Cover photo for Barbara Lou Stebbins Kienholz's Obituary
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1930 Barbara Lou 2024

Barbara Lou Stebbins Kienholz

November 28, 1930 — April 25, 2024

Barbara Lou Stebbins Kienholz passed away on April 25, 2024, at her Bluestem Village home in La Junta, Colorado, at the age of 93. She passed peacefully, surrounded by her daughters and sister, five days after suffering a stroke.

Born on November 28, 1930, in Brookville, Ohio, Barbara was the daughter of Carl Marion Stebbins and Cecil Delight Royer Stebbins. Raised in Ohio by her schoolteacher parents and growing up in the Church of the Brethren, Barbara developed a deep-rooted appreciation for education, hard work, and community service. She married her college sweetheart, Eldon Wesley Kienholz, in 1950 in her family’s home in Gibsonburg, Ohio. Together they raised four daughters, then divorced in 1982.

Barbara's journey in education took her from Gibsonburg and Beavercreek high schools in Ohio to Manchester College in Indiana, then Washington State University where she received an Education Degree in Home Economics. Later in life she earned a Business Administration Degree from Regis University in Colorado.

Her life path was diverse. She taught Home Economics for one year and had many volunteer pursuits while raising her daughters. Attending the Fort Collins First United Methodist Church led to her guiding their Youth Fellowship group. With all daughters in Girl Scouts, she served as volunteer President of the Mountain Prairie Girl Scout Council. While the family lived just outside Washington D.C. for a year, she volunteered with the Methodist Washington Study program, arranging for youth to visit the nation’s capital. Back in Fort Collins, she led trips to New York City and Washington D.C. for Colorado youth.

In the work world, Barbara used her talents to organize and mobilize people toward a common cause. She was Director of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program in Colorado’s Larimer County while living in Fort Collins, Director of Skyline 6 Area Agency on Aging (Summit, Eagle, Grand, Pitkin, Jackson, and Routt Counties) while living in Frisco, and Program and Training Officer for ACTION Region VIII (6 state area – ND, SC, NE, WY, UT, CO) while living in Denver.

In Denver she reconnected with her Church of the Brethren roots through active Prince of Peace Church membership, enjoying the National Older Adult Conferences and knitting prayer shawls for those in need. She served on the board of Denver’s Ten Thousand Villages fair-trade store, making many Mennonite friends. Years after moving from Denver, one silver lining of living through the COVID pandemic is that she could again worship weekly with her Prince of Peace church family via Zoom.

Those who knew Barbara know she loved to sew. From stitching together clothes for her daughters to fashioning winter coats out of goodwill finds, her creativity and practicality came through. Her sewing not only clothed her family but also became a skill and hobby she passed down to her daughters. After her August 2010 move to La Junta, Colorado, she began tying comforters twice weekly with the Ecumenical Knotters in the basement of the Emmanuel

Mennonite Church. She loved knowing that the comforters she tied would bring warmth and caring to people all over the world, including places like Ukraine and Gaza, and she prayed for the recipients. She finished her last comforter and climbed that flight of stairs one last time the week before she passed.

Barbara found so much fulfillment in her community and faith-based endeavors, and she loved sharing that with her descendants. She found so much joy and love in her family. All nine grandchildren have special memories of one-on-one trips to Denver to spend time with Grandma Barb. Several grandchildren made their first solo car trips to Grandma Barb’s, long before parents could hover via cell phones. She traveled to many countries, always bringing back educational gifts for the grandchildren. She sat co-pilot on many motorhome trips with her sister Alice. She took pride in visiting each of her grandchildren during their freshman year of college.

Leaving the big city of Denver to live near daughter Mary Sue, Barbara enjoyed life in the Casa Del Sol retirement community of her new small town of La Junta, where she spent 13 wonderful years with new friends and new adventures. Her glazed carrots became a staple at the monthly potlucks and she loved to decorate the great room of Ponderosa Building for seasons and holidays. She recently chose to become the very first resident of Bluestem Village skilled nursing facility, moving into Holbrook House on November 7, 2023. Her room’s main decor was a long “Family Wall” of faces that gave her so many memories and conversations. A family gathering in her courtyard just a week before her stroke included all five of her great grandchildren, ages 5 months to 5 years, who traveled from Seattle and Colorado Springs to be there. Barbara was treated like family at Bluestem Village, receiving exceptional care, kindness, and friendship from the moment she arrived through the day she passed, for which her family will be forever grateful.

Barbara's life has made an impact on all who knew her. She is survived by her brother Gene (Judy) Stebbins of Ohio, sister Alice Quigley of Texas, daughters Mary Sue (Mike) Nicklos of La Junta, Sandy (Matthew Gardner-Brown) Kienholz of Washington, Karla Powers of Colorado Springs, and Kris (Terry) Shutts of Fort Collins, along with nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, brother Jim Stebbins, and grandson Matthew Nicklos.

In honoring Barbara's memory, the family suggests donations to Heifer International (1 World Avenue, Little Rock, AR 72202, or the Colorado Talking Book Library (180 Sheridan Blvd, Denver, CO 80226), organizations that reflect her passion for serving others and spreading good. Though no public memorial services will be held, a private family burial in La Junta will take place in September.

Peacock-Larsen Funeral Home & Arkansas Valley Crematory is in charge of arrangements.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Barbara Lou Stebbins Kienholz, please visit our flower store.


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