Julia Morgan's original drawings for our Clubhouse, Courtesy of Cal Poly Archives

ALWAYS A NEW CHAPTER - An Interview with Barbara Ormsby by Gini Griffin

November 24, 2015 10:51 AM | Linda Wilson (Administrator)

My first encounter with Barbara was through her artistic creations made for a Monday Club fundraiser: intricate knitted animals and exquisite lavender sachets. Years later we served together on the Club’s Bylaws Committee. Always gracious and professional, she helped move the Committee toward updated Articles of Incorporation, as well as reorganized and coherent Bylaws consistent with the California Nonprofit Corporation Law.

Barbara on far right with childhood friendsBarbara’s journey to San Luis Obispo began years ago. She was born and raised as an only child in Melbourne, Australia. Some of her childhood companions have remained close, lifelong friends.

During WWII Barbara was living at home with her Mother and still in school. Everyone had to register and serve in the war effort in one way or another. Her Mother was assigned to office work while Barbara and her schoolmates knitted socks for the soldiers and performed other small tasks. Her father entered the military service and was shipped overseas to India, and later to Greece. While in Greece he was listed as Missing in Action, which caused tremendous stress on the family at home in Australia. Barbara at 16He did survive, and, after a five year absence, returned home a full Colonel.

In her early 20’s Barbara moved to Washington D.C. She was employed by the Australian Consulate as a secretary and “Girl Friday” – a life chapter she enjoyed very much.

Barbara married Dick Ormsby, an Australian military officer she had corresponded with during the war. He got a job with Dow Chemical and they moved about the U.S. over the years as his career progressed. They became American citizens in the 50’s, and had two sons, Lee, now deceased, and Alan.

When Dick retired they returned to California. Barbara had enjoyed working with a travel agency while living in Michigan, and she opened a new chapter in the travel industry, exploring the World, including Europe, the Middle East, Caribbean, Alaska, Japan and South America.

When her husband passed away Barbara and her son Alan travelled to Australia for an extended six-week visit. Returning to California, they decided to purchase a cocker spaniel puppy, intending to just enjoy him as a lovely pet. To their surprise, the puppy grew to qualify as a Grand Champion! The World of dog shows opened a renewed interest in travel and meeting new people. As Barbara puts it, “another new chapter begins.”

Barbara in 1947

Barbara is also an enthusiastic reader and enjoys a variety of subjects with selections from the Arroyo Grande library. Last Christmas she had a bad fall while delivering cookies to welcome a new neighbor. She had a long and painful recuperation to heal broken bones, which now limits her ability to drive.

Barbara strives to keep pace with son Alan, while enjoying her home and many activities. As I left our interview visit, I was treated to a sweeping view from her hilltop of the Pismo Coast far below. I wonder if the panorama reminds Barbara of her Australian home?

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