Barbara Frei

Barbara Frei

6/12/1952 — 4/24/2024

Barbara Ann Frei will be remembered for her smile, and her dedication to God, community and family. On Wednesday, April 24, 2024, after several years of declining health, Barb died at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center in Lewiston.

Born to Hubert and Clara Frei at St. Mary’s Hospital in Cottonwood, on June 12, 1952, Barb was the first-born, followed by her brothers Melvin and Steve. Barb grew up on the family’s farm 1 mile north of Ferdinand. Time was spent playing with toys made or sewn by her parents, helping Mom in the kitchen, learning to sew and working in the garden.

Barb attended St. Maurus Elementary School in Ferdinand through the eighth grade. In 1970, Barb graduated from the St. Gertrude Academy in Cottonwood, being one of the last class to graduate from the Academy. While in high school, she participated on the drill team and was active in journalism. In her senior year, Barb participated in the Academy’s production of “The Sound of Music.”

In her early life, the family took multiple road trips to Effingham, Ill., to visit her mom’s sister, Sister Mellitene Grunloh, and cousins. One favorite family trip was to see Disneyland. In her teens and into her 30s, Barb enjoyed camping in the Gospels with her brothers. She liked fishing and picnic trips to Winchester Lake and Soldiers Meadow.

In 1974, Barbara graduated from Carroll College in Helena, Mont., with a Bachelor of Arts in English. Barb spent the summer touring Europe with other Carroll College students. A trip highlight was visiting the Frei ancestral home in Widnau, Switzerland.

After college, Barb taught seventh and eighth grades at St. Peter and Paul’s Catholic School in Grangeville for three semesters and seventh grade English in Jerome, Idaho, for two years. Barb moved to Lewiston and returned to school entering Lewis-Clark State College in 1978. She worked as a floor desk assistant at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center while going to school. Eventually, Barb earned sufficient credits to teach public elementary and secondary education and earned a librarian certificate. In the mid-1980s, Barb left Idaho for three years to teach third grade on the Navajo Indian Reservation at Seba Dolkai, Ariz., and later fourth grade at Chuska, N.M.

After returning to Idaho, Barb lived with her parents for a few years — helping them in the garden, the kitchen canning fruits and vegetables and with the family upholstery business. She was a regular presence among her nieces and nephews who often stayed with Grandpa and Grandma during the summer and after school.

After purchasing a home of her own in Craigmont, Barb worked as a substitute teacher for area public school districts, provided cleaning services, sold Dri Wash ‘n Guard, and detailed vehicles. Starting in 2010, Barb gave time caring for her parents in the last few years of their life in Ferdinand and then visiting them after they moved to care facilities in Lewiston.

While in Craigmont, Barb shared produce for neighbors, family and friends from her big garden. She loved to knit, crochet and quilt. She also did latch work, needlepoint and tying blankets. Barb made hats and blankets for neighbors, friends, siblings, and her nieces and nephews and their children. Her camping blankets were the best. She continued this generosity after moving into Lakeside Assisted Living in Winchester in 2017, where she resided until the last few weeks of her life.

Barb lived most of her life in the shadow of bipolar disorder and later schizophrenia. She was so much more than her diagnosis, but her diagnosis was a part of her. Despite her mental health challenges, she never lost her faith in God or her dedication to family and community. A member of Assumption Parish in Ferdinand since birth, Barb was often found praying, attending Mass, reading religious books and magazines, and attending retreats and conferences. She was a lector, participated on the Lazarus and Liturgical committees, distributed Holy Communion, and helped before and after Mass. Barb very much appreciated the regular visits from Fr. Paul Wander and Patti Watson while at Lakeside.

Barb had a quick wit that sometimes surprised those around her. On her last Christmas visit, the family played a card game she taught them, “I Doubt It.” Her great-nephews and niece thought it was loads of fun to play a game where the strategy was to lie. Another Christmas her competitive streak thoroughly decimated her niece Lindsey in a game of Nintendo Wii bowling. The last game she played was less than a week before her death — a competitive game of cornhole.

Barb will be lovingly remembered for her prolific letter-writing. She hardly let a day go by when she was not mailing a thank you or card. In her last hour of life, Barb asked for a pen and notepad and left a departing message. It was clear that she wanted to leave this world with one last message.

Barb is survived by her two brothers, Melvin (Christine) Frei, of Lewiston, and Steve (Donna) Frei, of Queen Creek, Ariz., as well as her nephews and nieces, Stephenie (Kevin) O’Callaghan and family, Kelsey (Zach) Richter and family, Garrett (Ashley) Frei and family, Carson (Haili) Frei and family, Lindsey (John) Beacham and family, Brent (Lindsey) Frei and family and Michael Frei.

There will be a celebration of life Saturday, June 1, at Assumption Church in Ferdinand with a burial service to follow at the Ferdinand Cemetery. The rosary will be recited at 1:30 p.m. with Mass to follow at 2 p.m. All are welcome to participate in the reception at the Assumption Parish Hall.

In honor of Barbara’s love for children, the family suggests donations be made to Sr. Mary’s Children at You may also honor Barb with a donation to and by talking about mental health.

Vassar-Rawls Funeral Home of Lewiston is in charge of arrangements.


Service Information

Date & Time
Saturday, June 1, 1:30 PM
Assumption Catholic Church
460 Maple Street
Ferdinand, ID 83526

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Lewiston, Idaho 83501
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