Barbara Steele Bregant, elegant family matriarch with a dry wit, doctor’s wife dedicated to serving her community, historical restoration expert, legendary party giver, loyal Mizzou fan, adventurous traveler, and treasured friend to many, died on September 18, 2020, in her hometown of St. Louis, Missouri, at Dougherty Ferry Assisted Living & Memory Care. She was 86.
Born on November 25, 1933 in St. Louis, to William and Inez Knotts Steele, Barbara was the third of three, along with sisters Doris and Sue. Barb attended grade school in St. Louis, followed by high school at Southwest High. She graduated from Central Methodist University in Fayette, MO, with a Bachelor of Science degree, excelling in business administration.
On October 15, 1955, Barb married Dr. Robert E. Bregant at Union Methodist Church in St. Louis. She taught business classes at Bayless High School, St. Louis County, while her husband was in medical school at St. Louis University. From 1963 on, the family lived in central Missouri, making Jefferson City their longtime home. After their children, Susan (Susie) and Robert Jr. (Bobby), were born, family became her full-time job. Barb and Bob were best friends who cherished each other’s company. As wonderful role models for a solid marriage, their children experienced and shared in their happiness.
Barb was passionate about creating a home filled with love and books. Her house was decorated with treasures and art from family travels to places like Burma, Thailand, the Amazon, Galapagos Islands, Russia, China, and other places not widely traveled when she ventured to them. Family trips included cross country drives to see National Parks, with scenic drives, long or short, remaining one of Barb’s favorite things to do. She favored the backroads.
As head of the household while her husband kept doctor’s hours, Barb managed repairs, cooking, cleaning, and raising of Susie and Bobby, while also hosting unforgettable parties. She organized Christmas caroling parties through the city, hosted huge holiday gatherings and birthday parties, and planned extensive travels with family and friends, always making time for impromptu fun and laughter. Her book detailing dozens of parties and events, including recipes for everything served, is a treasured family keepsake.
Barb and Bob took their hosting talents to the next level in 1979, when they “bought a hotel,” as they described it to their son – the hotel being the Dauphine Hotel Bed and Breakfast, built in 1875, in Bonnots Mill, MO. Barb led the meticulous restoration of the hotel, setting the tone for other historic preservation in picturesque Bonnots Mill. The Dauphine was the setting for an annual New Year’s Eve party, and on New Year’s morning, Barb woke her female friends, hopped into her Suburban, and took them to pick watercress from an icy stream, creating yet another lasting memory for all.
Her loving, creative spirit led her to oil painting, stitchery, and projects like knitting Christmas stockings for the entire family. As a woodworker, she made a rocking horse for her grandson, still used today by her youngest great-grandson.
While growing up, Susie and Bobby watched their mother do all the above, along with playing tennis, guiding tours at the Governor’s Mansion, serving on numerous community boards, and managing the hospital gift shop. She taught them the meaning of civic responsibility, and held them to her same high standards, always letting them know she believed in their talents and abilities.
When it came to Barbara’s four grandchildren, fun was the goal. Their visits to Barb’s beloved Jeff City home were filled with warmth and security. She woke them in the morning dancing to disco music, and shared her appreciation of all music with them, from Frank Sinatra to the Bee Gees. They loved to play piano and sing with her. She conducted “Grandma Barb’s Manners School” displaying her great talent at keeping an immaculate and beautiful house, for the joy of it. Her granddaughters set up a restaurant at her house, making menus, and doing their best to fill the dinner orders. She established a Christmas cookie baking tradition with her grandson. She surprised them with new toys when they visited, shared her gardening tasks with them, and let them run through cornfields. Her one-liners kept things lively, as did her penchant for hiding in closets and scaring the daylights out of them. Barb went all out decorating for holidays, fascinating the kids with her collections of witches and Santas.
Barb and Bob enjoyed grandchildren-only travels, whether to the state capitol, Mexico, San Francisco, Seattle, Westphalia, or to the local Sonic drive-in. She passed on her love of learning, travel, and exploration to them. She instilled in each of them the importance of family, and through her endless hours of community service, she modeled tolerance and curiosity, and taught them the value of social responsibility.
She was a member of First United Methodist Church, a lifetime member of Girl Scouts of America, served on the board of Heart of Missouri Council, was a lifetime member of Capital Region Medical Center Auxiliary, a member of Tuesday Club, past president of PEO Chapter JB, past president of American Field Service, docent at the Missouri Governor’s Mansion for 10 years, and board member of United Way.
One of Barb’s most unique contributions to her community is her stunning collection of vintage clothing. Her daughter donated Barb’s huge array of beautiful clothes to the costume collection at Stephens College in Columbia, and to the Chesterfield Community Theater of Chesterfield, MO.
Her children, grandchildren, and friends will forever feel blessed by her tremendous capacity for love.
Survivors include her son, Robert Eugene, Jr. (Lisa), of Overland Park, KS, and her daughter, Susan Jean Raaz (Jeff), of Manchester, MO; her grandchildren, Analisa and Elisabeth Bregant, Josh Raaz (Amy) and Jeremy Raaz (Jessica); and great-grandchildren, Everett, Lily, Jacob and Charlie Raaz; and numerous nieces and nephews in Texas, Oklahoma and St. Louis.
Barbara was preceded in death by her parents, William and Inez, her husband Robert in 2012, and her sisters, Doris De la Roche, and Susan Hill.
A private family service, under the direction of Freeman Mortuary, will be followed by internment at Riverview Cemetery, Jefferson City, MO. A celebration of Barb’s life will be held at a later date.
Barb’s caregivers loved her, and the family is deeply grateful to them all. Contributions in her name may be sent to the Employee Holiday Fund at Dougherty Ferry Assisted Living & Memory Care, 2929 Dougherty Ferry Road, St. Louis, MO 63122.