STILLWATER, Okla. —
By Merrick Eagleton
Stillwater resident Barbara Gish is saying goodbye to her home of 47 years and the many organizations she has served to be closer to her daughter in Texas.
“It’s going to be hard to leave Stillwater,” Gish said.
Gish moved here with her husband, Larry, in 1966. She immediately began volunteering and helping out the community. Her first connection was with her sorority, Delta Delta Delta.
Alumni president Cynthia Shawley said Gish began serving the sorority as the alumnae publicity chair before becoming an advisor. Later, she served on the house corporation board for Delta Delta Delta. Gish was the Stillwater Panhellinic president in 1987-88. She received the Greek Hall of Fame award in 2012.
However, Gish’s main interest was in helping children. She was an Oklahoma Kids Count Leader, an organization sponsored by the Oklahoma Institute of Child Advocacy that focuses on determining and addressing the needs of children. Holding this position led her and fellow leader Peggy McCormick to create the Saville Center.
“Every aspect of it was so bad we wanted this whole community to know that we needed a center here for sexually abused children to be interviewed and that’s what pushed us,” Gish said.
The Saville Center is geared toward helping victims of child abuse in Stillwater and the surrounding communities. The center offers videotaped forensic interviews, medical exams, counseling services and victim advocacy. It began in 1998 and has helped 3,168 children over the past 15 years. Brandi White, executive director of the Saville Center, has seen Gish’s continuous involvement in the center.
“She’s been on the board, she’s been an advisor, she’s been a friend, she’s been a donor,” White said.
In 1997 Gish was awarded Citizen of the Year by the Stillwater Rotary Club and also Hometown Hero by the Stillwater NewsPress. She has served on the local and state level in multiple ways, including volunteering with Stillwater United Way, OSU Friends of Music, St. Andrews Episcopal Church, American Cancer Society and the state legislative committee and capitol task force.
Tommy Kiser, a member at St. Andrew’s, described Gish as another good Stillwater person. Another good friend, Eileen Borland, said Gish was the backbone of the community.
“Her husband was a state legislator but I think she did as much or more public work than he did,” Kiser said.
An event was held at St. Andrews on Friday to celebrate everything Gish has given to the community. Mayor John Bartley spoke and honored Gish by proclaiming June 14, 2013, to be known as Barbara Gish Day in Stillwater.