New Lenox woman refused to give cancer the last word
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News September 2, 2012 10:04PM
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:05AM
Deborah Barnhart, 54, of New Lenox had a smile that could light up a room, a heart large enough to embrace the world, a playful attitude and a spirit of steel that even stage three breast cancer could not beat.
Up until two weeks before her Aug. 10 death, Barnhart continued working her job as an administrative clerk for the Will County Sheriff’s Office. Barnhart refused to give cancer the last word, even after it moved to her bones and liver.
“She always said, ‘I’m not dying with cancer,’” said Amanda Richards of New Lenox, Barnhart’s daughter. “‘I’m living with it.’”
Barnhart’s upbeat will to live began in early childhood, long before she and her 3-year-old grandson would pretend they were “walking tightropes.”
As a little girl, Barnhart and her friend used to show off dance moves in the front yard to entertain passers-by. As a mom, Barnhart attended Hanson and ‘N’ Sync concerts with Amanda and her friends.
“My friends would always say, ‘I wish I had a mom like your mom,’” Amanda said.
However, Barnhart was plenty serious when it came to finding a bargain or shaving money off purchases. Whether it was coupon clipping, garage sales or trash treasures, Barnhart knew the ins and outs of thriftiness and stretched her husband Ted’s truck driver income in multiple ways.
“I’m more frugal because of her,” said Ted Barnhart of New Lenox.
Barnhart unabashedly loved her family and had the perfect listening ear. Everyone shared their problems and concerns, sorrows and joys with Barnhart, knowing they had her full attention.
Even when Barnhart, a professional hairdresser, visited the three assisted living homes where she styled the female residents that lived there, she ensured “her little old ladies” felt special, pampered and loved.
“She was such a caring person and fixer,” Ted said. “If anybody had an issue, she was there to listen and help out.”
Ted remembers the day Barnhart learned she had breast cancer. He was coaching his youngest son’s football game. One minute Barnhart and Amanda were sitting in the stands; the next minute they were gone. Barnhart had received the fateful phone call.
“When we got home, we all sat down and cried,” Ted said. “Then she said, ‘Well, I better start fighting it.”
Contact Denise M. Baran-Unland at 815-467-5249 or firstname.lastname@example.org.