November 27, 2021

Barabara J. Elliott, 94

Barbara J. Elliott, 94, of Ann Arbor, Mich., and formerly of Bluffton, passed away Sunday evening, Nov. 21, 2021, at University Living in Ann Arbor.

Barbara was born in Bluffton on Oct. 2, 1927, to Dale and Gwendolyn (Long) Huffman. She married Robert J. Elliott in Wells County on June 13, 1949. He preceded her in death on Feb. 23, 2010. 

A 1945 graduate of Bluffton High School, Barbara would later receive her bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Indiana University in 1949. She later received her master’s degree in library science from IU in 1979.

After graduating from college, Barbara moved to be with her husband in St. Louis, Mo., where she worked for a number of years as a chemist for Mallinckrodt Chemical. Mallinckrodt was heavily involved in the development of nuclear energy during the 1950s, and Barb went on trips with little notice to then-secret locations in Oak Ridge, Tennessee and Hannaford, Washington. She also helped write a book on uranium production during that time. She quit working for a time before her son Michael was born, and she and her family moved to Los Angeles, California and later Cincinnati, Ohio as her husband Robert, also a chemist, worked in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industry. 

She returned to her family farm in 1974, and went back to work as a librarian, first at St. Francis College in Fort Wayne, and then at the Wells County Public Library in Bluffton. She rose to become director in 1989 after earning her masters degree, a position she retained until her retirement in 1995. As director she led the effort to build the first fully taxpayer-funded library in the history of Wells County, which was dedicated in 1991. She also volunteered extensively for the Indiana Library Association and was Indiana Librarian of the Year in 1994.

Besides her work for the library, Barbara was incredibly active in the community. She served for many years on the Wells County Foundation Board of Directors, the Wells County Historical Society, the Bluffton Lion’s Club, the Bluffton-Harrison School Board, the Wabash River Commission, the Bluffton Free Street Fair Association, and many other groups and organizations lost to memory by now. She was very active in several churches in Bluffton, most recently the First Reformed Church. She was also a booster and volunteer for the Marching Tigers high school band for a number of years, even after her son graduated from high school. If anything was happening in Wells County between 1974 and 2014, Barbara Elliott was likely to be in the middle of it. She was a master gardener, as the beautiful gardens around her farmhouse still show. 

Her health began to decline shortly after her husband Robert passed away in 2010, but she retained her indomitable will and optimistic spirit until the end. She loved and was loved by her family, but she was also concerned about the larger world. She made sure the library was a safe and welcoming place for children and teenagers to be after school, understanding that not all young people have safe and welcoming places, even at home. We are thankful for all she did for her family and her community. We miss her so much. 

Survivors include a son, Michael Elliott (wife Amy Lesemann) of Ann Arbor, Mich.; and two granddaughters, Alice Lesemann Elliott and Caroline Lesemann Elliott (husband Will Anderson).

Barbara was preceded in death by her husband and parents.

Visitation will be Saturday, Nov. 27, 2021, from 10 a.m. until 1p.m., at Goodwin – Cale & Harnish Memorial Chapel in Bluffton, followed immediately by a funeral service at 1p.m. Dr. Bryson “Gene” Bell will officiate. Burial will follow at Six Mile Cemetery in Bluffton.

Memorial contributions in Barbara’s memory may be made to the Wells County Public Library.

Online condolences may be made at

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