SEE YA, LOVE YA
Celebrating the life of Barbie Dean Ross
When Barbie Dean Ross put her mind to something, nothing would stand
in the way of her vision. She was strong, creative, charismatic and fiercely
committed to serving her community.
“There isn’t a day when I walk through the Centennial Lobby and I don’t see a little piece of Barbie and the legacy that she helped to build.”
— Nancy Wells
Last May, just a few months before the launch of the movie everyone seemed to be talking about last summer, we said good-bye to our very own, real-life Barbie. After over thirty years of service to Kelowna General Hospital, the echoes of her infectious laugh and boundless spirit will live on within the walls of our hospital. Our Barbie was not just another pretty face. She was a leader, a friend and an inspiration.
Nancy Wells, Project & Development Manager with the KGH Foundation, worked with Barbie for 13 years. She says fondly, “There isn’t a day when I walk through the Centennial Lobby and don’t see a little piece of Barbie and the legacy that she helped to build. She was one of a kind and I am grateful to have known and worked with her.”
As a teen, Barbie and her family relocated to Kelowna from Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. She thrived in high school, taking on leadership roles and exploring her passion for fashion and design. After high school, Barbie studied at the Bassett School of Fashion and Interior Design in Portland and returned to Kelowna where she built a successful career as one of the Okanagan’s most sought after interior designers.
Barbie began her tenure as a KGH volunteer in the early 1990’s, when she was on the founding committee for the now iconic, bi-annual, KGH Foundation Heart of Gold gala. She wasted no time putting her superpowers to good use, leaning into her leadership and design skills to create an experience for guests that helped establish a standard of excellence that continues to this day. During those early years, she dedicated countless hours to Heart of Gold, which has gone on to raise over $7 million in support of Kelowna General Hospital. Even when she stepped away from the committee in the later years, she would always return on the event day to lend a helping hand.
“She was a wonderful force to be reckoned with and just the epitome of community,” says Lynn Archibald, current Creative Director for the Heart of Gold Committee. “Barbie’s volunteer work for KGH and the Heart of Gold galas was invaluable. She willingly shared her knowledge and talent with all of us and I will always look back and smile at some of her hilarious stories and well…just Barbie.”
“It’s hard to imagine a Heart of Gold without her,” reflects Lynn. “We will miss her.”
Barbie is probably best-known for her role in creating legendary fashion shows, which were THE social events to be at. She took her role as show director almost as seriously as she did the role of fundraiser. All the proceeds from these wildly successful fashion shows went to KGH.
If that wasn’t enough, Barbie also volunteered her time and expertise as a member of the KGH Foundation’s Board of Directors from 2005 – 2011.
After her stint on the Board, she signed on to support the build of a gift shop, the Centennial Mercantile, in the new Centennial Building at KGH. Her project management skills and keen eye for design were a perfect match for the project. The new KGH Gift Shop opened in 2012 and Barbie stayed on as a volunteer buyer for over a decade, until her passing in 2023.
When asked to describe Barbie in word, Nancy takes pause before answering. “One word? That’s hard. Formidable. She never took no for an answer. She was a force.”
Barbie left an indelible mark on our community. It seems only fitting to give her the last word(s).
If you know, you know.
“See ya. Love ya.”
A legacy that lives on…
Barbie’s energy, passion, love and support for KGH are simply beyond compare. Last fall, a group of her friends and KGH Foundation donors came forward with an idea to honour Barbie in a unique and fitting way.
The Barbie Ross Service Award has been established in loving memory of Barbie, to recognize and acknowledge a KGH Foundation volunteer who embodies the values and dedication that Barbie held so dear. The prestigious award is a heartfelt tribute to a remarkable woman’s legacy, honouring KGH Foundation volunteers who share Barbie’s exceptional qualities and spirit in their selfless service to others. The recipient is announced at the annual Volunteer Gala.
In 2023, the very first award was given to Henk de Roos, a 20-year volunteer at the KGH Gift Shop.