Barbara Rubel van Davis, overcame polio
Lives are often defined by challenges overcome and few embodied that better than former polio victim Barbara Rubel van Davis.
Stricken by the crippling disease at age 5 and living in an iron lung, doctors predicted she would never walk again.
They were wrong.
Years of physical therapy, surgeries and undaunted determination allowed the young Barbara Rubel to first walk and later stride into the University of Cincinnati where she earned both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees in psychology. She then went on to a professional practice at the Central University Clinic in Cincinnati and later as a clinical psychologist at Salem International College in Germany until her recent retirement.
Mrs. Davis, 67, died Aug. 13 at her home in Überlingen, Germany, of pancreatic cancer.
The daughter of Dorothea and Walter Rubel, president of Cincinnati-based Rubel Baking Co., she was an Anderson High School graduate.
Her first husband was Cincinnati WNOP jazz radio personality Dick Pike, with whom she had two sons, Jason Pike of Plainfield, Ill., and Anthony Pike of Oswego, Ill.
While still a graduate student, she started the first post-polio group in Cincinnati and her work with this group helped establish one of the first post-polio clinics in Ohio.
In 1987 Mrs. Davis gave a lecture at an international post-polio conference in St. Louiswhere she met Jeffrey van Davis, Chicago filmmaker and university professor, who was shooting a documentary about post-polio syndrome.
The couple married and moved to Tucson, where Mrs. Davis was active in a writers' workshop and began her writing career, subsequently completing two feature-length screenplays and a book of poetry. In March of this year, she took part in the American tour of the documentary film, "Only A God Can Save Us" an account of the life of German philosopher Martin Heidegger and his involvement in Nazism, which she co-wrote and edited with her husband.
"She overcame great obstacles," said her husband. "Polio at 5, terrifyingly claustrophobic months in an iron lung, paralysis of all her limbs, 12 years of grueling physical therapy, scoliosis and then a spinal fusion at 12, the loss of her upper arms and 50% loss of her breathing muscles, which forced her to sleep at night with a ventilator in order to keep up her blood gas levels."
"And she was funnier than hell. She could sing and dance - after being told by the doctors she would never walk again. She won a dance contest as a teenager," Davissaid from their home in Germany. "She had a genius I.Q., an unbelievably intelligent woman, but all that is nothing compared to her E.Q. - her emotional I.Q. She was a totally open and loving person."
The family released a statement saying Davis asked that instead of flowers or donations, people should work toward making "a better world with peace and justice, be open to other cultures, fight racism in all its forms, and preserve the natural environment. How? Do it at the local level. Do something to make your town a better place. Treat all people with respect. Be the best parent a child could ever wish to have. "
She is survived by her husband and two sons.
Services have been held.