Barbara Jelinek 1933 - 2022

Student, teacher, traveler, writer, activist and actress, Barbara Fincher Jelinek died September 25, 2022, in Seattle, Washington, having moved there in 2015 after 51 years in McMinnville, Oregon.

Born March 23, 1933, in Steger, Illinois, to Laura Monnix and Joseph Victor Fincher, Barbara received a bachelor’s degree from the School of Speech and Drama at Northwestern University in Evanston. In the years that followed, Barbara went farther afield, studying in Vienna, New York and Mexico City, ultimately completing a master’s degree in Education from Linfield College, after following her husband, Randall Jelinek, to McMinnville in 1965 when he was appointed Chair of the Art Department there.

While her children were young, Barbara was an editor and writer for Linfield College’s various publications, an adjunct teacher of English at the college, and a freelance writer for the News-Register. In 1968, she received state and national awards for a series of articles in that newspaper about the need for separate facilities for mentally ill adolescents, at the time housed with the elderly in the State Hospital in Salem. Phil Bladine, publisher, distributed copies of the series to all members of the Oregon State Legislature, which led to their establishing Poyama Land, a treatment center for children in Polk, Marion, and Yamhill counties.

Simultaneously, Barbara held various positions in Yamhill County’s Democratic Central Committee, including the role of chairperson, and was the candidate for state representative in 1983, the same year she was invited to the White House to meet President Jimmy Carter.

Barbara continued to support civic projects and cultural organizations throughout her life, such as the Linfield Chamber Orchestra, the Arts Alliance, and Gallery Theater. The latter was so named because it started in 1968 with summer performances in what was then the Linfield art building’s art gallery.

Beginning with that summer of 1968, Barbara had leading roles in numerous Gallery plays, such as The Glass Menagerie, A Streetcar Named Desire, and The Lion in Winter. More recently, she was Maria Callas in Master Class and a woman struggling to recover from a stroke in Wings, by Arthur Kopit. She also directed numerous plays at Gallery, at Sheridan High School and at McMinnville High School, in collaboration with her fellow drama teacher and dear friend, Carol Burnett.

Over the course of her lifetime, Barbara taught drama and English in Illinois, New Jersey, Washington state and Oregon and was awarded two Fulbright Scholarships to teach in Scotland and Zimbabwe, respectively. Even after retiring from McMinnville High School, Barbara continued to teach drama and English as a Second Language in China.

A companion throughout her adventures, Barbara’s husband died August 22, 2001, a day before their 48th wedding anniversary. They are survived by their children, Julie Baird and Gregory Monnix Jelinek, both of Seattle, and Victoria Jelinek Jensen of Chamonix. Her grandchildren are Daniel Jelinek, Kaya Baird, Finnegan Jelinek, Zoe Jelinek, and Sebastian Jensen.

Barbara claimed the best summing up of one’s life is an epitaph she once read containing the remains of a young woman at a cathedral on Scotland’s principal Orkney Island:

She lived respected
And died regretted.

In lieu of a festive gathering to honor Barbara at this time, people are asked to donate to the Zoe Jelinek Memorial Fund on Tragically, Barbara’s granddaughter Zoe died in a sudden accident earlier on the same day that Barbara had the stroke that would send her to intensive care and ultimately conclude her own life.



Jeb Bladine

Like many local people, I was saddened by the news of Barbara's death ... even more-so by the story of her granddaughter's fatal accident. That Zoe Jelinek fund has surpassed its original goal and is morphing into a foundation to support education in Zambia.

Barbara was a sparkling light for decades in McMinnville, and I remember my father being enormously proud of the mental health series she wrote for this newspaper in 1968.


Thanks for letting us know about the GoFundMe. Mrs. Jelinek was one of the best teachers I had at Mac High.

David Bates

Barbara directed me in several shows at Gallery and it was always wonderful to be in her company, some of my favorite Gallery Theater memories are of shows she directed. Terrific actor, too. An amazing, dynamic human being, I will miss her and never forget her.

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