November 15, 1919 – August 7, 2021
Adevoted mother, grandmother, volunteer and friend to all that knew her, Barbara passed away peacefully at home at the age of 101, surrounded by her adoring children, grandchildren and caregiver following a decline several weeks earlier. Always beautiful, stylish and elegant throughout her life, Barbara or “Bobs” was an exceedingly gracious, humble and generous woman who was unfailingly kind and compassionate.
A native of Denver, Colorado, Barbara overcame considerable hardship during childhood after her mother died shortly following childbirth. Her father Lester Church Thomas, who she adored throughout her long life, was left to raise her alone until he remarried a few years later. That marriage ultimately ended in divorce though her father remarried very happily when Barbara was nearing the end of her teenage years.
During her high school years, Barbara attended Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington, D.C., later starting college at Pine Manor in Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts. She eventually moved back home to Colorado, finishing her college education at Colorado College in Colorado Springs, and was forever proud and grateful for her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority affiliation.
After meeting during their early high school years in Denver, and though not formally engaged until much later, Barbara eventually went on to marry John Lawrence Ackard in December 1948 and they enjoyed 21 years together, ultimately making their home in Pacific Palisades. Barbara was the consummate homemaker and loved the two homes they shared, first in Brentwood, and later, the Huntington Palisades where many lifelong friendships were made.
While residing in the Palisades, Barbara was quite active in politics along with supporting animal rights in groups such as “Pet Orphans,” among countless others. She was passionate about her love of classical music and a longtime patron of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, enjoying season tickets to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and later the Walt Disney Concert Hall in support of LA’s resident, world class orchestra.
She also enjoyed an exceptionally long tenure as a volunteer at Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica, devoting nearly 40 years to compassionate, dedicated service. On most days she helped scores of families in the hospital’s “surgery waiting room” as they anticipated news of their loved ones, and on others, faithfully greeted incoming visitors at the “courtesy desk.”
After many happy years in the Palisades, Barbara moved to a beautiful, mid-century modern ranch style residence above Sullivan Canyon in Brentwood, designed by noted California architect Cliff May. The home became a nexus for countless gatherings with friends, children and loving grandchildren, and was profoundly treasured by all.
Her daily life changed quite substantially following a major spinal surgery at age 93, which she survived with flying colors, thanks to both her very skilled and talented surgeon Dr. Hooman Melamed along with meticulous 24/7 in home care. For the remaining eight years of her life, Barbara was cared for by a beautiful, compassionate caregiver Pearl Erdman who treated and loved her like her own mother.
In addition to her love of music, literature, travel and the arts, Barbara will be best remembered for her exceptional generosity and dedication to helping friends and family, her witty sense of humor—and affectionately, her lifelong love of chocolate. She has left an indelible mark on the hearts of her adoring children, grandchildren and countless friends, and is survived by her son Anthony (Tony) Lawrence Ackard and daughters Laura Ackard Saltzman and Marguerite (Maggie) Ackard Vanneman, and grandchildren Brad, Kelly, Timothy, and Casey Vanneman.
Private services will be held in September at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, with a Celebration of Life to follow at a later date. In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored for donations to be made to either Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center at saintjohnsfoundation.org, Los Angeles Philharmonic at laphil.com or Pet Orphans at petorphans.org.
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