Barbara Sewell: A CHAMPION for Families

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Guest post from Kim Williams, National Federation of Families for Children's Mental Health, in remembrance of Barbara Sewell -

sewellAs we prepare for the holidays, I often think and reflect of what the year’s events have been.  This year has been an incredible one of losses for the Children’s Mental Health Family Movement.  It is with great sadness that I share the loss of another beloved colleague, who has indelibly left a mark in the Greater Houston and National Family arenas.

Barbara Sewell was a small woman in stature who had a big heart and an even bigger voice. With a twinkle in her eye, she could catch the ear and heart of anyone who gave her a look and five minutes of their time. I will always remember her as a “Texas Powerhouse,” in the ways she would valiantly fight for youth and families, in any forum she could.  We would spar and she would challenge me often, but we never left a conversation angry; she taught me the art of knowing how to “Agree to Disagree.”  She would often use the word, “however,” and I would remind her that the word itself would erase whatever phrase preceded it and she would just laugh and hug me.

Barbara gave us quite a scare when, at a Federation conference several years ago, she had a terrible fall and had broken her jaw and had to have it wired shut.  When I went to her room to see her, she was sitting on the bed in her usual way and she greeted me with a big smile and small arms extended for a hug.  We then, as usual, braved the cold air and went outside for a smoke. For most people, having their jaw wired would have deterred them from talking. Not Barbara.  She told me that something “bigger and harder needed to happen" to shut her up!  That spunk, spirit and smile, not to mention a hug, will always be the way in which I will remember my dear friend.  I will miss you Barbara, please take your much-deserved rest.  Please know that families, in Houston, in Texas and across the U.S. THANK YOU immensely, for your dedication to them!


  1. Rene` Anderson's avatar
    Rene` Anderson
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    My deepest sympathy to her grandchildren whom she loved dearly, Barbara was passionate and committed to the families that she served she was a true advocate for systems change. She will be missed. I thank God for his many blessings in her long and fruitful life.
  2. Frank Rider's avatar
    Frank Rider
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    We will miss Barbara. Always one of my favorite people to run in to outside the doors of our working conferences. I suspect her eyes are twinkling still up there in the night sky. Rest in Peace. ~~ Frank ~~
  3. Rosalyn Bertram's avatar
    Rosalyn Bertram
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    My sincere condolences to you and to all of us who worked closely with Barbara. She embodied passion and commitment to improve service systems, as well as remarkable energy and compassion for individual youth and their families. Without her spirited presence, the heart of Texas has a very deep hole.
  4. Patti Derr's avatar
    Patti Derr
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    Thank you KIm, We will be including your tribute tomorrow at Barbara's Memorial.

    You depicted her impact on our lives perfectly .
  5. Shani Cutler's avatar
    Shani Cutler
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    That was beautifully written Kim. I was not fortunate enough to have ever met Barbra however she touched your life ...and you have touched mine. May she rest in peace.
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