Barbara J. Jilk Profile Photo

Barbara J. Jilk

May 31, 1943 — June 29, 2023


Barbara J. Jilk


Barbara Jean Jilk

Barbara Jean Jilk, 80, died on Thursday, June 29th after living several years with Alzheimer’s Disease.  She was able to remain in her home until late April through the love and care of her husband Leo and other deeply devoted caregivers, especially her dear friend and sister-in-law Catherine (Pudge) Jilk Todd.

Barbara was admired by her family and many others for her kind and gentle temperament, sense of humor, intellectual curiosity, and for her ability to nurture those qualities in others, especially her granddaughter Milena.  In her life and work, she was passionately devoted to social justice and community service.  She had a deep and abiding love of literature, science, and art, and enjoyed Greek and Israeli folk dancing in her youth.  When her son Leo took piano lessons as a child, she learned to play right alongside him and passed on to him her broad knowledge and love of music.  They spent many hours together smiling, dancing, and singing along to Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Buddy Guy, and the Delta Blues.  

She was born Barbara Jean Schacher on May 31, 1943 in Portland, Oregon to Hannah (née Osterback) and Fred Schacher.  Hannah was a schoolteacher and became a single mother after Fred died in combat on the island of Saipan in 1944.  He was awarded the Purple Heart posthumously.  Barbara received her bachelor's Degree in Psychology from Portland State University after graduating from Grover Cleveland High School and attending Reed College from 1961-62.  At Reed and at Portland State, she was recognized as a brilliant student who conducted laboratory research and contributed to published academic papers.  She met her husband Leo in Portland while they were working as counselors in a juvenile detention facility.  

Barbara had an adventurous spirit.  In the early seventies, she and Leo traveled in Europe, North Africa, and South America.  They settled for a time in southern Belize (then British Honduras), where they formed lasting bonds with the local residents and spent time exploring the Mayan ruins.  In 1979 they moved to a small ranch near Wamic, Oregon.  There in the foothills of Mount Hood, Barbara embraced full-time motherhood, while helping to manage the 400-acre ranch that produced wheat and beef cattle.  She also bettered her community and her son’s education by co-founding a Montessori school, leading the enrichment committee at Wamic Grade School, and tutoring GED students through the literacy programs at Columbia Gorge Community College.  

From 1995 until her retirement, Barbara was a Winona County social worker and a senior and caregiver advocate at the Southeastern Minnesota Community Action Agency (Semcac).  For over a decade, Barbara directed the HomeShare Program, helping elderly and disabled community members remain in their own homes.  She advocated for the needs of vulnerable citizens at the local and national levels, testifying before the Minnesota State Legislature and presenting at conferences.  Barbara positively impacted the lives of many and spent countless hours on and off the clock ensuring her clients had the care and attention they needed.  

Left to cherish her memory are her husband Leo, her son Leo and his wife Murwarid Abdiani, granddaughter Milena Hannah Jilk, and sister Virginia Smith; in-laws Steve and Jeanne Jilk, Catherine Jilk Todd, Marvin O'Grady, and Fazel and Homa Abdiani; and her beloved nieces and nephews.  She was preceded in death by her sister Deborah Smith and her sisters-in-law Cecilia (Jilk) Streng and Genevieve (Jilk) O'Grady.  

A private family service will be held.


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