Passing of Barbara Thoman Curtis

Beloved colleague and dear friend Barbara Curtis passed away at her home in Florida on Oct. 18, 2015, surrounded by her loving family. Barbara was a past president of WSNA and a member of the WSNA Hall of Fame and the ANA Hall of Fame.

Dear Nursing Colleagues:

Many of you have already heard the sad news that our beloved colleague and dear friend Barbara Curtis passed away at her home in Florida on Oct. 18, 2015, surrounded by her loving family. Below is the obituary prepared by her family. Barbara is a past President of WSNA and a member of the WSNA Hall of Fame (http://www.wsna.org/hall-of-fame/2002/Barbara-Thomas-Curtis/) and the ANA Hall of Fame (Barbara’s Hall of Fame video/clip).

A private memorial service was held at Paisley, FL, on Nov. 1, 2015 and an additional memorial service for her large circle friends, extended family and nursing colleagues is planned for Dec. 5 at the Unity on the North Shore Church, 3434 Central Street, in Evanston, IL 60201. The service will begin at 2 pm with a reception afterward at the church.

I know that you all join me in celebrating the incredible life that Barbara led. To say that Barb will be greatly missed by her family and her many friends and colleagues is an understatement. She was truly loved, admired and respected by so many. Always the quintessential professional, she was an outstanding, effective and successful nurse leader, great mom, sister, aunt, grandmother, true friend and mentor to so many. Her enthusiasm and indefatigable energy, tempered with wisdom and grace, allowed her to confront conflict and seemingly insurmountable challenges throughout her life. Professionally she was a great leader, with vision and style that always promoted collegiality and achieved consensus. I so valued and appreciated her thoughtful approach to issues, her sense of humor and her never-ending caring, considerate ways. Like many of you, Barb and I were friends for nearly 50 years. She was my hero, and I loved her like a sister and admired her intelligence, her vision, her energy and her determination and her passion for nursing. The world is truly a better place for her having been in it – she lived her life well and truly made a difference. Heaven has gained another guiding light to shine on all of us. We will all miss her so much.

Judy Huntington, MN, RN
Executive Director
Washington State Nurses Association

A memorial website for Barbara Curtis has been created. You can add comments, memories, etc. It would be wonderful for people to take a moment to visit and add a comment.

Barbara Thoman Curtis, RN - National Nursing Political Activist and Leader #


Barbara Thoman, ca 1970s, from The Washington Nurse magazine.

Barbara Thoman Curtis, 77, passed away October 18, 2015, at her home in Ormond Beach, FL, surrounded by her children and extended family.

Active in state and national nurses organizations for more than 40 years, Barbara was the quintessential nurse activist, making sustained, lifelong contributions that motivated and educated hundreds of nurses to take an active role in health policy and political action. Her advocacy efforts, and those she influenced, have improved the lives of nurses and citizens of this country.

Barbara had a long and distinguished career in nursing. In addition to being a clinical nurse and nursing teacher, Barbara was a nationally-recognized leader in nursing. Her tireless efforts as an advocate for nursing led her to leadership roles in several state nurses associations and the American Nurses Association (ANA). While on the ANA Board, she founded N-CAP, which later became the ANA PAC, a bi-partisan political action committee dedicated to improving the U.S. health care system.

Always an advocate for access to care, in 1993 she and her daughter took part in an "Ambulance Drive for Health Care Reform," sponsored by ANA and Families USA. They drove an old ambulance in a caravan from North Carolina to Washington, DC, on the last leg of a series of rallies for health care reform held across the country.

In 1994,she was chosen by ANA as one of two individuals to spend three months in Washington, DC, as a liaison with the White House on health care legislation. She was also the chief coordinator and member of the White House advance team for a health care rally attended by both President and Mrs. Clinton and Vice President and Mrs. Gore.

In 1992, ANA established the Barbara Thoman Curtis Award to honor a nurse who has made significant contributions to nursing practice and health policy through legislative activity and Barbara was the first recipient. In 2014, to honor her lifelong contribution to nursing, Barbara was inducted into ANA’s Hall of Fame. She was also named to the Washington State Nurses Association and Florida Nurses Association Halls of Fame, respectively in 2002 and 2015.

Beset for many years by a serious illness that often left her hospitalized for weeks, Barbara was nevertheless able to live an extraordinary life of activism and service through sheer force of will. She inspired not only nurses but dozens of others to be active participants in democracy, not just bystanders. She worked tirelessly for candidates she believed in, never missed an opportunity to vote, and even navigated the crowds and subway alone to attend President Obama’s first inauguration, despite having just been released from the hospital a few days earlier.

As co-pastor of the small Community of Christ congregation in Ormond Beach, FL, she often held services in her apartment and then fed all the worshipers after the service. Legendary for her generosity, her home was always open to anyone in need, even when she herself was struggling with health or other issues.

Barbara’s most lasting legacy, however, sprang from her fierce determination to not let chronic illness and being a single parent stop her from being the kind of mother she wanted to be. Even though money was often scarce, Barbara’s children never felt deprived because she gave them something far more valuable: unconditional love, discipline, and the rock-solid foundation of values that helped them become generous, strong and accomplished adults.

Barbara was born October 17, 1938, in Chicago to John Thoman and Tasula Petrakis Thoman. She was raised in Chicago and Independence, MO, and later lived in a variety of places including Spokane, WA; Wheaton, IL; and Bethesda, MD. Barbara graduated from William Chrisman High School in Independence in 1956 and attended Graceland College in Lamoni, IA, earning her RN at the Independence Sanitarium and Hospital School of Nursing.

Barbara was preceded in death by her parents and her brother-in-law, George Fisher. She is survived by her children and their partners, respectively: Douglas and Michaeline Curtis of Scarsdale, NY; Cheryl Curtis Fair and Chris Fair of Daytona Beach, FL; and Mirella Curtis Meyers and Dennis Meyers of Palm Coast, FL; by her grandchildren Catherine, Elizabeth and William Curtis of Scarsdale NY; Cassie Reyes of Port Orange, FL; and Brandon Fair, stationed in Fort Benning, GA; and her great grandchildren Austin and Madelyn Reyes. Barbara will also be dearly missed by her siblings Mark Thoman of Port Orchard, WA; and Lea Thoman Acord and Nikki Thoman Fisher, both of Racine, WI and by her special niece Kristen Acord Lalowski of Chicago, IL.

A private memorial service was held at Deerhaven Campground in Paisley, FL, on November 1, 2015.

An additional remembrance service is being planned for December 5th in Chicago at Unity on the North Shore, 3434 Central Street,Evanston, IL 60201. Service to begin at 2 pm and a light pastry reception afterwards at the church.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests contributions to the Barbara Thoman Curtis Nursing Scholarship at HealthEd Connect, 1401 West Truman Road, Independence, MO 64050. (Those wishing to do so may donate online at www.HealthEdConnect.org , designating the Barbara Thoman Curtis scholarship as the gift purpose.)

Family contact: Nikki Fisher nfisher@solutionsinsights.com