Barbara Ann Jenkins (nee Krans), Akron area artist, passed away suddenly, but peacefully, Wednesday, May 26, 2021, at age 79, surrounded by family. Born December 9, 1941; preceded in death by parents, Paul and Patricia (nee Stinnett) Krans, and sister Nancy (Gene) Reynolds; she is survived by her devoted husband of 56 years, Robert; children, Robert Jr. (Justine Ehlers), twins Thomas (Tiffany) and Laura (John) Gorun, and David (Jennifer); seven beloved grandchildren; siblings, Jeff (Diane) and Gretchen; and dearly loved cousins, nieces, nephews, and extended family.
An Akron resident since birth, she graduated from Buchtel, studied art education at BGSU, and completed her BA at Kent State. She was an art teacher, free-lance artist, and mother, overflowing with joy and love; she loved so much! God, art, music, nature, pets, traveling, teaching, family, friends, and being a mother (to so many)… and sweets! All of these were apparent through everything she did, and she was dearly loved in return.
From a very young age, she developed a deep love and care for nature & the outdoors, and for all living things. Much of her love for the outdoors was cultivated during visits to her Uncle Nicky’s farm in Rootstown, where she learned not only to appreciate nature, but to respect it and have a realistic and practical understanding of it, a tradition she’d extend to her own children. She loved her time at the farm, where she’d play and explore with her cousins, help with the chores, and learn about plants & animals. Aunt Rita’s baking (sticky buns on weekends – YUM!) was likely an inspiration for Barb’s excellent baking, later in life. Anyone who ever enjoyed her fresh bread (Aunt Rita’s recipe), or enjoyed one of her amazingly creative and delicious cakes would certainly appreciate that!
Her gregarious and curious nature, along with that inclination to care for everything and everyone helped make her a natural mother. She’d befriend everyone she met, and she’d mother everyone, as much as they’d let her.
She was intensely involved in raising her children – driving kids all over to sports, school and church activities, and often carting home not only her kids, but also their musical instruments, and often a few of their friends, too. She never complained about the giant musical instruments (trombone, tuba, cello), since she played double bass when she was in school. Through her children’s friends, she developed a few of her dearest life-long friendships and still more interests. Especially notable was her interest in Chinese language, culture and cooking. Bob appreciated the latter. The former, well – she learned enough that she could help visiting Chinese scholars in their ESL classes. She often brought groups of these visiting scholars to typical American cultural places and events, like a visit to her uncle’s farm, and some church softball games.
She always enjoyed watching her athletic husband, Bob, play softball, while she visited with the other players’ wives on the sidelines. When, later in life, he played on traveling teams, she
loved going along, and some of those trips even allowed her to see (and share with Bob) more of the stunning scenery she loved, like Bryce Canyon, Zion, and Arches national parks, in Utah.
As an artist and teacher, she started young, which led to helping with art editing for her High School yearbook. Her professional career began with teaching art at Litchfield Jr High, until she became a mother, but having kids only expanded her career as an artist and teacher. She was, occasionally, a substitute teacher in the Akron area for many years, but from the early 1970’s until well into her 70’s, she worked primarily as a free-lance artist. She’d exhibit her artwork at shows like Boston Mills, Zoar Village, and Hale Farm, where she’d often bring along a kid or two to “help” (i.e. explore and cultivate their own interest in art). She also taught many workshops, did the occasional artist residency (as in Mendocino, CA, to which she returned several times), and her artwork was featured in many periodicals and books over the years, and until very late in her life, she was an active member of several local and national Arts organizations, including the Akron Society of Artists (ASA), several chapters of the Colored Pencil Society of America (CPSA), and Scripts & Scribes. At the beginning of her career, she gained many commissions doing portraits of homes and landmark buildings in graphite, then pen & ink – to this day, her drawing of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church may be seen on church stationery. Early on, she also concentrated on pen & ink and watercolor florals, mostly drawing from examples found in the garden, or in the woods, as she was hiking. There were always perfect fall leaves stashed here & there around the house for reference. Luckily, her trademark small critters weren’t also brought inside. (Ants, chipmunks, and myriad small creatures could always be found somewhere in her drawings – even in many of the house portraits. She just felt it seemed more realistic and interesting that way.) Her artistic style quickly settled on her true love: nature and wildlife, and eventually included portraits of beloved pets, as well. She was probably best known for her colored pencil and pen & ink work, with her intricately detailed, realistic style, and her unique use of colored pencils, such that she could push around and blend the colors, almost like paint. When Parkinson’s began giving her tremors in her hands, she simply switched to drawing and carving on gourds, which required more pressure, so steadied her hand.
She perpetually over-extended herself because she wanted to see everyone and do everything. While that may have been a point of irritation to many of us along the way, looking back, she actually had incredible focus, and was a marvel in all that she managed to accomplish. The things we’ve mentioned here are barely the tip of the iceberg. Until age, arthritis and Parkinson’s really set in to hold her back a little, she was never without a few (or a dozen) projects. In recent years, she may have slowed down to only one (or a few) projects at a time, but she did them, usually overflowing with joy and love.
There will be no viewing, and her ashes will be interred in a private, family service. Later, a memorial service will take place on Saturday, October 9, 2021 at 11am at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 1361 W. Market St., Akron, OH 44313, (barring pandemic restrictions).
In lieu of flowers, given her love of nature and her cats (who tend to eat flowers), the family would ask that you enjoy and support your national and local park systems.
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