Obit: Barbara Thomas Ackard, Mother, Grandmother, Friend


Barbara Thomas Ackard, who was born on November 15, 1919, in Denver, Colorado, passed away on August 7.

The 101-year old was surrounded by her family and caregiver in her Brentwood home. She had lived in Pacific Palisades many years before moving to Brentwood.

Shortly after Barbara’s birth, her mother died. Her father Lester Church Thomas raised her alone until he remarried a few years later. That marriage ultimately ended in divorce.  Thomas remarried happily when Barbara was nearing the end of her teenage years

Barbara attended Mount Vernon Seminary in Washington D.C., for high school and later started college at Pine Manor in Chestnut Hill, MA. Eventually she moved back home to Colorado, and finished her college education at Colorado College in Colorado Springs.

She was proud and grateful for her Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority affiliation.

Although she met her husband John Lawrence Ackard in Denver when she was in high school, they were not formally engaged until much later in December 1948.

The couple moved to Pacific Palisades and lived in the Huntington Palisades. The family owned the Allegro Music store on Swarthmore for 20 years. The couple divorced in 1972.

Barbara was quite active in politics along with supporting animal rights in groups such as “Pet Orphans.” She was passionate about her love of classical music and a longtime patron of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, enjoying season tickets to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and later the Walt Disney Concert Hall in support of LA’s world class orchestra.

She also had an exceptionally long tenure, almost 40 years, as a volunteer at Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center in Santa Monica.

On most days she helped scores of families in the hospital’s “surgery waiting room” as they anticipated news of their loved ones. Other days, she greeted incoming visitors at the “courtesy desk.”

After many years in the Palisades, Barbara moved to a mid-century modern ranch style residence above Sullivan Canyon in Brentwood, designed by noted California architect Cliff May.

The home became a nexus for countless gatherings with friends, children and loving grandchildren.

Barbara survived spinal surgery at age 93, thanks to her skilled and talented surgeon Dr. Hooman Melamed along with meticulous 24/7 in-home care.

For the remaining eight years of her life, Barbara was cared for by a beautiful, compassionate caregiver Pearl Erdman who treated and loved her like her own mother.

In addition to her love of music, literature, travel and the arts, Barbara will be best remembered for her exceptional generosity and dedication to helping friends and family, her witty sense of humor – and her lifelong love of chocolate.

She is survived by her son Anthony “Tony” Lawrence Ackard, daughters Laura Ackard Saltzman and Marguerite “Maggie” Ackard Vanneman, and grandchildren Brad, Kelly, Timothy and Casey Vanneman.

Private services were held at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica. A Celebration of Life will be held at a later date.

In lieu of flowers, the family would be honored for donations to be made to either Saint John’s Hospital and Health Center at, Los Angeles Philharmonic at, or Pet Orphans at

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