A tribute to Ollalla pioneer cowgirl, Doll Barber

Guest column: Community of Ollalla remembers Dolly Barber, who passed away June 17 at the age of 102

Submitted, Olly Sumner-Richter

The community of Ollalla and surrounding areas is remembering long-time resident, Dolly Barber, who recently passed away at the age of 102.

“Doll” Barber took her last ride on the morning of June 17. She was the matriarch of the Marsel family, and the Richter clan adopted her as their own. Born in May, 1919, she celebrated her 101st birthday in 2019 in Olalla, surrounded by a myriad of family and friends. Her 102nd birthday celebration was not as generous as Doll had suffered a stroke, then, along came the pandemic.

READ MORE: Olalla’s Auntie Doll turns 101

She was a mother, grandma, auntie and friend to so many that it would be difficult to keep track of them all, but not for her. She knew each by name, rejoiced in each of their triumphs and shared in the sadness of their trials.

Doll was a Marsel, born to Joseph and Julia who gave her the name Violet at birth but her name was quickly changed to Doll – it stuck like glue. Her long life stretched out across the meadows of Olalla. That little village was so amazing; why would she move? If something works, why change it?

She loved the land and wasn’t afraid of hard work; she was enamoured with all the animals on the home ranch where she grew up, and took to the horse’s back much like a duck to water. Doll loved all the rodeos up and down the Similkameen, she wouldn’t miss one if it was up to her. She relished the Powwows up the Ashnola, and she loved bingo – especially when she won. She was proud of her First Nations status and encouraged others to take pride in their ancestry.

She was an amazing role model for us all. She lived an exemplary life, which the Marsels and Richters alike were proud of.

She was one of a kind – no cookie cutter type person – as was her stepfather Charlie Richter who her mother, Julia married when she was 13 years old. And, who along with her mother, played a major role in her becoming the person she became.

Doll married her sweetheart Reginald Barber in 1944. They had a good life together for those 37 years until Reg went on to a better place. Doll was his support and companion and recalled their many adventures together traveling the country.

She was kind to a fault, had amazing common sense with a practical bent, and was nonjudgmental. Doll truly accepted all of us just as we were, believed that each was valuable, and had something integral to offer this world. And, in esteeming others and having faith in them, along with her loyalty; that is what carried the family through rough times.

Doll’s sense of fairness, her positive attitude and her interest in just about everything were attributes that carried her through her long life.

She could sure tell a great story.

Auntie Doll, as may of us called her, has been an inspiration to us all. When she could have given up, she pressed on. When she could have put herself on the pity pot, she went for a walk. Sometimes she may have been tired, but not defeated. What a gal, what a lady.

Doll was without a doubt a horsey girl, a cowgirl.

With all those long years behind her, she eventually came to the end of the road, where she again saddled up and rode off for one last ride; full tilt ahead it is imagined. She loved the thrill of the ride, the wind in her face, and couldn’t wait to experience the next adventure.

That’s our Doll; special through and through.

Ride on, we’ll see you again.

READ MORE: Olalla’s Auntie Doll’s memories of early life in Olalla


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