Barbara Joan Durst (Barbi till her teens, then Barb) was born on New Year’s Eve, 1964 and died of end-stage Alzheimer’s disease on August 4, 2023.
Barb was predeceased by her parents: Dr. Joseph B. Durst and Joan M. Durst and her brothers: Joseph M. Durst and Paul H. Durst.
She is survived by her sisters: Meg (Jack) Storkamp and Kathi (Kevin) Hansen, her aunt Luanne Durst, FSPA, her nieces, a grandniece and two grandnephews, and many cousins. Barb is additionally survived by her housemates: Lynne, Alysha, and Travis.
Barb was born with Down syndrome at a time when infants & children with disabilities were still institutionalized, but our parents chose to keep her with her family. She lived an active and full life.
Barb was a lifelong member of Blessed Sacrament parish, baptized and confirmed in the Catholic faith. She attended La Crosse Public Schools until age 21; thank you to the late Mrs. Elsie Geiwitz and her other teachers, for teaching her to read and tell time. Barb held a number of jobs, including at the St. Francis Hospital kitchen, Pizza Hut, Holiday Inn Express laundry, Stoney Creek Inn laundry, and Goodwill (Rose Street location). She was a participant at Riverfront, Inc./Aptiv, Inc. for over 25 years; special thanks to all the staff but especially the late Michelle Lesky and Tiffany Stremcha who were job coaches, advocates, teachers, and friends. During Barb’s many years at Riverfront/Aptiv, she was involved in the Production Facility, Day Services programs, Tuesday Night Specials, Recreation Activities (Bowling and Travel), Riverfront Singers, and Riverfront Dancers.
Barb was a participant in Special Olympics and the UW-La Crosse Center on
Disability Health and Adapted Physical Activity, both the Children’s Motor Development Program and the Adult Physical Fitness Program. She was a client at Life In Harmony Music Therapy in the Rock That Extra Chromosome group, S.T.O.M.P., and Individual Therapy; special thanks to all the staff but especially Andrea Halvorson and Andy Riederer.
Barb became a resident at The Dwelling Place adult family home in January 2013, and it was truly her “home sweet home” from the day she moved in.
Thanks to Bridges of Belonging, Inc., Catholic Charities of the Diocese of La Crosse (especially Steve Burnette), and ILC, LLC for making The Dwelling Place a real home. Deepest gratitude to all the staff at The Dwelling Place over the years, but especially Micheal Krueger, whose leadership built the foundation for a home filled with compassion, respect, and kindness, Katerina Hoff, who oversaw Barb’s transition to hospice care as her Alzheimer’s disease progressed, and Michelle Murphy, who was a member of The Dwelling Place staff throughout the entire time Barb lived there.
The family offers additional thanks to: Barb’s Case Managers, Social Workers, and Nurses through La Crosse County and Inclusa, especially Cory Reetz, Carrie Horstman, and Sarah Solomon.
Barb lived with great enthusiasm and she loved: music of all types (but especially country); attending concerts; going to amusement parks, water parks, and theme parks (especially riding the roller coasters); eating pasta, pizza, and ice cream; traveling by plane and train, and even by car, but not so much by boat (there might be whales & sharks!); parties, socializing, and dancing; the many friends she made through school, work, and community activities; the Weather Channel and CMT; a good joke (remember all those years of the “Joke-A-day” calendar?) and April Fool’s Day—she had a great giggle and chuckle and loved to laugh; the Green Bay Packers; and most of all, family!
The family especially wants to thank Barb’s team from Mayo Clinic Health System Hospice, led by Matt Hammes, for their compassionate support these past 20 months. They helped us all face this journey with courage, grace, and serenity.
Mass of Christian Burial for Barb will be held at 10:30 AM on Monday, August 21 at Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church of La Crosse. Family and friends may call from 3:00 to 5:00 PM on Sunday, August 20 at the Blaschke & Schneider Funeral Home as well as one hour prior to the Mass on Monday from 9:30 to 10:30 AM at Church. Interment will be at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery, La Crosse.