Passing of Barbara Thoman Curtis

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/​h​a​l​l​-​o​f​-​f​a​m​e​/​2​0​0​2​/​B​a​r​b​a​r​a​-​T​h​o​m​as-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​.HealthEd​Con​nect​.org , desig­nating the Barbara Thoman Curtis schol­ar­ship as the gift purpose.) 

Family contact: Nikki Fisher