Barbara J. Gearhart, who in her profession helped people with disabilities find a vocation — and then work — and as a volunteer helped the homebound and women caught in prostitution, died Friday in Mercy Health St. Vincent Medical Center. She was 69.
Her death was unexpected, her daughter, Liz, said. Mrs. Gearhart had knee surgery and developed blood clots that traveled to her lungs.
“It broke the women’s hearts,” said Lee Ann Campbell, founder of Rahab’s Heart, a ministry that helps women in the commercial sex trade. “She supported the women at every level.”
Mrs. Gearhart was a volunteer to outreach efforts, providing dinner to the women, and acted as a mentor.
“She was always smiling and very merciful and understanding,” Ms. Campbell said.
Mrs. Gearhart, a Catholic, became an associate of the Sisters of Notre Dame in 2015 after a yearlong formation process. An associate is “one who participates in the spirituality and mission of the sisters as a lay person,” said Sister Joan Marie Recker, Mrs. Gearhart’s sponsor. At Christ the King Parish, Mrs. Gearhart was in a Bible study program and visited people who were homebound and sponsored adults preparing for baptism in the Catholic Church.
“She took her spirituality very seriously,” Sister Joan said. “She was so generous with her time.”
Mrs. Gearhart, a licensed profession counselor, retired in 1998 from the Ohio Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation, where she worked about 26 years. From the bureau’s Toledo area offices, she worked with people with disabilities. Some had recently become disabled and “needed help with what they were going to do with their lives,” her daughter said.
It wasn’t psychotherapy, yet Mrs. Gearhart offered an ear and advice as clients spoke of their problems and thoughts and feelings.
“The greater purpose was to get them back on track to make a living and take care of themselves,” her daughter said.
She was born Dec. 1, 1946, to Jane and Eddie Jones, a well-known Blade sports columnist. She was a 1964 graduate of Start High School. Afterward, she attended Bowling Green State University and then Penta County Joint Vocational Center. She became a clerk in the criminal division of the Lucas County sheriff’s office after a two-year course of study that combined chemistry, psychology, and sociology with law enforcement.
She continued her education and changed careers.
“She was drawn to people in need,” her daughter said.
Mrs. Gearhart had a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in counseling and human services, both from the University of Toledo. She later became a master gardener.
Surviving are her husband, Thomas Gearhart, a retired Blade editor, whom she married July 1, 1972; daughter, Elizabeth Grimm; brothers, Michael Jones, a retired Blade reporter, and Marty Westlin; sister, Anne Garcia, and two granddaughters.
Visitation will be from 2-8 p.m. today at Ansberg-West Funeral Home. Services will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Little Flower Church, where she was a member.
The family suggests tributes to Rahab’s Heart on North Ontario Street.
Contact Mark Zaborney at: email@example.com or 419-724-6182.
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