Barbara Bulla was a woman of strength and resolve

November 14, 2004|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail will run "A Life Remembered." The story will take a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Barbara Elizabeth Pope Bulla, who died Nov. 7 at the age of 87. Her obituary appeared in the Nov. 9 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

While Bill Bulla was studying art at George Washington University, he befriended two youngsters who used to come into the pharmacy where he worked as a part-time clerk.

"They kind of picked me out for their mother," Bill said, as he recalled how he first met Barbara - the woman who would become his wife in 1951.

Barbara Elizabeth Pope Bulla died Nov. 7 at the age of 87, just six weeks after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. She and Bill would have celebrated their 54th anniversary in January.


In the early 1950s when Bill and Barbara first met, she was a widow with a son and daughter. They were living in Washington, D.C., while she was working as a parish secretary at St. Alban's Church.

Raised in Washington, Barbara had been living out west with her first husband, Wendell Pope, who was in the military.

"Once while Barbara and Wendell were flying in his plane in New Mexico, they crashed," Bill said. Pregnant with her second child, Barbara's injuries included a broken leg.

She moved back to Washington to live with her mother when Wendell was away during World War II. When Wendell died in March 1943, Barbara stayed in Washington.

"She would sometimes come over for lunch at the pharmacy," Bill said. The children, then 8 and 10 years old, would come in on their own, so it was some time before Bill realized that Wendell Jr. and Beverly Anne were Barbara's children.

Bill said Barbara and her children were living with her mother, whom he met and liked immediately.

"Barbara's mother taught me how to play bridge and we became bridge partners," Bill said.

When Bill graduated from college, the new family moved to Baltimore, where Bill worked in the advertising department at Sears. He opened his own ad agency for a while, then concentrated on shopping center promotions. That eventually brought them to Hagerstown in 1975, where he managed both Valley Mall and Fredericktowne Mall in Frederick, Md.

"Barbara worked for a number of churches during those years as parish secretary," Bill said.

The family grew when the Bullas had their own son, William L. Bulla Jr., so Barbara also was busy with three children, a husband and her home.

William L. Bulla Jr. died in March 2003, also of cancer.

Even in those busy child-rearing years, Barbara always found the time to volunteer in Hagerstown. She was a founder of the Conomac Lioness Club and established that club's Coats for Kids program.

In her early years, Barbara was a secretary in the FBI fingerprinting division and the Air Transport Command in Washington, D.C.

"Very athletic, Barbara was on the FBI swim team," Bill said. She always loved to tell the story of how one day, Johnny Weismuller, an actor who played Tarzan in the movies, demonstrated for Barbara and her team members how to do the Australian crawl.

Bill said he was amazed at Barbara's strength and resolve in everything she did in life.

"This woman survived double pneumonia at birth, several major operations, a plane crash while she was pregnant and being left a widow with two young children," Bill said.

He credited her strong will with getting her through all but the last of her trials in life.

"When she was failing at the end, she told me not to fret," Bill said. "She said she would be seeing our son, Billy, and they would make a place for me someday."

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