Barbara Stewart, 76, VA Hospital administrator

Barbara S. Stewart
Barbara S. Stewart
Posted: May 13, 2013

Barbara Scarborough Stewart, 76, of Philadelphia, a longtime administrator at the Veterans Affairs Hospital and a helper and adviser to many, died Monday, April 29, of renal cell carcinoma at her home.

An ongoing theme in Mrs. Stewart's life was readiness to aid her many relatives, coworkers, church members, and friends.

Help could come in the form of providing a good meal, supplying advice about life or money, offering financial aid, or using her professional knowledge and seniority to nudge others up the employment ladder.

"Young women she encouraged at the hospital told me, 'I am who I am today because of your sister,' " said her sister, Ruth Scarborough Ramsey.

Born at the former Lankenau Hospital in North Philadelphia, Mrs. Stewart graduated with a business diploma from Mastbaum Vocational Technical School in Frankford.

Early in life she displayed the virtues of hard work, scrubbing the worn marble steps of her home and those of her elderly neighbors.

As a teenager, she would prepare dinner for the family while her mother worked, her sister said. Mrs. Stewart also worked as a co-op student while taking classes.

Fresh out of high school, she was employed for several years by the Fairmount Park Commission and then transferred to the VA Hospital, beginning as a ward clerk.

She worked her way up to chief of ward administration, a position in which she could positively influence the lives of her employees, especially women, her sister said.

She would push them to seek more challenging jobs at the hospital, and when they hesitated, she would walk them to the pertinent interviews, her sister said.

"Many retired in upgraded positions, thanks to her encouragement, support, and advice," her sister said.

Her favorite task was to support the hospitalized World II veterans; she knew all their names and made sure they received every benefit possible.

"She knew every rule in the [VA benefits] book," her sister said. "She loved her job."

She married Golden Taylor Stewart in 1959. The two purchased a home in Wynnefield.

When her husband died in 1985, she devoted her life to her mother, the Baptist church, friends, and travel. She traveled widely in the United States and took two dozen cruises, the last of which was in early 2013 against a backdrop of failing health.

"I put her in a wheelchair, and off we went to Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, and Nassau," her sister said. "She had a great time."

She owned a home at the Jersey Shore, where she was known for her barbecue skills. On trips to the Shore, she would insist on exploring the back roads.

She also enjoyed old cathedrals, farm markets, flea markets, the theater, opera, and books on tape.

An active volunteer, she was a founding member of Club Karemba, which devoted its time and resources to the teen girls at the Stenton Child Care Center for Abused and Neglected Children.

Throughout her life, Mrs. Stewart was a whiz at finances; she kept the books for the National Medical Association-OB/GYN section for almost 20 years.

She was an expert bridge and pinochle player.

On one Atlantic cruise, she played contract bridge for 15 days and came in first with her partner, but couldn't find her way back to her stateroom, her daughter said. With help, she finally did.

Surviving, in addition to her sister, are a son, Michael Gregory; her mother, Janie L. Scarborough; two sisters; and five nephews.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday, May 11, at Pinn Memorial Baptist Church, 2251 N. 54th St. A viewing will start at 9 a.m. at the church. Interment will be in Glenwood Memorial Gardens, Broomall.


Contact Bonnie L. Cook

at 215-854-2611 or bcook@phillynews.com.

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