Barbara Kohnhorst, 71

Director of youth formation at St. Christopher's

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Barbara Katherine Whiteford Kohnhorst, 71, of Forest Park, died on Oct. 8, 2020 after a three-year battle with a rare form of uterine cancer. Born on May 4, 1949, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to Russell and Audrey Whiteford, she graduated from Central Bucks High School in 1967. She had a natural ability to connect with and inspire toddlers, teens, seniors, and her wide circle of friends. A smart, funny, generous and kind person, she was always ready to share her time and attention. She was living in Jacksonville, Florida when she met Michael Kohnhorst. They were married on May 10, 1975. 

In 1978, the family moved to Oak Park, where she focused on their children, Michele and Matthew, and their home life, while also working as a teacher's assistant at Julian Junior High (now Middle School).

She had a simple rule for her family — dinner at 6, no excuses — the one time of the day the family could be sure to be together.

In the early 1990s, they became members at St. Christopher's Episcopal Church in Oak Park, the beginning of an almost 30-year connection that transformed not just her life, but the lives of many area families. 

The rector of St. Christopher's, Rev. Paris Coffey, offered her a job as director of Children's Christian Formation, which she accepted with relish. Her role expanded to include St. Christopher's teenagers and over the years she planned, and sometimes accompanied, the teens on several summer pilgrimage trips to foreign countries. 

Her ministry was transformative, but her family remained her center. Daughter Michele underwent cancer treatments during these years. "She loved fiercely," Michele said.

Her lifelong pursuit of a healthy lifestyle led her to yoga and a 15-year career as a yoga instructor at various locations, including classes at St. Christopher's and Gottlieb Fitness Center in Melrose Park.

Her family and friends have years of memories and her spirit will live on. 

Barbara was preceded in death by her parents, her brother John and a son, Jason. Survivors include her husband, Michael; her daughter, Michele (Tom) and son Matthew (Sarah); her grandchildren Caitlin, Benjamin, Katherine, Audrey and John; and her brother, Russell (Catarina).

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which limits large gatherings, the family is planning a small private service. A larger celebration of Barbara's life will be scheduled when it is safe for family and friends to gather and remember how deeply she touched our lives.

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