Barbara Riggs England Kehoe
January 13, 1922 – January 25, 2020
Remembering the life and legacy of Barbara Kehoe
Barbara Riggs England Kehoe passed away January 25, 2020, at the Glenwood, Maryland, home of her granddaughter and with loving family members at her side. She had celebrated her 98th birthday on January 13. Barbara was born in Ijamsville, Maryland, a short distance from where she spent her last years. Her parents, John Walter England and Evelyn Riggs England, were descendants of early settlers in the Frederick area. Barbara was actually born at the Riggs Cottage Sanitarium (now Gabriel’s Inn) which was owned by her grandfather, pioneer Frederick County physician Dr. George Riggs.Barbara and her beloved older brother, “Nick”, grew up in Arlington, VA, where she graduated from Washington and Lee High School. Her dad, a homebuilder, built a cottage in Breezy Point on the Western shore of the Chesapeake Bay where Barbara (affectionately known as “Bops”) and Nick spent many happy summer hours sailing and fishing and catching blue crabs. For the rest of her life, Barbara loved everything about the Bay and well into her later years she could still pick out and eat at one sitting the meat from a dozen fresh steamed crabs. She and Nick were not only best friends but a great dancing duo, winning many jitterbug contests during their high school years. While attending the University of Maryland (The “Terps”) Barbara became a lifelong active member of Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority and was also captain of the Terp cheerleaders. It was at Maryland that she met and fell in love with star athlete and future husband, Jim Kehoe. Together they developed not only a lifelong partnership but a fierce devotion to all things University of Maryland that would last throughout the rest of their lives. Barbara kept up with Maryland athletics (and Yankee baseball) up until the last days of her life.
As was so often the case with young couples during the war years, when Jim and Barbara decided to spend the rest of their lives together, they wanted to “tie the knot” prior to Jim’s deployment overseas. They were married on May 22, 1942, at Foundry Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. It was the morning after she was maid of honor in her best friend’s wedding and just a few hours after she took her microbiology final exam (which she flunked and laughed about it the rest of her life). Jim was in officer candidate school in the Army and they promptly left on their “honeymoon” to Jim’s first posting in Alabama. From there they were transferred to Dateland, AZ. They both recalled their months among the cacti and scorpions as some of their happiest and in later years often returned to Arizona for spring baseball training and sojourns into the desert they came to love. During Jim’s months overseas the couple exchanged countless letters. All of those were in Barbara’s collection of treasured possessions when she died. She read and re-read them thousands of times. Jim returned from active duty in the South Pacific in 1945 and the couple settled in College Park, Maryland, where they raised their family and Jim became the head track and field coach for his alma mater. Barbara was busy with all the activities of the four children and also found time to teach Sunday school, serve as cub scout den leader and keep up with her piano playing. She would often travel to track meets with Jim – and when he became Director of Athletics at Maryland in 1969 she accompanied him on almost all of his travels. She was an ardent and beloved ambassador for the University and a huge asset to the athletic department! Barbara never got over her love for the Bay and the family built a small summer cottage in The Willows, close to Nick’s home. Here Barbara and the kids and their cousins spent happy summer hours sailing and fishing and collecting sharks teeth – and picking countless bucketsful of blackberries which Barbara turned into the best pies in the state. She could bake circles around Betty Crocker. It was on one of these blackberry picking expeditions that she clubbed to death what was reported to be one of the largest copperhead snakes ever seen in Calvert County. She and Jim eventually retired to their cottage on the hill by the Bay in the 1980’s. She loved that home and was heartbroken when she had to leave it for good. Jim and Barbara maintained their active lives after Jim’s retirement. They often visited their home in Grand Lake, Colorado, near Rocky Mountain National Park and traveled extensively throughout the West tracing the route of Lewis and Clark and visiting ancient Native American sites in the Southwest. They usually traveled by car and had an absolutely wonderful time. But most of all they treasured their time together at their home in The Willows, especially the daily thirty mile round trip visit to Pat’s Bakery in Deale where they would enjoy coffee and a “death ball” as Jim referred to the decadent sweets he loved. A mid-morning cup of coffee and a pastry became a daily ritual that Barbara maintained for the rest of her life no matter where she lived..
After 68 years of marriage Jim passed away in 2010 and Barbara faced the years ahead with support from her children and her faith. She developed several significant health issues and moved to Colorado to be close to her three daughters. Thanks to her Bible, excellent medical care and her lifelong daily habit of “doing my stretches” she overcame her health challenges and she and her “girls” spent countless hours together reminiscing and sharing good food and many laughs. But she longed to return to Maryland. The last two years of Barbara’s life were spent back in her beloved state of Maryland living in the beautiful home of her granddaughter Emily and her husband Nathan. Their love and generosity allowed grandmother “Bunka” to spend her remaining time where she most wanted to be; close to her own family and childhood roots and her Jim. Em and Nathan’s little boy was the light of Barbara’s life with his daily “visits” to her as he scattered his toys throughout her room and delighted her with his childhood chatter. She wanted them to know how grateful she was for their care and devotion as well as that of her daughter in law Cathy. The family would also like to give special thanks to her caregiver Keila who was so gracious to her the past two years. Barbara’s 98th birthday meal of homemade Maryland crab cakes and blackberry pie was the perfect celebration of a life well lived. Until her last breath she was incredibly proud of her children and grandchildren, her Frederick County heritage, her beloved state of Maryland and all things Chesapeake Bay.
A devout Christian, Barbara drew great strength and comfort from her Bible and attended church services throughout her life, including at Emmanuel Methodist Church near her home on the Bay. She selected and shared with her children the verses and hymns she wished to be a part of her memorial service and reiterated over and over again her unwavering belief in Christ as her Savior – and her joy at the thought of seeing her beloved husband and parents and brother after her death.
Barbara was preceded in death by her husband James Henry Kehoe, Jr., her parents, and her brother John Walter England III (Nick). She is survived by her four children: Courtney Ann Thomas (Jim), James Henry Kehoe III (Cathy), Barbara Sue Kehoe and Mary Lou Lane (Gothard). She will also be greatly missed by grandchildren Emily Rushing, M.D. (Nathan). Bradley Kehoe (Aline), Rex Kehoe, Major Ruth Kehoe, USMC and sisters in law Claudine England and Genevieve Snodgrass. In recent years Barbara’s life was enriched by the arrival of her two precious great grandchildren Nathan Rushing and Isabela Kehoe.
Private funeral services were held at Emmanuel Church in Huntingtown, Maryland, and she was laid to rest next to her beloved Jim in the small, historic churchyard. Memorial donations in Barbara’s honor may be made to: Burnett Calvert Hospice House, PO Box 838, Prince Frederick, MD, 20678, 410-535-0892 or online at calverthospice.org. Donations can also be made to the charity of your choice.