Barbara Romelfanger was born in 1926 in San Francisco, CA as one of eight children—four boys and four girls. This family of ten shared one bathroom and one 20-gallon gas water heater. In order for ten people to cram into their one car, all of the kids had to sit on stools on the floor in the back seat. Barbara’s school life was very structured as she attended Catholic schools all the way up to her graduation from St. Paul High School in 1944. Despite the challenges of the times, Barbara said that she had a very happy childhood.
With time, World War II began and everyone was on high alert to Japanese threats. One of Barbara’s neighbors was visiting Australia at the time, but was sent back to San Francisco, due to there being no guarantee of safety in other countries. This neighbor told Barbara that she had met a young woman named Marie who wanted a pen pal and Barbara agreed to write to her. At first, during the war, their letters were always marked open by a censor. Any “sensitive information” was cut out with scissors and destroyed. Now, 79 years later, they still communicate with each other. In 2015 Marie, her pen-pal from Australia finally came to San Diego to meet Barbara! What a monumental visit it was.
In 1946 Barbara started to work as a secretary to the Supervisor of the Service Dept. at the American Can Company in San Francisco. One day, she met Lew Lowdon, a clerk in the Engineers Dept. Lew would always find an excuse to visit Barbara by asking her to type a letter for him, later coming back for Barbara to make some corrections to the same letter. Their peers decided to set them up and put them in charge of finding a venue for the annual Christmas party, so, their dating history began! 2 years later, Lew wanted to propose marriage to Barbara. But, he couldn’t marry her unless he became a Catholic. So, Lew decided to give the religion a try. He secretly went to classes and finally became a Catholic. Soon after he proposed to Barbara on her parents’ front porch. In 1950, they married in San Francisco at the Church of the Epiphany next door to where Barbara attended Catholic High School.
In 1951, just a few short months after getting married, Lew, who was a World War II veteran, was sent to Japan during the Korean War. Barbara was pregnant with their first child, but fortunately, Lew got to come home for the birth of their son, Fred. When Fred was 5 months old, Mom and baby traveled by boat to Yokohama, Japan where Lew was stationed. Eventually, the family was able to move back to San Francisco. They spent some time living in California, Connecticut, New York City and even England. It was in most of these cities that they expanded their family and had their children Alan, Jeanette, Theresa, Linda and John.
In 1977, Lew retired after 31 years at the American Can Company. Barbara, who worked at AAA, finally retired in 1986. Then the 2 began to travel in their trailer all over America. They became members of the Road Runners trailer club and traveled as a group making lots of memories. Each winter they would travel from Oregon as snowbirds to Yuma, Arizona, where they honeymooned. From 1994-2004 they donated their time to the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, working tirelessly putting in over 10,000 hours in the community. Barbara also made and donated crocheted baby sweaters and bonnets for young families. She entered the Yuma County Fair and won ribbons for her crochet work. While in Oregon they also donated their time to the Providence Medford Medical Center in the Emergency Department running errands for the team. They received a certificate of merit for their efforts.
Barbara and Lew spent 62 glorious years together and set a perfect example of how to love and give with faith in God. When the need arose, they were always there. Their children could all see the commitments they have given to everyone around them and especially their devotion to God in their daily lives. They also saw them lean on their Shepherd and believe he will pull them through life however hard it may be. It taught them that love and dependability on the Lord does have its rewards.
In 2013, Lew passed away and the family moved Barbara to San Diego to be near her family. Of course, she lived in a Catholic Assisted Living home! The nuns were very strict, she always used to say! She became a mild celebrity last year as a documentary was made about a local San Diego Doctor that visits assisted living homes as a mobile doc. Barbara was chosen for the documentary as the star patient who would then be on Sharp Healthcare TV commercials. One day, her daughter Jeanette was watching TV and saw her Mom!! Now, she has moved to Stellar Care where new memories are being made. She regularly visits with family, goes on outings and surprises staff and friends with a friendly, “peek-a-boo!” May each of her days continue to be filled with joy, love, and kindness.
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