Saturday 18 November 2017

Barbara Orbison

The widow of legendary singer Roy Orbison was a fearless advocate for the weak, writes her friend Declan Joyce

I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. Cleveland is like Dublin in many ways. I am 41 and have been coming to Ireland for 21 years now.

When I first heard the album Mystery Girl by Roy Orbison, it blew me away. I tried to learn as much as I could about Roy Orbison. Never had I heard a voice that would bring me into another dimension like his did, even to this day.

I found out later that Bono and The Edge had something to do with being a part of that amazing album, Mystery Girl.

I wrote to Barbara Orbison, telling her what a wonderful album Roy had made. I also said that I had a tragedy in my life at that time and the song You Got It was an inspiration to me and got me through that period.

Later, I moved out to Malibu and through a mutual friend, became friends with Alex Orbison, son of Barbara and the late Roy Orbison.

Alex brought me over to his house to crash for the night after we were at a gig in Hollywood. This is when I first met Barbara.

Barbara was a very beautiful person but immediately, she commanded my respect. She looked right into me. She was a fearless person.

We stayed up late, talking about Roy. She loved that I was Irish and told me many stories about Ireland.

Barbara told me about Bono and The Edge's involvement in Mystery Girl, which is my favourite album.

Barbara was all about sticking up for the weak. She loved people around the world who did amazing work. She thought Bono's work in Africa was really worthwhile and necessary.

Barbara would always take the mickey with me but wouldn't give me too much room to go along with her! Always travelling and on the go, she continued carrying out Roy's work and vision around the world.

In May of this year, Barbara became sick. I would always see her in the Vitamin Barn in Malibu, a popular place for people to have smoothies and drinks and buy medicine.

She would usually be with someone and I would always help carry whatever she bought out to her car. She always had amazing things to talk about.

Some time later, Alex called me and told me that his mom was getting treatment. I was concerned but they both felt she would beat it, and I was confident in that.

I later heard from people in Malibu that she was not doing well and would check in with Alex. The last time I saw Barbara was in Malibu, outside the Vitamin Barn. She was with a friend and we were all talking outside. I will never forget that day.

Over a month ago, I stopped by and dropped off a card and a gift for Barbara. I was told she got it from her assistant, who's been with her for 25 years. I was told she read my card and immediately, peacefully said "I know", as she held my card.

When Barbara passed, my world stopped and I immediately rang Alex. He reached out to me later that night by email and said she was free and she was finally back with Roy, 23 years to the exact day of his passing.

The funeral was a small, private one. I was honoured to be there.

At funerals over the years, sometimes you hear things about people you never knew before. It was there that I heard just how much Barbara meant to the 'less fortunate' in the world and how many lives she really touched. As I write this, I am still in shock at her passing.

Barbara meant so much to so many people. She was an amazing mother, friend, activist and lover of the world. I will always miss her.

Barbara Orbison, businesswoman: born January 10, 1950; died December 6, 2011.

Sunday Independent

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