Barbara Ann Brown Reifeis, a tireless volunteer who was a recipient of the United Way's highest award for unpaid service, died Saturday of a unspecified neuromuscular disorder. She was 81.
A homemaker and mother of four, Mrs. Reifeis devoted countless hours throughout her life to volunteering for nearly a dozen organizations, including the Red Cross, the Arthritis Foundation, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Toledo Society for the Blind, and the University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio.
Her favorite causes included the United Way, Alpha Omicron Pi sorority, and Toledo Crittenton Services, a residential program for unwed mothers, her husband, Ed Reifeis, said.
In 1988, the United Way of Toledo honored her with the Henry L. Morse Community Award for volunteer achievement. She had served on the United Way's United Central Services board for six years, including a year as president.
"She always saw the best in people," her husband said. "She felt as though she had something to give."
Born Barbara Ann Brown in Greene County, Indiana, she and her husband were high school sweethearts, meeting when they were 16 and 17, respectively. They married in 1947, a union that lasted 61 years.
She began her volunteer work as a Red Cross Grey Lady in her early 20s, continuing in public service while she was enrolled at Indiana State University, where she served as district director for Alpha Omicron Pi.
Mrs. Reifeis worked briefly as a secretary at the student newspaper at Purdue University while she was helping her husband through school, he said.
Before the couple had children, they agreed she would be a homemaker and he would concentrate on work - a partnership, her husband said, that worked well for the family.
The couple moved to the Toledo area in 1952, when he joined Champion Spark Plug. He went on to become director of manufacturing.
The couple had four children. Mrs. Reifeis served as "the disciplinarian" of the family while her husband climbed the career ladder, he said.
"She took on the jobs she could while giving 100 percent to the family," Mr. Reifeis said. "The family came first, I mean absolutely first."
Over the years, Mrs. Reifeis became active in an ultimately successful effort to annex Adams Township - a parcel just west of Toledo, where the family made its home - into the city of Toledo, Mr. Reifeis said.
She played a supportive role in the birth of 75 babies through her volunteer work with Toledo Crittenton Services, taking calls at any time of day or night.
As she grew older, she never gave up her commitment to serving the less fortunate.
She most recently devoted her time to serving as a surgical waiting-room assistant at the University of Toledo Medical Center.
Surviving are her husband, Ed Reifeis; sister, Sally McCord; sons, Craig, Scott, and Marc; daughter, Stacy Reifeis Toth, and 11 grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from
3 to 5 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Coyle Funeral Home, 1770 S. Reynolds Rd., where funeral services will be held at 12 p.m. Thursday.
The family suggests tributes to Hospice of Northwest Ohio or the Shriners Hospitals for Children.