Barbara Shryock Koelle Obituary

Barbara Shryock Koelle was a Philadelphia native who spent most of her younger years in Durham, N.C.. Her family moved back to Pennsylvania during her teenage years, and she graduated from Lower Merion High School.

Her father, Richard Harrison Shryock, taught history at Duke University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Johns Hopkins University. Her mother, Rheva Ott Shryock, was a parliamentarian, and an active member of the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority. The Shryocks often traveled to Europe. At a young age, Barbara and her brother, Richard Wallace Shryock, lived in Germany for a year while Hitler was coming to power. She always remembered the Nazis saluting and saying, “Heil Hitler!”

Barbara received her B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, later earning her Master’s and Ph.D. from Penn in psychology. Barbara’s thesis explored the effect of violence in children’s literature (including fairy tales) on children. Her interest in psychology began when she was in college; during the summers, she worked at a facility called Four Winds, in upstate New York. Once, when she was with two patients out on the grounds, one of the patients said, “Oh Miss Shryock, Miss Jones is running away!”  And Mom turned to see the other patient heading over a hill. They retrieved her, luckily.

Barbara married John Brampton Koelle (Jack), in the summer of 1948, when Jack was in the Air Force Reserves. Soon afterwards, they set sail on a ship for Europe, where they lived for nine months. They were required to sign a document saying that they could not change their minds about sailing when they saw the ship; it was a slightly renovated troop ship. Men and women had to sleep in bunk beds, in separate quarters. A female college friend accompanied them, and another passenger finally asked Jack which woman was his wife. “I always carry a spare,” he replied.

After some adventures in England, Barbara and Jack lived in Paris, in a sixth floor walk-up, for very little money. The hotel manager’s daughter was shocked to find Barbara ironing; she had thought American women didn’t know how to do anything practical. The Koelles’ room had the luxury of hot water, so their female friend would come by to wash her hair in their sink. They went to jazz clubs and the Folies-Bergere, saw Josephine Baker perform, rode in a sleigh at Christmas time in Switzerland, and took French classes.

Upon returning to the states, the Koelles were stationed in New York, and in a little town in Florida. Their memories of Florida include palmetto bugs that scurried to hide when the lights were turned on. The two flavors of ice cream available were vanilla and maple walnut. Did they have any other flavors? “We sure don’t!” They called the drive-in theater once, when a double feature was scheduled, to ask when the second movie started. “Why, when the first one ends!”

Barbara and Jack lived in Colorado Springs for six years after that. They had a wonderful time at the Officers’ Club on the Air Force base, where Jack appeared in plays, they danced a tango for a New Year’s Eve event, and numerous parties provided for an active social life. The Koelles’ first two children, Richard and Katherine, were born in Colorado.

When Jack returned to civilian life as an engineer, he moved the family back to Pennsylvania and they settled in Swarthmore, a town Jack knew from attending Swarthmore College after the war.  Barbara had a Swarthmore connection as well; she and her family had lived for a year at the Strath Haven Inn when she was young. Their third child, Susan, was born in Philadelphia.

Barbara served as a school psychologist, testing and counseling elementary school children in the Swarthmore and Nether Providence school districts. She continued her commitment to children by providing these services to inner city youth as a volunteer for  Episcopal Community Services in Philadelphia

Barbara had many interests and talents. She was a gourmet cook, a generous hostess, an active member of Trinity Church, an avid reader, a good writer, and a great traveling companion for her husband. On Caribbean vacations, Barbara would snorkel on the surface while Jack scuba dived below. She was a keen collector of children’s books, which led her to join the International Wizard of Oz Club. Over the years, she served as a member of the Club’s board of directors, as its president, and as editor of the Club’s magazine, the Baum Bugle. She is remembered by many for making gifts of Oz books to friends, family members, and neighborhood children. She also helped organize and host early Oz conventions that took place on the east coast, or, in Oz parlance, Munchkin Land.

Barbara, who passed away on November 28, 2018, was predeceased by her son Richard and her daughter Susan. She lost her husband of almost 70 years, Jack Koelle, in April of this year.

Barbara is survived by her daughter, Kate, and her grandchildren, Spencer and Lucy.

A memorial service will be held in the near future.

— Katherine Koelle

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