding officer of a naval research station, and then on to Morocco where he flew logistical flights to Spain to keep Americans stationed at the Moroccan Air Base supplied with mail and other supplies.
The moves took their toll. In January of 1973 Barb and Charlie separated, and she moved to Washington, D.C. She remembers arriving the day before the Supreme Court’s momentous Roe vs. Wade decision. She found a job working downtown for a group of four urologic surgeons and began her new life. She lived in an apartment very near Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive, not far from our present location.
Two years later, Barb met her beloved Ted Jonas at a singles’ club. He was a graduate of USC in Los Angeles with a degree in chemical engineering and ran a small consulting business. They dated and married three years later combining their families — Barb’s Nancy and Tom and Ted’s Meg, Kimball and Amanda. Many of us at GHBC know Meg, who is a guitar player in the Jefferson Street String Band.
Their home was in Alexandria, and their children were in college while Ted continued to serve the needs of his clients and Barb kept working downtown. They were always active and loved to sail on Ted’s sailboat, play tennis and ski. In 1986, Barb decided to leave her job with the physicians to work with Ted and help him grow his real estate business, investing in rental apartments.
Barb and Ted, sailing
The children were grown and gone, so Barb and Ted worked hard and traveled everywhere they could. In 1994 they started hiking in the Shenandoah with the Center Hiking Club in Northern Virginia. Their love of hiking took them all over the world: Tuscany, the Cinque Terre, Greece, the Basque Country, Costa Rica and U.S. National Parks.
Barb and Ted hiked throughout the United States and around the world.
When they were not working, hiking, sailing or doing other outdoor activities, Barb and Ted loved to entertain their friends and family at home. Barb is a terrific cook, and nothing makes her happier than to make people feel welcome in her home. She continues to welcome friends from Goodwin House as well as friends from all over the region to enjoy a glass of wine or have a delicious dinner in her apartment. Barb and Ted subscribed to the Washington Ballet and enjoyed attending symphonies, operas and theater all around Washington.
Barb and Ted received an invitation in the mid-2000s to have lunch and see the plans for a proposed new independent living facility at Goodwin House Bailey’s Crossroads. They were familiar with senior living facilities from their parents’ experiences and decided to look seriously at all their options, especially given Ted’s early Parkinson’s diagnosis and his recent cochlear implant. After looking at other communities, they were offered an apartment they loved at GHBC, even though it was only on paper. They moved here in 2010, the opening year of the Pointe.
The Jonases moved into GHBC May 21, 2010, and Barb vividly remembers attending a Dining Services Committee meeting with Ted in early June. Resident Peg Lorenz called her after the meeting and asked Barb to become chair of the committee! In Peg’s words, “You only have to run the meeting.” Peg had discovered a leader, and Barb was off to a fast start with her involvement in Goodwin House.
A year or so later, Priscilla Mott agreed to bring her expertise in the food service business to become co-chair with Barb. They ushered the committee through three Dining Services managers and several chefs before Barb rotated off the leadership job.
Both Barb and Ted had a longtime interest in learning about wines, at home and in their travels. They had dinner one evening with Helen and Phil Hanna who said their son-in-law, Doug House, owned Chain Bridge Cellars and might like to come to GHBC to give wine seminars. They then learned that Dick Graham had a set of wine seminars on DVDs, and that was the beginning of both the popular Wine Seminar group at GHBC and the wine dinners we have enjoyed over the years.
Dick Graham and Barb, along with Ward Morris and Linda Lateana (a plus!), applied for a Quality of Life grant from the Goodwin House Foundation to establish the Wine Seminar. They were successful for the first two applications, and this group is still meeting, now supported entirely by participants’ dues. Barb does all of the communications, keeps track of collecting dues from the members and finding substitutes for each of the seminars. It is a labor of love for her.
The family gathered for Barb's 75th birthday.
As Ted’s illness progressed, Barb took on more caregiving responsibilities with grace and good humor. Ted eventually moved to the skilled nursing floor, where Barb spent much of her time. She is grateful to Peg Lorenz and Jeanne MacKenzie, who were supportive of both Barb and Ted during the time he was in hospice care. Barb devoted all her time and attention to the love of her life during his final days. Ted died in October 2015.
Barb has continued her involvement in Goodwin House activities on the BOM-COM (Buildings, Operations and Maintenance Committee), so she could learn about what goes on with our buildings, and the Grounds Committee which cares for our beautiful gardens. She has a section of the Knoll Garden which she cares for, and you often see her outside digging, raking and planting.
Barb is a volunteer with the Culmore Clinic, setting up the rooms for patients together with other GHBC volunteers. She has also developed a love for our Chapel of All Saints where she has chaired the Altar Guild and serves as an usher both on Sundays and occasionally for the Wednesday service. Off campus, Barb is a long time member of the Monday Morning Music Class, a book club and a garden club, and she still attends the ballet, theater and opera. She loves keeping up with her longtime friends.
Last year, Barb knew there were more places in the world she wanted to visit, so after much thought, she signed up for the four month Road Scholar World Tour on Holland America’s ship, the MS Amsterdam. This was truly a trip of a lifetime and one she shared with friends, keeping them informed and entertained with long posts about her travels to Easter Island, Tonga (where she visited with her daughter Nancy, the Peace Corps country director, and her husband Michael), India, Norway, Great Britain, and much more of Europe and the world.
Barb in Petra on her round-the-world tour in 2019
Family is number one for Barb. She is devoted to her adult children Nancy and Tom, both of whom live in the area, and her delightful grandchildren. Katherine, a former Peace Corps volunteer and soon-to-be EPA employee, and Luke, an architect, are Nancy and Michael’s children. Sam and Coleman, Tom and his wife Karen’s children, were often here at GHBC growing up. Sam is a new Clemson graduate going on to a PhD program in genetics at the University of Alabama, Birmingham. Coleman will be a second year student in Marine Science at Coastal Carolina University in the fall. Barb keeps in touch with Ted’s children, too. Not being able to see her family has been the most difficult part of the restrictions at GHBC because of the coronavirus pandemic. They frequently call, email and send photos, but nothing beats a big hug.
Left, 4 generations: Barb with mother Winnie, daughter Nancy and granddaughter Katherine. Above, Barb, Ted and their grandchildren.
Barb misses entertaining her friends and family in her apartment during the restrictions, something she has always enjoyed. On the positive side, ever the optimist, she now says she has time to do the things she has put off, such as hemming a favorite Irish linen table cloth she has owned for over 25 years. She now has more time to read, catch up on her PBS television programs and simply enjoy her apartment. She loves being here, and we are lucky to have Barb as a devoted friend.
By Anne Stewart