Barbara Gail Bennett of St. Louis passed away on January 2, in Barnes Hospital after a brief illness. Barbara was born on November 27, 1944 in Baltimore, Maryland to Pete and Mary June Nemetsky. She was raised in the small southern Illinois town of Zeigler, where she graduated from Zeigler High School. She earned a BA in history from Southern Illinois University-Carbondale and a master’s in education from University of Missouri-St. Louis.
She was preceded in death by her parents and her former husband, Harry Dale “Sandy” Bennett of Lexington, Tennessee.
Barbara’s main passion in life was other human beings, and from the moment one engaged her, there was the feeling that she believed you were much more important than she was. It was felt by the kids she taught, the folks she worked with at various nonprofits in the St. Louis metro area and those she supervised in her work on women’s issues. Her manner had tremendous impact.
As Executive Director for the agency now known as Safe Connections for seventeen years, Barbara was a gifted administrator and a strong voice opposing domestic violence against women and children in the larger St. Louis community. She was an activist who had a plan and pursued it with positive vigor. She opened doors of escape, healing and education to individuals that improved their lives and changed the culture as she shined a light on violence issues.
Barbara’s plan included understanding that there are no limits to success if no one cares who gets the credit. She encouraged volunteerism and helped secure long-term financial stability for her organization through her personal efforts, giving credit to others freely. She also recognized that women’s issues are men’s issues and began programs to educate many thousands of young men about healthy relationships with women.
“Smart, articulate, funny, caring and compassionate” was the way one close couple expressed Barbara’s personality. These qualities were clearly present in her personal relationships, meaning that she loved her friends in a way that totally captured the concept of “to have a friend, be a friend.” A prolific reader, she took her time to find articles, books, movies and plays that were perfectly suited gifts for her pals, presenting them through regular communication. She made their lives better.
Barbara leaves her husband, Karl Wilson of St. Louis, her son, Matthew Bennett of St. Louis, her brother, John Nemetsky and wife, Mary, with her nephew, Pete Nemetsky, all of Carbondale, Illinois; her stepson, Seth Wilson and his wife, Jennifer Neal of Nashville, Tennessee; her stepdaughter, Leah Wilson and her husband, Nicholas Trotta, parents of Barbara’s grandchildren, Adeline and Elliott Trotta of Durham, North Carolina; her uncle and aunt, Bob and Nola Wilson of Palm Harbor, Florida; and numerous cousins around the country.
A visitation will be held at The Ethical Society of St. Louis, 9001 Clayton Road, on Saturday, February 2nd, from 10 a.m. until noon, followed by a memorial service at noon. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in her name to Safe Connections, St. Louis Public Radio or the local theatre company of your choice.