Barbara Buchner was born in Galt, Ont., and her roots remained important to her. Galt may have been renamed Cambridge, but was forever Galt to her.
The only child of William (Bill) and Florence Buchner, she was a role model for women of her generation in science. She attained her bachelor’s degree in sciences from McMaster University in 1948 in a graduating class with only eight women. She went on to earn her master’s degree in virology in 1954.
Barbara had a successful career as a virologist and epidemiologist in Toronto and Ottawa, ending her paid career in 1992 at the Canadian Red Cross. She wrote numerous scientific papers in her areas of expertise: virology, hepatitis and radioimmunoassay. In recognition of her many achievements, she was awarded the YWCA Woman of Distinction in Science Award in 1998.
Barbara certainly earned the right to be fiercely independent, not only being an only child and a woman who never married, but also working in a field of men. She was usually the only woman at the table in the conferences and meetings she attended, particularly in the early years of her career.
She volunteered with numerous organizations in the communities where she lived, most notably the Canadian Hearing Society in Cambridge. She was also devoted to her church and served as an elder for many years.
A well-known packrat, Barbara hated to get rid of anything. Her family home, which was sold in 2008, was a treasure trove of mementos and ephemera from three generations of her family. It was cluttered, but Barbara knew where everything was.
She loved to travel and became a huge fan of cruising at sea, which offered the added attraction of allowing her to follow another passion, bridge. She played the game regularly until almost the end of her life. Later in life, she became a sports fan, and nothing could interrupt her beloved Toronto Blue Jays games.
Barbara loved to eat, and she never let her diabetes get in the way of a good dessert. There is an oft-repeated story of her having a dessert in each hand at a family gathering, for which she was taken to task by her then-seven-year-old goddaughter, Laura.
She loved to sing and did so heartily. She readily admitted she couldn’t carry a tune, and the biggest threat she ever made was to sing at my wedding. All were quite relieved when she failed to follow through.
Barbara was always part of an extended family of friends. Although she had many health problems throughout her life, she always maintained a positive attitude, a sense of humour and a zest for life. She was an inspiration to many and opened doors for even more.
Ruth Manchee Kenins is Barb’s friend.
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