Barbara Stephens, 65, died unexpectedly in Phoenix, Ariz. on Friday, May 17, 2019 just two days shy of her 66th birthday. Her sudden passing left her friends and family disconsolate. Barb was diagnosed with lung cancer 12 years ago and fought the disease with bravery and spirit. However, her passing was still a shock to the many who knew and loved her.
Barbara was born on May 19, 1953. She grew up with her older sister, Ricky, and younger sister, Jane, on a cattle ranch in Alturas, Calif. with her late parents Barre and Phyllis Stephens.
From an early age Barbara loved to ride horses and help with moving cattle and all things “ranch.” Her determination and toughness was evident even at the young age of 9 when trying to train her pony Danny to lunge line. Danny let her know in no uncertain way that he was the boss and kicked her in the chin. And even that never discouraged Barb from her love affair with horses.
Barb truly lived her best life in multiple places and different ways throughout her life. After graduating from Modoc High School in 1971, she moved to Newport Beach, Calif. to start another one of her many lives. This time was her “sailing life” when she began to sail with her friends and her father, Barre. Sailing was in her DNA, as the Stephens family built sail and power boats for 80 years, based out of Stockton, Calif. The family competed in the Trans Pac and the Big Boat Series yacht races in San Francisco Bay. Barb became a talented cook on racing sailboats leading to jobs as a fantastic bartender, cook and server in many restaurants in California and Oregon. Her gregarious personality made her a natural in these areas.
Later on she moved to Bear Valley for another of her exciting lives, this time with skiing and making life long friends who got together annually for decades. Barb also spent some time back in Alturas working for her father, Barre, and running his ranch and also bartending at the Niles Hotel with her best friend, Roxanne, and having a grand time as only two beautiful blonde babes can have!
Barb then moved to Truckee, Calif. to work at Northstar, the Squeeze In and also to learn the trade of tiling from her friend, Melissa. That new skill set eventually led her to get a contractors license for tiling and painting.
On July 13,1996 she and Paul Whidden married after being together off and on since the late 70s. Eventually they sold the house in Truckee to move to Barbara’s forever home in Lakeview.
Tucked up against the Warner Mountains, Barb’s home was magical to her and all who visited! With creeks on either side of the property, to the view of the pond in the fore ground and Goose Lake in the background, Barbara found her slice of heaven. She had room for her dogs (Barre, Diego, Stella Jolly and Sailor to name a few of them) and her cats (Slick, Woody and Hitch) and horses (Tally and Skip) along with deer, skunks and mountain lions. Barb felt peaceful and happy here. With boundless energy she transformed her home into her haven, welcoming friends and family alike.
And as anyone who knew Barbara would attest, she got things done! From weed whacking Hwy 395 and decorating the entrance to the Town of Lakeview, to working on getting the fairgrounds cleaned up, fences painted, bathrooms tiled and decorated, trees and flowers planted, getting the ski hill beautified and functional with a kitchen, and lodge upgrades and then getting the piece d’resistance, the deck for the ski hill that makes it more than a one season destination. And in addition to that she helped design and decorate the new bowling alley with creative fencing and art work using recycled bowling pins and shoes, and helping out her sister Jane’s friend, Julia, get settled in Lakeview and help get her restaurant up and running with decorating the restaurant to helping with menu and bar suggestions. If a friend needed help she was there with energy and ideas!
For the last two years Barbara was driving to Reno every three weeks to fly to Phoenix to check in at the Cancer Treatment Center of America. She was often met by her sister, Jane, or friend, Jana, and anyone else who might have the time to enjoy her time at the “SPA” as she liked to refer to it. It was during Barb’s first visit there with Jane that they met their soon to be friend, Wade, who was also undergoing cancer treatment. Barb and Wade hit it off and they tried to meet when they could at Phoenix and even a visit from Wade to Lakeview to catch up. Wade and his girlfriend were with Barbara on her final day along with her sister, Jane, friend, Jana and her husband, Paul. Barb was surrounded by friends and family who loved her enormously.
Barb was an adventurer who traveled to Europe and South Africa with her friend, Linda, volunteered to go to Haiti with her friend, Lesa, and to South America with her friend, Jana. She sailed to Tahiti with her father and from Hawaii to California with many friends.
Barb was always ready for her next adventure. She would get up at dark thirty to help friends move cattle just because she loved them and the ranching life so much. Barb truly lived the following saying:
LIFE’S JOURNEY IS NOT TO ARRIVE AT THE GRAVE SAFELY IN A WELL PRESERVED BODY, BUT RATHER TO SKID IN SIDEWAYS, TOTALLY WORN OUT, SHOUTING
“HOLY COW… WHAT A RIDE! “
Barbara is survived by: husband, Paul Whidden; sister, Jane Stephens; and her adored Aunt Evie Younger who she visited as often as possible in Alturas; as well as her cousins who were more like brothers and sisters; and not to be forgotten her friends from her much loved town of Lakeview, San Diego, Newport Beach, Bear Valley, and Montague. She loved her many, many friends and there wasn’t a stranger she couldn’t talk to.
A celebration of her life will be held at the Warner Canyon Ski Area on Friday, July 26, 2019 at 11:00 a.m. Please bring stories and pictures to help celebrate the life Barb lived, rich with giving, travel and experiences. A table will be set up for donations for the ski hill in order to support Barb’s many efforts in maintaining and improving this special little ski resort. Checks should be made out to: Fremont Highlanders Lodge Fund and mailed to Danny Michaelson, PO Box 909, Lakeview, OR 97630.