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Published: Wednesday, 12/5/2012

Barbara L. Britsch, 1926-2012: Professor, storyteller reviewed kids’ books

BY MARK ZABORNEY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Barbara L. "Barby" Britsch, a professor and professional storyteller who taught teachers to teach and children to love literature, died on Monday in Regency Hospital, Sylvania. She was 86.

She had a stroke five weeks ago, her son Martin said. Until then, she lived in West Toledo, sang in the choir at First Unitarian Church of Toledo, and was a docent at the Blair Museum of Lithophanes. She wrote reviews of children’s books for The Blade, most recently in July.

“She was very thorough, and she looked for things — we all do — that would appeal to kids,” said Barbara St. John, retired from Bowling Green State University, who with Ms. Britsch, Melissa Cain of the University of Findlay, and Alexa Sandmann of Kent State University have written The Blade’s children’s book reviews. “It was fun. We met and we talked about books. And we shared books.”

Ms. Britsch was 80 when she retired from what is now Lourdes University in Sylvania.

She received a doctorate from the University of Toledo about 20 years earlier and plunged into a full teaching load at Lourdes.

At 79, she was named Outstanding Older Worker in Ohio by Experience Works and attended a ceremony in Washington with other winners from across the country.

She taught writing and literature courses and her students included prospective teachers of children’s literature. She liked to match reading aloud and storytelling with music and other stimuli. She wrote, with Amy Dennison, One Voice: Music and Stories in the Classroom.

“She had this feeling, the more you give the children, the more the child can learn,” said Barbara Masten, an associate professor at Lourdes who is a former chairman of language and literature there.

She was rigorous in her approach, yet generously shared ideas, said Pam Hollenbeck, a longtime friend who is a storyteller and teaching artist.

“She was always thinking of new ways to help people learn what they needed to learn,” Ms. Hollenbeck said.

She was born on Nov. 6, 1926, to Grace and Harvey Martin. She was a graduate of DeVilbiss High School and Lake Erie College in Painesville, Ohio. She received a master’s degree from the University of Michigan. She was a substitute teacher in the Toledo Public Schools and taught at UT.

“She was fun-loving. She was inquisitive,” her son said. “She was definitely a talker. When you got on the phone with her, you would listen to things that happened and stories in great detail.”

She invited reciprocity. On her outgoing phone message, she announced her phone number and, before the tone, said, “Please tell your story.”

She and her husband, James, married Sept. 15, 1950. He died in May, 1991. Surviving are her sons, Martin and David Britsch.

The family will announce memorial services at First Unitarian Church later. Arrangements are by the Newcomer Funeral Home.

The family suggests tributes to the church or to Hospice of Northwest Ohio.



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