Barbara Jane Lehr Deffley, aged 89, beloved wife and mother, died on May 20, 2019 in Casey House, the inpatient care facility of Montgomery Hospice in Rockville, Maryland. Her husband was at her side and her family close by. She died at peace in the presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Barbara was born in Tilden, Illinois on July 9, 1929. She was the eldest of eight children born to Mary M. and Anton G. Lehr and was raised on their farm in rural Coulterville, Illinois. Activities at home, church, and school framed her life in childhood. At home, Barbara enjoyed the routines and joys of family life. She helped with cooking, gardening, and canning; did the family ironing while listening to the radio, and was responsible for taking care of her younger siblings. On Sunday afternoons, the family relaxed with music and games. Her parents played the piano and mandolin; Barbara and her sisters played the piano. Sundays ended with family prayer at bedtime.
When her younger siblings were babies, Barbara found that she could indulge in her favorite pastime—reading—by putting an open book on opposite sides of a room. She would carry the baby back and forth between the books and usually get about a single page read before the baby would want to move again to the other book on the opposite side of the room. By the time she was in the sixth grade, Barbara had read every book in the house and in the town’s library. The librarian started allowing Barbara to help choose new books to order for the library and Barbara decided then that being a librarian would be her dream job.
At church, she sang in the choir and was active with the Epworth League (now known as the United Methodist Youth Fellowship). She excelled as a student, graduating as valedictorian of her class from the Coulterville High School in 1947. In the summer before her junior year of high school Barbara was hired to be the school secretary for the Coulterville Public School, grades 1-12. As the first secretary the school ever had, she worked full time in the summers and after school and on Saturdays during her junior and senior academic years. She bought a portable Royal typewriter with her earnings, which she took to college, and years later, to graduate school.
Barbara took a competitive examination for the Randolph county scholarship to the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. She won the scholarship and began her undergraduate studies in the fall of 1947. She was also offered scholarships to Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois and to McKendree College in Lebanon, Illinois. Her major was English Teacher Training. In 1949, she met and began dating Harry Deffley, the elder brother of her roommate, Eleanor Deffley. Barbara worked part-time at the Illini Union in 1947 - 48 and at the State Geological Survey in 1949 - 50 while going to school full time.
Marriage and Career Barbara married Harry K. Deffley in Champaign, Illinois on August 19, 1950. They had three children: Matthew Brent (1951), Gregory Wayne (1954), and Mary Suzanne (1957). Harry’s job transferred the family from central to southern Illinois. A few years later Harry was called to preach and to go back to school. The family moved to Greenville, Illinois in 1956, where Barbara attended Greenville College and completed the last ten hours of credits required to graduate from the University of Illinois.
While earning those ten credits she worked full time as the secretary to the registrar at the college. She was allowed to keep her job and to continue working when it became obvious that she was pregnant only after the Board of the college was convened and voted to allow it. She always laughed about opening the way so that the eight secretaries in the college who became pregnant the following year were able to keep their jobs.
Along with the degree, Barbara was awarded a certificate to teach school at the secondary level. However, Barbara got a job teaching fourth grade in Coffeen, Illinois in 1958 and took another course at Greenville College to obtain a certificate to teach at the elementary level. While the family lived in Coffeen, Barbara was active in the three rural churches where Harry was preaching, assisting in countless ways, including typing the weekly bulletin for Sunday and minutes of church meetings. She taught at Coffeen until 1961, when Harry began seminary and was assigned as a student pastor to two churches near Georgetown, Illinois. A pattern began where Barbara got a new teaching job in the community where Harry was assigned a church. In 25 years of teaching, she taught first through fifth grades, junior high language arts, and remedial reading.
It was in Georgetown that Barbara was first assigned to teach first grade. She woke up with a jolt the night before school started with the realization that teaching first-graders meant that “These kids don’t know how to read!” She found the experience of teaching children to read immensely rewarding and learned that she had a gift for it. While Harry lived on campus Monday-Friday at the seminary in Evanston, Illinois, coming home to be with the family on weekends, Barbara stood in for him at meetings at the two churches, and helped in numerous ways to support the work and functioning of those churches. She was active in the Women’s Society of Christian Service (the WSCS; now known as the UMW; United Methodist Women) and other church committees.
When the family moved to Melvin, Illinois, Barbara got a teaching position in the Melvin-Sibley school system and was asked to be the Director responsible for the then-new Title I remedial reading requirements. Barbara took special education courses two evenings a week at the University of Illinois in 1966-67 and based on what she learned, was able to recommend structural changes for her own school district and to lead workshops for remedial reading instructors in other school systems. She continued to serve in many roles in the church, and according to Harry, was in actuality an unpaid co-pastor and volunteer secretary.
In the fall of 1969, Barbara began coursework for a Master of Library Science degree at the University of Illinois. She was awarded a fellowship and specialized in children’s literature. She lived on campus Monday-Friday and went home on weekends. There were protests, sit-ins, and acts of vandalism on the campus in the fall of 1969 concerning the war in Vietnam. At one point the administration was considering closing the university for the semester, granting no credits to students toward their degrees. Barbara was quite concerned that if she lost that semester’s credits that she might not be able to afford the time and continued loss of income to complete her work toward her degree. Fortunately, the university remained open and she graduated in the summer of 1970 with a master’s in Library Science.
After graduation, she returned to her position as Title I Director in the Melvin-Sibley school district, working as a remedial reading instructor. Barbara continued to fill many roles at church and assisted Harry for years in the work of getting mental health services established in Ford County, Illinois.
The family moved to Homer, Illinois in 1973 and Barbara got the position of Title I Director for that school district. She continued her work in the school system, served on the town’s library board, and was active as always in the church where Harry was the pastor. In 1981, Harry was assigned to two churches in Griggsville, Illinois. Barbara took time off teaching in Griggsville and took up quilting. She enjoyed designing quilts and selecting fabrics, as well as the actual sewing.
When Harry was moved to Springfield, Illinois in 1983, Barbara interviewed for a teaching position but was told that the school system could hire teachers with less education and less experience for less money, so she retired from teaching. She started working in the office of Illinois Church Action on Alcohol and Addiction Problems (ILCAAP), helping with that organization’s efforts to educate the public about addictions and to lobby the state legislature to combat alcohol and drug addiction and the expansion of gambling in Illinois.
Barbara was the granddaughter of a Methodist minister and the daughter of a Licensed Exhorter in the Methodist Church (now known as a Certified Lay Speaker in the United Methodist Church). Following in her grandfather’s and father’s footsteps, she became a Certified Lay Speaker in the 1980’s, and gave sermons in United Methodist churches in the Springfield district when pastors were away or for special events. While in Springfield, Barbara became very active with Harry in the leadership team of the “Walk to Emmaus,” a program for spiritual renewal in a retreat setting.
In 1986, Barbara began working as the secretary to the District Superintendent of the United Methodist Church for the Springfield district. She continued in that role after Harry was assigned to a church in nearby Auburn, Illinois and then retired in 1993 when Harry retired. Barbara served as a district and a conference level officer in the United Methodist Women (UMW) during their years in Springfield, advocating for causes identified by the organization and participating in fellowship with her home church’s UMW as well. She traveled to regional and national UMW meetings, gave talks, and organized UMW events. In 1993, she participated with UMW members from across the country in a trip to Washington, DC. to lobby individual senators and representatives with regard to the Healthcare Reform Package of 1993.
Retirement In her retirement, Barbara joined Harry in working with a team to establish a new church just south of Springfield near Chatham, Illinois. Sugar Creek United Methodist Church was established and thrived, moving from a small gathering in a rural school building to a large congregation in a new building in just a few years. Barbara team-taught an adult Sunday School class with Harry at Sugar Creek for 17 years. Outside of Sunday School, they team-taught Disciple Bible Study courses I, II, III, and IV multiple times and finally had to split the Disciple IV class when over 40 people registered.
In 2011, Barbara moved with Harry to Asbury Methodist Village, a retirement community in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Barbara was immediately involved with the library in their building and had a working knowledge of the libraries in all the buildings on campus. She volunteered at the front desk of their building and got to know many people. She started a “birthday list” that steadily grew with residents who wanted to have their birthdays listed and she got Asbury to put special brackets in the elevators of their building so that she could post the upcoming birthdays every month where they would be seen. She kept up those postings until her last hospitalization, when she made certain that the job was taken over by someone else. Barbara became a member of Grace United Methodist Church in 2011 and attended worship services and Sunday School there weekly until February 2019, when her health no longer permitted it.
Barbara was a dedicated and devout Christian; a brilliant, loving, friendly, and extremely capable woman. She did not exalt herself but was humble and gentle-hearted, trying throughout her life to be Christ’s servant to others. She began life as a loved and wanted daughter, granddaughter, and niece. Her grandmother prayed for the infant Barbara and for the man she would one day marry. Her parents prayed for the children she would one day have. In time, she was loved as a sister and friend. She was loved as a wife, then a mother, and as an aunt. More recently, she was loved as a grandmother and great-grandmother. That love continues.
Left to mourn her passing are her husband of 68 years, Harry (Gaithersburg, MD); her son Gregory Deffley and wife Peggy (Moorestown, NJ), and daughter Mary (Deffley) Kurfess (Gambrills, MD), daughter-in-law Kay G. Deffley (Savannah, GA); grandchildren Brenda Lackey and significant other Cathy Scheder (Stevens Point, WI), Barbara Beam and husband Danny (Savannah, GA), Christopher Nicholas (“Nick”) Deffley and wife Ruthie (Savannah, GA), Kenneth Andrew (“Andrew”) Deffley and wife Debbie Ubele (Moorestown, NJ), Kathleen Deffley (Moorestown, NJ), John Deffley Scaggs (Crofton, MD); great-grandchildren Caleb Matthew Deffley (Savannah, GA); and Mirabelle Esperanza Deffley (Savannah, GA); sister Marilyn (Lehr) Falk (Decherd, TN); sisters-in-law Carla Lehr (Coulterville, IL), Katherine Lehr (Oakdale, IL), sisters-in law Eleanor Deffley and Eleanor (Deffley) Santos, and numerous nephews, nieces, and cousins.
Barbara was preceded in death by her parents Anton and Mary Lehr; her son Matthew Brent Deffley; infant siblings John and Joseph Lehr, sister Virginia (Lehr) Vancil and her husband Wayne, brother Samuel G. Lehr and his wife Marie, brothers Howard Lehr and Sherman Lehr; brothers-in-law Philip C. Falk, Clarence A. Deffley, and Phillip Santos; sister-in-law Rosalind (Deffley) McKenzie and her husband Bruce; and son-in-law James D. Kurfess.
Celebration of life A celebration of Barbara’s life will be held at 2:00 p.m. at Grace United Methodist Church, Gaithersburg, MD on June 8, 2019 with the Reverend Dr. James Miller officiating. Visitation with the family will begin at 1:00 p.m. and there will be a reception immediately following the service.
Cremains will be interred at Roselawn Memorial Park in Springfield, Illinois at a future date.
Memorial gifts Barbara knew people at different times and different places in her life and their choice of a memorial gift might vary, depending upon their location. Barbara would be honored by memorial gifts to any of the following organizations:
Asbury Methodist Village Endowment Fund, Gaithersburg, MD Coulterville United Methodist Church, Coulterville, IL Grace United Methodist Church, Gaithersburg, MD Greenville University, Greenville, IL Harry & Barbara Deffley Endowed Scholarship Garrett Evangelical Seminary, Evanston, IL Preacher’s Aid Society and Benefit Fund, Springfield, IL Sugar Creek United Methodist Church, Chatham, IL Walk to Emmaus, Nashville, TN