Life Story / Obituary
It is with sadness that I report that my beloved mother died peacefully on Christmas Eve this year. Barbara was a strong feminist who lived life fully and broke all the rules! She was born on a farm in Minnesota to parents (Clinton and Edith Haroldson) who were strong, loving and hard working. Although Barb was never excited about living on a farm, she learned to cook and manage large groups of workers, skills that she honed throughout her life. She graduated high school and went to Grinnell College for 1 year, where she made some good friends and learned about “the niceties in life.” She then moved to the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. At U of M, she met and married Jerry Rork. “I would have never become an intellectual without him (Jerry).” He was also “a lot of fun.” They were married for 44 years, until his death in 2000, and had two children: Kenton and Rondi.
Although a loving wife and mother, it was her career that was her focus. She started to work in real estate with Bermel-Smaby. As a female, she was not given much room to soar, so she left and started her own advertising agency, Ides of Rork. From that springboard, she was offered a job at the Guthrie Theatre in sales. She loved the Guthrie. Not only was she able to see all the plays, always a favorite passion, but she developed close relationships with many actors. She was proud of initiating the involvement of actors in interviews and advertising, something that was not common at the time, but “much more fun.” Her next adventure was working with the founders of the Minnesota Renaissance Fair, where she was able to create and manage all aspects of the fair from hiring actors, artists and food purveyors to creating and enhancing the character of the fair itself. Barbara loved the challenge and the success of the Renaissance Fair.
In 1978, Barb and Jerry moved to Sleepy Hollow, Illinois. She learned to golf and fell in love with Chicago. International travel was a part of the job for Jerry and new adventures for Barb. Although Bruges, Belgium remained a favorite, she enjoyed lots of adventures in Europe and Asia. Barb started taking classes at Elgin Community College in photography and later enrolled in and graduated from Columbia College in photography. She finally achieved her Bachelor of Arts degree, at 61! For many years she made art and participated in shows at galleries throughout Illinois. She also helped her son manage a very challenging illness, playing lots of chess, until his death in 2001.
Moving to Wisconsin, 2004, to be with her daughter, son-in-law (Mark Hyde) and Grandchildren Max (died 2006) and Nikki Joy was the next adventure. There was lots of laughter and family adventures. Then she moved to St Monicas and met Phil Koerper. They shared a loving relationship until her death on Christmas Eve. She is survived by her sister-in-law, Janet Caldwell and many other family and friends.
Profound gratitude is offered to the staff at St. Monica’s Senior Living. They truly helped Barb feel at home and appreciated, no matter how many times she used the same joke. The St. Monica and Hospice Alliance staff cared for her and made sure she was comfortable until the end. Thank you!!
Memorial donations suggestion to United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation at https://www.umdf.org/ – Team Max or to St. Monica's Senior Living https://stmonicasseniorliving.com/ at 3920 N Green Bay Road, Racine, WI 53404.