This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Jan. 19, 2009 - A memorial service for Professor Barbara Ann Kachur, interim associate dean of the College of Arts and Science and former chair of the Department of English at the University of Missouri St. Louis, will be held Sunday, Jan. 25 at UMSL. Dr. Kachur died on Dec. 28, 2008, after a brief illness, at her home in Bel-Nor, just blocks from the university and the work she loved. She was 58.
"She understood the way the department worked, probably better than anyone else," said Richard Cook, who had replaced Dr. Kachur as chair of the Department of English when she became an associate dean. "She was very sympathetic to faculty needs and very supportive of their work, doing what she could to support them in their publications.
"She saw many, many students and was very patient with them. She understood that the university was for the students, that they are our first responsibility," Cook said.
Her students agreed. A student who was simply listed as 'Bobbie from St. Louis' posted an online remembrance that said, "Professor Kachur is a great loss to UMSL. I was used to other professors who taught the same material year after year and did nothing to stimulate my (our) brains. Words cannot express what an exceptional educator and woman she was."
Dr. Kachur, by her own admission, did not start out as an exceptional student herself. "In high school, I wasn't the best student," Dr. Kachur once told her partner Joann Lindsey. "Who would have believed I would become a professor?"
Lindsey, who met Dr. Kachur as a college student 35 years ago, said the professor became an outstanding educator with a little help and had learned to do for others what others had done for her.
"Mentors helped change Barbara's outlook," Lindsey said. "A husband and wife team, Dr. Jorka and Grace Burien, were the impetus for her turnaround. Barbara liked the way her professor, Dr. Burien, taught all of his students at State University of New York (SUNY) at Albany. His wife, Grace, helped Barbara get her first 'real' teaching job at the community college at Schenectady County Community College."
With their help, the turnaround was complete. Dr. Kachur, who was born in Manhattan and raised in Syracuse, N.Y., graduated magna cum laude from SUNY in 1973 with bachelor degrees in English and in Theatre and Dramatic Literature. She subsequently earned a master's degree from SUNY and a doctorate from Ohio State University in 1986, both in theater and dramatic literature.
To help pay her way through college, Dr. Kachur worked as a surgical technician at Endicott Hospital in Endicott, N.Y. That early experience caused Dr. Kachur to briefly consider medicine as a career, but she decided she could give more by teaching young minds.
She began as an instructor of theater and English at her mentor's school, Schenectady Community College, in 1974. She went on to teach at Broome Community College in Binghamton, N.Y.; at three Ohio State University campuses and Ohio Wesleyan University before coming to the University of Missouri St. Louis.
Dr. Kachur joined the UMSL faculty in 1986 as an assistant professor of theater in the Department of Communication, teaching drama. She later served as director of theater, then, progressively, as assistant professor, associate professor and professor in the Department of English. She was named chair of the English Department in 2001 and acting associate dean of the College of Arts and Science in 2007. In recent years, Dr. Kachur taught Shakespeare and Restoration period comedy, two areas in which she was an expert.
Dr. Kachur published widely on English Restoration drama and comedy. Her most recent book on the major plays of English dramatists George Etherege and William Wycherley was published in 2004.
It could have been a bit of an ego trip for Dr. Kachur, the daughter of factory workers. (Her father had been a New York City police officer. He moved his family from Manhattan to a slower paced environment in Syracuse). But her father, who spent most of his childhood in Czechoslovakia and spoke five languages, and her mother, a second generation Austrian-American, taught all of their children, Peter, Barbara and William (Bill), to be humble while encouraging their efforts.
"Our parents taught us really well how to be good people," said the youngest Kachur sibling, Bill. "My sister was the finest and most decent person I've ever known. She held herself to a higher standard and was an example to others in how she lived her life. She saw life very clearly. She was never judgmental. Barbara and I had similar personalities and I learned a lot from her; I learned to be more understanding.
"We lost our parents pretty young, and she stepped in as another parent for me. She always had my back," Bill Kachur said, with a catch in his voice. "When I was little she was always there for me. She was always in my corner."
Based on the condolences Lindsey and the Kachur family received, Dr. Kachur was in a lot of people's corners.
"I have received nearly a hundred e-mails from Barbara's colleagues and students," Lindsey said. "Many of them mention her infectious laugh and her wicked sense of humor. Others talk about her generosity of spirit and her kindness. One professor said 'My friend, the benchmark of your bravery, your integrity, and your grace is always going to remain with me.'"
Professor Kachur was preceded in death by her parents, Wasil and Anna Veronica Boysuk Kachur.
She is survived by her brothers, Peter Kachur of Jupiter, Fla., and William (AnneMarie) Kachur of Myrtle Beach, S.C.; her partner and friend, Joann Lindsey of St. Louis; two nieces, Gwen and Marybeth, and a nephew, Peter, and two great nieces, Mary Margaret and Laurel. Donations may be made in her name to the Animal Protective Association of Missouri, 1705 South Hanley Road, Brentwood, Mo. 63144. Guest condolences may be left at www.stygar.com.
The memorial service will be held from 2 to 4 p.m., Sun., Jan. 25, at the Pierre Laclede Honors College Chapel in the Provincial House on South Campus of the University of Missouri St. Louis. The service will be followed by a reception in the museum room adjacent to the chapel.
Gloria Ross is the head of Okara Communications and the storywriter for AfterWords, an obituary-writing and production service.