Barbara Bumbalough Obituary (1937 – 2022) – Norfolk, VA

Born at home beneath the soft glow of an oil lamp, just before breakfast Easter Monday morning, Barbara Elizabeth Sinn entered the world on March 29, 1937. She would be the only child born to the late Albert Matthew and Willie Mae Ball Sinn, whose farm lay along the Old Crowder Pond Road, near Ridgeway, NC. Father Albert was a first-generation German-American, whose immigrant parents Georg and Johanna Moser Sinn lived nearby on the Axtell-Ridgeway Road, and Willie Mae’s parents, Willie Jacob and India Stevenson Ball, lived over in Warren Plains in tobacco country. Barbara was baptized into the Christian faith at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church by Pastor Johannes Moebius, and her godmother was Mrs. Dorothea Moebius, with daughter Paula named as sponsor. Barbara’s earliest years found her learning how one tried to make a living raising tobacco and the local seasonal cash crop of “Ridgeway Cantaloupes.” She began cataloguing at an early age the rich experiences of a young family emerging from the Great Depression, with the distinctly unique gift of disparate sets of grandparents: one pair from the Old Country and the other responsible for a bevy of “English” cousins who flocked to Mimmie Ball’s table every Sunday afternoon.

Growing restless, Barbara’s father moved his small family to the big city – Norfolk, VA, in 1940 and worked in construction. The family rented an apartment in Ocean View on Hickory Street, but as World War II broke out and it became more challenging for a German-American to receive clearance for Naval Base projects, the family returned to the farm in 1943 to give it another try. Barbara began elementary school at Norlina, where she blossomed under the nurturing tutelage of Miss Emma Dunn. Life as an only child could be lonely, so it was fun once again to be able to spend time with grandparents, cousins, and new friends from school. However, father Albert, a mechanical whiz, preferred any work surrounded by engines and machinery, so it was back to Norfolk in 1947. Barbara enrolled at Crossroads Elementary, and then moved on to Broad Creek Junior High. In 1949, she was confirmed into the Lutheran faith by Pastor Paul A. Plawin at Trinity Lutheran Church, located on Granby Street. Her confirmation verse was what she wished to serve as her funeral sermon text, Isaiah 41:10 – Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness. She then entered Norview High School, where she excelled academically and was an active member in the Tri-Hi-Y and National Honor Society, eventually graduating with honors in 1955 – the first graduating class to have enjoyed Norfolk’s then “state-of-the-art” high school facility.

While in high school, she met and began dating William Daniel (Bill) Bumbalough, a Tennessee native, whose family had relocated to Norfolk after World War II. Bill first had dated Barbara’s best friend, Lynda Hill, but by her senior year, she and Bill were engaged to be married the following spring. Barbara’s well-honed secretarial skills landed her a rewarding position right out of high school at the Norfolk Naval Base, where she would work until after she and Bill married on April 7, 1956, at Trinity Lutheran Church. The couple was gifted with a lot and Bill’s father built them a house – at cost – so that when they returned from their D.C. honeymoon, the newlyweds only had to move their clothes into their newly-built and fully-furnished first home. By Thanksgiving of that year, a baby was on the way, and the couple welcomed their firstborn son, William Paul, on July 10, 1957. Bill had begun work as a draftsman at Hall-Hodges, Co, a reinforcing steel company, located on Ballantyne Boulevard, where he would remain employed throughout his professional life. In May, 1959, a second child was born prematurely and did not survive. Daughter Laura Anne arrived on September 4, 1962, and in 1965, the family moved to a newly-built home in Bayview, where Barbara lived until her death. Barbara and Bill were active in their children’s PTAs and the Bayview Civic League, and Barbara volunteered as a Room Mother for both children’s classes at Bayview Elementary. Both parents were active supporters of their children as they went on to graduate from Frederick Military Academy and Brewbaker Academy, and finally Duke University and Norfolk General Hospital Nursing School.

Bill and Barbara transferred their church membership in 1971 to Resurrection Lutheran Church and fervently committed to the fledgling mission congregation for the rest of their lives. Bill’s design and carpentry skills were put to good use and Barbara served as Altar Guild Chairman and Church Historian for 29 years. Almost always the youngest parents, it was a distinct advantage to enjoy an “empty nest” while still young, and Barbara and Bill took the opportunity to travel internationally. Son Paul’s professional career began in Vienna, Austria, so Barbara’s first flight was to Austria and Italy for their 25th wedding anniversary. In the following years, there would be subsequent visits to Vienna, as well as trips to visit Barbara’s many German cousins still living in the Franconian region of Bavaria, south of Würzburg. Barbara and Bill also made trips to Canada, England, and Denmark, and Barbara especially enjoyed creating photo travel journals from their travels.

Barbara always said that her greatest accomplishment was raising her children, and while we both believe we grew up to respect the values instilled in us, striving to make worthwhile contributions to our work, church, and communities, we think Mom’s greater accomplishment was a later-in-life opportunity that benefitted a unique and special community. Having been blessed with a gift for writing stories and poems, yet never having had the opportunity to pursue a life-long dream of going into journalism, Barbara was approached in 1994 by then editor of The Warren Record, Howard F. Jones, with an offer to compile remembrances accompanied by period photographs from the German Ridgeway community into which she had been born. She never imagined that 3 years of research and another year of design and production later, she would become the celebrated author of “Come With Me to Germantown, Ridgeway, NC Revisited,” the release of which coincided with the Centennial Anniversary celebration of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church. The story of this immigrant community forged a permanent reconnection to long-lost roots for many descendants, not just rekindling old memories and friendship ties, but shedding new light and sparking new interest in the influence their heritage continued to exert upon them. It instilled a renewed sense of pride among the many descendants still living and working the very same farms more than a century later, clearly demonstrating that with hard work, the American Dream is still alive and well today. In November 2000, the North Carolina Society of Historians honored Barbara with a Triple-Crown Award: the Willie Parker Peace History Book, the Robert Bruce Cooke Family History Book, and the Ethel W. Twiford Religious History Book awards.

After husband Bill’s death at age 61 in 1998, travel opportunities were limited, although the family did enjoy getting together with all the Sinn cousins out in Cape Girardeau, MO, and a Thanksgiving in Murrells Inlet, SC, but most other trips would be occasions to visit at St. Paul’s, with a few overnights in Durham. Barbara’s other enthusiastic hobby was needlepoint and cross stich, and family and friends on both sides of the Atlantic were the beneficiaries of her prodigious output – “love presents,” as she called them.

Miss Barbara was welcomed into heaven, Friday morning, March 18, 2022, on what would have been her great-grandfather George Sinn’s 140th birthday. She is survived by her children William Paul Bumbalough of Durham, NC, and Laura Bumbalough Sprance and husband Gary of Murrells Inlet, SC. She also was especially grateful to Aaron Dunn, whom she called her adopted grandson, for his loving support and assistance with so many things in these latter years. Mom felt deeply blessed.

Visitation is scheduled for Monday, March 21, 2022, at 7 p.m. at Hollomon-Brown Funeral Home, 8464 Tidewater Drive, Norfolk, VA 23518. A funeral service will be held on Tuesday, March 22, 2022, at Resurrection Lutheran Church at 11 a.m., located at 916 N. Centerville Turnpike, Chesapeake, VA 23320. A light lunch will be served after the service with burial to follow at Forest Lawn Cemetery, 8100 Granby Street, Norfolk, VA 23505. Memorial gifts may be made either to Resurrection Lutheran Church or to St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 114 Poplar Mount Road, Norlina, NC 27563. Condolences may be offered to the family at

Published by The Virginian-Pilot on Mar. 20, 2022.

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