Barbara Garris (nee Stern), was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. Her parents had emigrated there from Europe in 1936 as refugees from Nazi Germany. At 18, Barbara left South Africa for Paris, where she studied dressmaking – which had been her mother’s profession in Cape Town. (Her mother, Matilda Stern, ran a business that designed and made custom evening wear.) While she was living and studying in Paris, Barbara’s parents decided to leave South Africa and join other members of their family in New York. Shortly thereafter, Barbara joined them in New York, and took a job as a receptionist. At 20 years old, she met and married Henry Garris, whose family also had escaped the Nazis. Henry was born 1932 in Vienna, Austria, and he and his family arrived in Ellis Island in early 1940.
At 22 years old, Barbara gave birth to her first child, Leslie. While pregnant, she was fired from her job, which, at the time, deemed it inappropriate for its receptionists to appear pregnant. She didn’t return to the work world until her fourth (and final) child, Michael, was a teenager. In addition to Leslie and Michael, Barbara had two other children, Pauline and David. There was a 15-year age gap between her first and last born children. For the most part, the children all were raised in Great Neck, New York, where Barbara still lives.
When Barbara returned to work, she started as a temp worker, providing secretarial services to offices in and around Long Island. She eventually landed a permanent job at North Shore Hospital, where she worked as a secretary for more than 20 years. She retired from the Hospital about 5 years ago.
All four of her children are college-educated and have master’s degrees.
Barbara has been married to Henry for about 55 years.