Barbara Alexander Mullarkey, 84, died at her Oak Park home on April 15, 2020. Born on Aug. 1, 1935 in Oak Park to the late Olive (Kennedy) and the late Benjamin Alexander, she was a lifelong Oak Parker. She graduated from Ascension School in 1949, Trinity High School in 1953 and Rosary College (now Dominican University) in 1957. The friends Barbara made at Trinity and Rosary lasted her lifetime and were highlighted by cherished reunions every summer that spanned over 60 years.
She worked at Commonwealth Edison demonstrating new-era electric appliances. A true trailblazer, she had a company car and an expense account. At ComEd she met her future husband, John. They planted deep roots with their five children on the infamous 200 block of South Elmwood with an amazingly colorful group of neighbors who quickly became and remain family. With over 100 kids on their block, Barbara became the organizer of iconic block parties that were the highlight of the kids’ summers, including water balloon wars and epic block-wide scavenger hunts.
She adored her family and was a treasured friend to whom she was a confidant and advisor. Her generous spirit will live on and inspire those who remember her warmth, kindness and inquisitive soul. Her true legacy is her 11 grandchildren whom she considered her proudest accomplishments. Grammie B was a fixture at Ascension, St. Luke, Lincoln, Roosevelt, WSSRA, Oak Park-River Forest youth programs, and OPRF High School, where she was one of their longest-tenured sports fans. One OPRF coach called her a legend. She attended over 1,000 games and traveled over 10,000 miles supporting her grandkids and their teammates and loved every minute of it. She knew the coaches, refs, umpires and scorekeepers and was never afraid to share her opinions or her stats!
Barbara championed many nutrition, health and wellness causes. Her crusades involved educating others on ingredients in food, drink and medicine and included removing chemicals in our food supply, most importantly Aspartame and Bovine Growth Hormone. She was steadfast and relentless about banning pesticides in our parks, raising awareness to the harmful effects of AstroTurf. She fought fracking and smart meters, advocated removing mercury from vaccines, raised mental health awareness and promoted alternative medicine ideologies such as acupuncture, massage and homeopathy.
She also advocated removing cell towers from schools and hospitals to minimize the adverse effects of electromagnetic radio waves on those who are most vulnerable. She felt strongly about lending her voice and energy to causes that protected the environment and was not afraid to battle/share her perspective with presidents, senators, congressman, village presidents and trustees.
Her many passions included: founding member and nutrition columnist for Wednesday Journal; journalist for Oak Park News, Conscious Choice, and Vegetarian Times; proud supporter of Maryville Academy, Oak Leyden Developmental Services, and WSSRA; advocate for prison food reform; charter member of Handy Hands; tireless Ascension School volunteer; OPRF Huskie Booster Club member; IVAC; Oak Park Environmental Network; HOPP and Nutrivoice Editor; author of Bittersweet Aspartame: A Diet Delusion; and Children’s book agent.
Her favorite newspaper editor, Dan Haley, wrote, “She was pure-hearted and damned if she wasn’t almost always right.” In true Barb fashion she would correct Dan and say she was always right. It was black and white to Barbara; you were on her side or the wrong side!
The Shakespeare quote that Barbara lived by was, “To thine own self be true.” She was true to herself and all those she loved and if she had one wish, she would want everyone to be good to themselves and others.
Barbara Mullarkey is survived by her devoted children, John Patrick, Ellen (Scott) Nelson, Daniel (Lauren Sherman), Karen (Marty) Kerrins, and Ann (Daniel) Ganschow. Her grandchildren were the lights of her life: Kiley, Allie, Maeve, Grace and Johnny Nelson, Riley, Keegan and Regan Kerrins, and Patrick, Connor and Declan Ganschow. She was a fun-loving, adventurous aunt, cousin and dear friend to many. She was preceded in death by John T. Mullarkey and her sisters, Elizabeth Alexander, Lorraine (Bob) Carpenter, Mary Clare (Jimmy Freeman & Ed Walther), and Regina Alexander.
A memorial celebration of Barbara’s extraordinary life will be held at a later date due to COVID-19. Donations in her name to West Suburban Special Recreation (WSSRA.net) or the OPRF High School Booster Club are appreciated.