Remembering Barbara Geralds

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published February 17, 2023

 The late Barbara Geralds was an influential figure in the city of Madison Heights who was involved with groups such as the Madison Heights Women’s Club, contributing countless volunteer hours.

The late Barbara Geralds was an influential figure in the city of Madison Heights who was involved with groups such as the Madison Heights Women’s Club, contributing countless volunteer hours.

Photo provided by Laurie Geralds

MADISON HEIGHTS — Barbara Geralds, the former first lady of Madison Heights and matriarch of one of its most involved families, died at the end of last year. As told by her family and friends, her legacy is one of leadership and love, inspiring many who continue to serve the community today.

Barbara Geralds was 87 when she died on Dec. 16, 2022.

“She played a part as teacher, friend and mentor, but the heart of her story is how she loved as she lived those 87 years,” said her son, Jeff Geralds, in a eulogy written by her daughter, Laurie Geralds.

Born March 10, 1935, in Detroit, Barbara Geralds attended Redford High School and then Wayne State University. Early on, she distinguished herself with her work at Delta Gamma Chi and as president of the Women’s Association. She was a recipient of the Outstanding Woman Graduate award and inducted into the Mackenzie Honor Society while earning her bachelor’s degree in education.

It was also at Wayne State that she met her future husband, Monte Geralds, whom she wed in July 1956. The Geralds started their family in Oak Park and then moved to Madison Heights in 1961, raising five children. Monte Geralds would go on to serve as the mayor of Madison Heights from 1969-72. He died at age 79 in April 2014.

Barbara Geralds taught at the Lamphere Schools for 32 years. She earned a master’s degree as a reading specialist at Oakland University. But her community involvement extended beyond the school district, as a Scouts leader and member of the First Presbyterian Church of Royal Oak, as well as a member of the General Federation of Women’s Clubs, which includes its local chapter, the Madison Heights Women’s Club.

In 1977, she became the charter president of the Madison Heights Women’s Club. She also twice served as president for the GFWC’s Southeastern District, and for four years as the GFWC’s state secretary. In 2004, she was honored by the group as “Ms. Federation.” She also received the GFWC’s Women of Achievement Award in 2006, and the Madison Heights Women’s Club’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2001.

Karen Barnes, with the Madison Heights Women’s Club, described how Barbara Geralds valued people for who they were at heart.

“(Barbara Geralds) was very open and respectful of people of all faiths, all races, all cultures — she was just accepting of all humanity. It didn’t matter who you were — she’d strike up a conversation with you, and if she didn’t know about your culture or faith, she’d want to know. It was a curiosity that a teacher may have. She made people feel comfortable; she was a truly gentle lady, with a kind heart. And if I had one word to describe her, it would be the word ‘kind’ that comes to mind as everything about her — the way she gave of herself, and the way that she shared,” Barnes said.

She added that much of the club’s success is thanks to Barbara Geralds.

“She mentored so many women in different aspects of the club. Barb Geralds really wanted to ensure that the Women’s Club would carry on; she talked often about leaving a legacy, and she was successful in that,” Barnes said. “She saw the value that the club brought to the community. I can only imagine how many lives she touched in her time here — it has to be in the thousands, with everything that she did.”

Barbara Geralds was also a long-time member of Stagecrafters, and served on the city’s Historical Commission. She was also a member of the Madison Heights Community Round Table — a network of community groups in the city. At banquets by the MHCRT, she received the city’s Volunteer of the Year Award in 2006 and the prestigious MHCRT Volunteer of the Year Award in 2001. The MHCRT also recognized the entire Geralds family as Volunteers of the Year in 2011.

Barbara Geralds is survived by her children Jeff, Cameron, Scott and Laurie, six grandchildren and 14 great-grandchildren, and many in-laws, nieces and nephews. She is predeceased by her daughter, Cynthia; her granddaughter, Jodi; her brother, Michael Bunnell; and her parents, William and Elizabeth Bunnell.

Roslyn Grafstein, the mayor of Madison Heights, said that Barbara Geralds counseled her through some difficult times.

“I met Barb in 2016, when I wanted to get more involved in the community. I spent time talking to her at a Christmas event by the Women’s Club. I was smitten: she was just so nice — so nice,” Grafstein said. “Over the years since then, I got to know her better, and she was just one of those people who always knew what to say. Out of nowhere, she’d send me encouraging words if I was going through something rough — just kind little notes.

“I know she used to be a teacher, and while I didn’t meet her until after she retired, I could tell just based on our conversations that she had been a very empathetic and compassionate teacher,” the mayor said. “She was just a delightful woman — a truly lovely person.”