Bridgewater, Barbara Paton
84, passed away on August 21st, 2022, after a courageous battle with breast cancer, surrounded by the love of her devoted family and friends.
Barbara lit up a room with her natural elegance, energetic spirit, and beautiful smile. A true extrovert, she leaned into life with endless enthusiasm and festive flair. Birthdays, graduations, weddings, holidays, parties, and dinners–she didn’t just show up for them; she lived for them. Barbara loved celebrating togetherness and fun. With a tireless sense of adventure, Barbara traveled all over the world during her life with her husband, family, and friends. From an African safari with her own young family, to chaperoning a daughter’s school trip to Japan, to riding horses on a New Zealand beach and walking the streets of Madrid and Milan with her college-aged granddaughters, to visiting the biblical sites in Jordan and Israel with her cherished Kenilworth Union Church, if there was an invitation, her answer was “Yes!” A master bridge player, a lover of poodles, a curious lifelong learner, and a dedicated patron of the arts, Barbara’s interests were diverse, genuine, and enduring.
Barbara was born on November 27th, 1937, to her adoring parents, Louise Fuller Paton and Robert Burns Paton, in Terre Haute, Indiana. She grew up in Kansas City, Missouri, and graduated from Shawnee Mission High School in 1954. She received her Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in Radio/TV/Drama from the University of Oklahoma, where she met the love of her life, Dolph Bridgewater , who was completing his law degree. They both graduated in 1958 and married two years later. The couple spent their first year together in Europe, where Dolph served as the legal officer at the US Naval Station in Rota, Spain. A beautiful 59-year marriage and a shared life of adventure had begun.
After graduating from college, Barbara began her career as an Assistant Account Executive for the Almayer, Fox, and Reshkin Advertising Agency in Kansas City. Two years later, as she moved to Boston for Dolph’ graduate school, she was the breadwinner, working as a professional runway and commercial fashion model, featured in numerous TV commercials and print ads. She continued modeling in Boston, Washington DC, and Chicago for 17 years.
However, Barbara’s greatest civic and charitable contribution was her role as a creative, philanthropic visionary. She just couldn’t say no to any opportunity to support the arts and build community. She began her legacy as a volunteer on the Women’s Board of the Maternity Center of Chicago and the Infant Welfare League of Chicago and then as President of the Kenilworth Girl Scout Council and on the Board of Directors of the North Shore Girl Scout Council. In St. Louis, Barbara served on the Board of Trustees of the St. Louis Art Museum and Board of Directors of the Repertory Theater of St. Louis, the Opera Theater of St. Louis, Forest Park Forever, and the Arts and Education Council or Greater St. Louis. She was also on the Friends’ Board of the St. Louis Science Center and was a dedicated benefit of the tireless work of the Saint Louis Zoo. It’s no wonder that the St. Louis Variety Club named Barbara their Woman of the Year in 1990.
Barbara and Dolph shared a deep dedication and appreciation for education and were committed to making it available to others. Not only endowing scholarships at Washington University in St. Louis, Barbara also served on the Board of Directors and Parents’ Council at Princeton and Vanderbilt University, the Parents’ Advisory Council at Kenyon College, and was a Board Member on Mary Institute’s Parents’ Association . She joined Washington University’s National Council of the College of Art and, later, served on the National Council of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts for many years. An endowed scholarship continues at the Sam Fox School in her name.
Most importantly, though, Barbara adored her family and friends. Her world revolved around “her people”–spending time with them, celebrating them, cheering them on, and looking forward to special times together. Her friends and family were gathered around her until her final hours, sharing stories, playing bridge, and giggling over gossip. Her parents, husband, three daughters, their husbands, and her ten grandchildren were the true loves of her life and her greatest source of pride, wonder, and fun. She was equally blessed to meet her first great-granddaughter in early August, Poppy Louise Gregory. Barbara was preceded in death by her beloved father, mother, and husband and is survived by her treasured daughters: Barrie, Beth, and Bonnie; devoted sons-in-law: Nick Somers, Andy Condie, and Tim Stewart; and her 10 cherished grandchildren: Payton Somers Gregory (Josh), Kiki, and Will Somers; Caitlin, Ellie, Bridget, and Joe Condie; and Charlie, Jack, and Henry Stewart.
Services: A Memorial Service will be held in St. Louis, Missouri, on Saturday, November 5th, 1:00 pm, at Ladue Chapel, with a Celebration of Life to follow. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Saint Louis Zoo, or Barbara Bridgewater Scholarship Fund at Washington University. See www.boppchapel.com.
Published by St. Louis Post-Dispatch on Aug. 28, 2022.