Barbara Auld

China Lake pioneers, Howard and Barbara Auld, appreciated everything the Indian Wells Valley gave them and generously gave back to their community in every way possible. In May of 1997, the board of the IWV 2000 Economic-Development Corporation unanimously named Howard and Barbara “Mr. and Mrs. Ridgecrest,” celebrating 50 years of positive community involvement. On March 12, 2008, a sculpture was dedicated in their honor in Freedom Park at City Hall.

Barbara was born in Los Angeles, California on July 15, 1924 and passed away on April 5, 2022. The youngest of five children born to David and Madeline Huff. Barbara early on was a great fan of movies and theater, especially musical theater. Educated in tents following the 1933 Long Beach earthquake, Barbara graduated first in her class (1942) from the newly constructed El Monte High School, winning the science medal, the first female, and a scholarship to UC Berkeley. As Barbara left for Berkeley, her best friend Ginny O’Conner went on tour as a singer with Mel Torme. Ginny married Henry Mancini and Howard and Barbara would be table mates with Mancinis at the El monte High school Class of 1942 reunions for decades.

On summer break from studies, she traveled to China Lake in April 1945 with her older sister Gertrude and brother-in-law John Vanderbeck, a pharmacist turned China Lake statistician. She took a clerk-typist job in the public works department and met Howard Auld. They were married on August 29, 1945 in Independence, California. They were together for 68 years.

Both Howard and Barbara enjoyed long and successful careers at China Lake. Howard, a self-educated engineer, would receive the Technical Director’s Award in 1977 for his contributions to the success of ISSSMD PEGASUS. Barbara, like Howard, had several careers at China Lake, yet was best known for her expertise in editing scientific reports in the Technical Information Department.

After retirement, Howard went to work for COMARCO and began a long volunteer career with city government, serving on the City of Ridgecrest Planning Commission and City Council. Upon retiring in 1982, Barbara went back to her theater roots, performing, mentoring and coaching artists both young and adult. In the 1984 CLOTA production of “The Sound of Music,” she played Mother Abbess, singing the show stopper, “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” Barbara received CLOTA’s first “Gypsy Robe Award” for her work on and off-stage in the 1985 production of “Once Upon a Mattress.” In 1985, Barbara played the female lead in “On Golden Pond.” Barbara very much appreciated her professional relationship and friendship with director Elena Vitale.

Although having distinctly different careers and post-retirement interests, Howard and Barbara were steadfastly united in advocating for the success of the Indian Wells Valley. State and national politicians and NAWCWD admirals recognized and appreciated their advocacy. Barbara approached Governor Gray Davis at a political event at the Kern County Fairgrounds and said, “Hi, I am Barbara Auld, you don’t know me.” Governor Davis replied, “Yes I do. You represent the Southwest Military Complex.”

Barbara is preceded in death by her parents David and Madeline Huff, her four older siblings, son-in-law Wesley Beach and her husband of 68 years, Howard Auld. She is survived by Chris (Paul) Meyers, Bruce (Ann) Auld, Eileen (Bob) Pearl, six grandchildren and seventeen great-grandchildren.

Barbara’s family is forever grateful for the comforting care she received at High Desert Haven, Simply Caring Angels, ARGO Hospice and Dr. Mohsen of Ridgecrest Rural Health Clinic.

Barbara and Howard were life members and generous donors to essentially every nonprofit in the Indian Wells Valley. Donations in their memory to the charity of your choice are greatly appreciated.

According to Barbara’s wishes, a private celebration of life will be conducted when the complicated schedules of a large extended family can be coordinated.

Submitted by Barbara Auld’s family with contributions from Barbara’s professional colleague and surviving best friend, Liz Babcock.

Story First Published: 2022-04-08