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Barbara Carol Joellenbeck, occupational therapist and outdoors enthusiast, dies

Barbara Carol Joellenbeck was an active volunteer for several nonprofits.
Barbara Carol Joellenbeck was an active volunteer for several nonprofits.

Barbara Carol Joellenbeck, an occupational therapist who was a hiking and travel enthusiast, died of metastatic breast cancer Aug. 23 at her home in the Lake-Walker section of North Baltimore. She was 62.

Born in Baltimore and raised in Anneslie, she was the daughter of Roy Walter Fred Joellenbeck, a United Church of Christ pastor, and Kathryn Alice Abele, a Girl Scouts of Central Maryland editor and Johns Hopkins administrative assistant.

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She attended Stoneleigh Elementary School and Dumbarton Middle School. Ms. Joellenbeck was a 1976 Towson High School graduate and a National Merit Scholar finalist. She sang in the school chorus and was a lifelong reader of J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels.

She earned an English degree from Franklin & Marshall College in 1980.

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After graduating, Ms. Joellenbeck worked at the Martin Marietta Corp. and later spent more than a decade living in Seattle.

She met her future husband, Dean Calahan, at a fundraising party on Bainbridge Island.

They married in 1995, just after her initial diagnosis of breast cancer, at a civil ceremony in the Seattle apartment they had moved into that day.

“They toasted with Dom Pérignon out of paper cups,” said her sister, Lois Joellenbeck of Stoneleigh.

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The couple hiked and took road trips throughout the Northwest.

Nearly 20 years ago, she and her husband, an algae scientist, returned to Baltimore. She enrolled at the Community College of Baltimore County and became a certified occupational therapy assistant. She worked at Genesis Homewood and Roland Park Place.

“She maintained her sense of civic engagement and optimism throughout her life, volunteering her time and contributing financially to many organizations, from nationals and internationals like Habitat for Humanity, Heifer International and NARAL,” said her sister. “She also bought groceries and supplies to be given to those in need.”

While in Seattle she helped staff an AIDS hotline and solicited donations to the Seattle Opera.

In Baltimore, she supported Earl’s Place on East Lombard Street. The agency, now Cornerstone Community Housing, provides transitional housing for homeless men needing a new start.

She was an active member of First and St. Stephen’s United Church of Christ in Stoneleigh. She sang in the choir and spent several years as a member of the church’s consistory.

“She loved traditional hymns, especially when accompanied by pipe organ,” said her sister. “Her passion for hiking and the outdoors led her to working summers in Glacier National Park as a young adult.”

In her youth, Ms. Joellenbeck rode horses at Dayspring Farm and other Baltimore County riding academies.

She spent part of summer in Avalon, New Jersey, where she swam and walked on the beach. She also organized trips to Shenandoah National Park during its wildflower season.

She and her husband traveled to Europe several times and visited her father’s ancestral town of Jöllenbeck in northern Germany. They also made a hiking tour through southwestern England and the Cotswolds region.

She also enjoyed a family river cruise down the Rhine and hiking with friends in Portugal. She and her husband walked for almost a week in the Swiss Alps and also trekked in the Eifel region in Germany.

She and her husband also spent time hiking and bicycling extensively in Jülich, Germany.

“She also enjoyed hiking in Loch Raven Reservoir, Cromwell Valley Park and Gunpowder State Park, where she especially enjoyed weekly inner tubing during the pandemic,” her sister said. “As a childhood friend commented, ‘She always looked for an opportunity for happiness.’”

”Over the course of her life, Barbara made and kept many friends. She could not let anybody go,” her sister said. “She felt that any occasion could be enhanced by adding more people. She melded her worlds of friends together. She was a generous and enthusiastic hostess, gifted at making people and dogs feel welcome.”

Her sister added: “Within the family we considered her the border collie because she was always organizing events and encouraging us to participate in the activities she planned. Breakfast was her meal she and loved eggy comestibles.”

“She also created a sense of family for friends she invited into the Joellenbeck fold and delighted in spending time with her family,” her sister said.

She is survived by her husband and her sister.

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