A tribute to Babs

Babette “Babs” Jackson

A Columbia family, joined by many others in the community, has spent the past few days mourning the loss of a woman who gave much of herself making sure everyone around her was left happier and better off.

Babette “Babs” Jackson passed away Friday evening following a crash on North Metter Avenue in Columbia. For more information on this crash, click here.

Her siblings, David Touchette and Wendy Stevens, shared kind words and memories about their sister.

Babs was born in Cahokia. The family, with parents Dave and Dorothy Touchette, moved to Columbia in 1976 and she attended Immaculate Conception Catholic School and Columbia High School.

Her siblings recall Babs as an exceptional athlete, continuing her sports career at Southwestern Illinois College where she played volleyball, basketball and softball.

Though she started her higher education at SWIC, she earned a teaching degree at Southern Illinois University Carbondale.

Wendy and David noted that all three of them wound up in education – Babs taught at Washington Middle School in the Mehlville School District in St. Louis.

“All three of us, actually, are teachers,” Wendy said. “We got that from the kind, loving part of our parents. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, so she gave us a very kind spirit. My dad was a blue-collar sheet metal worker, hard-working man. It’s interesting that all three of us are in a giving profession, and she of all people was someone that would give beyond anything even that she had.”

The siblings emphasized just how much Babs put into her work, from the love she felt for her students to the strong relationships she developed with colleagues.

Work was hardly the only place Babs made friends, however. Wendy and David said she never saw a stranger and always managed to be at parties and get-togethers.

They also mentioned how her outgoing nature touched on her interest in boating as her family purchased a large pontoon boat to enjoy plenty of time on the water with those she loved.

They each further recalled how impressed they were with the impact Babs had with people.

Wendy described how whenever she introduces herself to someone and mentions she’s Babs’ sister, they immediately recognize who she’s talking about.

Similarly, David, a retired longtime coach and teacher in the Columbia school district, remarked on how so many of the people he’s coached and taught have also known his sister.

“She was the definition of a magnetic personality,” David said. “She knew when to speak. She knew when to listen. She knew when to hug.”

Her love of all those around her naturally extended to her family, from her parents to her siblings as well as her husband Mark; children Adam, Allison and Kyle and new granddaughter Josephine.

Wendy and David noted how the family owns a cabin in the country which was undoubtedly a happy place for Babs given how the family gathers there.

Along those lines, they also spoke about how she organized all of the family’s vacations, bringing multiple generations of the family together regularly.

They further stressed how strong Babs’ relationships were with her immediate family.

They described Mark as an amazing husband who always loved and supported her. As for her kids, they spoke about how older son Adam was a rock for her, with Kyle – “the baby” – offering similar support and check-ins. Allison, they said, was her best friend.

Babs showed even more love as a grandmother over the past few months. Wendy and David joked about how frustrated they were with her this past Christmas as she held Josephine for most of the family gathering.

“She definitely is the glue. She’s been the glue of the family,” Wendy said. “We never had problems or anything, but she was gonna make sure we were all here, what time we had to be here at Christmas or what time we were gonna be going here or out to eat. And she wanted everyone to be included. She could not stand for anyone to be hurt or for anyone to feel any pain. She had to make it OK. If there was a squabble, she’s the peacemaker. She’s gonna make sure you feel loved and you feel important. And she was very humble.”

Along with all they had to say about Babs and her relationships, they described just how good of a person she was – kind, caring, loving and every other positive thing someone could say about a person.

“She’s a kindhearted person that cares about everyone,” Wendy said. “She’s always been devoted and loyal.”

David further emphasized how these weren’t just empty sentiments.

“Sometimes people say those things, but there’s never been anything more true said about a person,” David said.

Though they said Babs’ chief hobby was really spending time with other people, she also had interests in boating, Jeeping and attending local sporting events.

She was also a big volunteer at the annual Songs4Soldiers benefit concert in Columbia for several years.

“Everything she did, she did passionately, and she did with other people in front of herself,” Wendy said. “She was a very unselfish person.”

Wendy said she was also a person with tremendous faith and love for God. She noted how their mother always sits in the back of church as her father is an usher, and Babs has long joined her in that rear pew to hold her hand.

According to Wendy, Dorothy said she and Dave weren’t able to attend Mass this past Sunday knowing Babs wouldn’t be there.

“Babs did have a strong faith, a quiet faith, but she knew Jesus Christ as her savior,” Wendy said. “And she would be happy to know that there are thousands of people praying today that maybe weren’t praying yesterday. Maybe somebody will hug their mom today that didn’t before, because she wanted everyone to be happy and to share love and know Jesus as their savior.”

While Wendy and David offered their fond thoughts of Babs, so too did many of her friends.

Julie Hornbostel recalled how they grew up in Columbia, several years apart. Though they only really got to know each other as their own kids were growing up and becoming friends, their relationship became quite strong.

“Babs was one of the kindest, fun-loving and caring people I know,” Hornbostel said. “She lit up a room when she came into it and never knew a stranger. My whole family is mourning the loss of such a wonderful person.”

Dorianne Vogt echoed much of what Babs’ siblings shared. She noted her fierce love of family as well as the care she took in remembering small details of everyone’s lives. Vogt also pointed to her service at the American Legion and Songs4Soldiers.

“Babs was the life and heart of any gathering she was at,” Vogt said. “Always had a smile, always made people feel welcome… Her loss leaves a huge hole in not only her family but in this community.”

Lynn McAuliffe volunteered with Babs at Songs4Soldiers. She noted the work she did at the event’s merchandise tent as well as the energy she brought with her.

“Babs was always ready to help out Songs4Soldiers, serving veterans,” McAuliffe said. “We could always count on her to be there and make it fun! We’ll all really miss her smiling face and positive attitude.”

Chrissa Schremp recalled how she met Babs and became friends through volleyball at CHS, also describing a fond memory they had climbing Chimney Rock in North Carolina only to realize they could have taken an elevator to the top.

“Babs knew how to celebrate life, and I really wish we had more time,” Schremp said. “I will never forget her. She will always be my guide on how to be a better person and get the most out of life.”

Another close friend of Babs, Stephanie Pulse, described how she’s known Babs for years. She offered high praise for her, noting how genuine and sincere she was in offering positivity and reaching out to others.

“Her genuine personality is something everyone in the community, anyone who ever knew her or ever said hello to her, will miss,” Pulse said.

Pulse further touched on much of what Wendy and David discussed: how Babs could light up a room, how important family was to her and how she embodied just about every positive trait someone could have.

“Everything you could ever think of, anything that’s a positive about a person, Babs had it in her,” Pulse said. “And you can see that just by looking on Facebook, all the kind words everybody has. Just genuinely cared about everyone, and everyone knew it.”

It’s clear given all the praise her loved ones have offered that Babs leaves a great hole in the community with her passing.

Wendy and David said the response from the community in the past few days has been quite powerful, and though they are in tremendous pain, they hope to honor her legacy going forward.

“We’re taking one breath at a time is how we’re getting through it,” Wendy said. “We’re taking it one second at a time. The outpouring of love has meant so much to us, people telling us that they’re praying for us.”

A celebration of life for Babs will take place at Turner Hall, 211 E. Cherry Street in Columbia, this Friday. Doors open at 4 p.m.

In lieu of flowers and other memorials, the family is inviting contributions to the Jackson family for a legacy fund. Donations can be made at the celebration of life or via Venmo at @Jackson-Family-5.

The celebration of life will also feature a place to leave cards or other notes.

Those wishing to donate to the family’s meal train can also do so at mealtrain.com/kk6dov.

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Andrew Unverferth

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