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Barbara and Bill Alerding


December 18, 1924 – June 6, 2013


The wife of the late William A. Alerding, her husband of 42 years, Barbara had lived in Indianapolis since 1993 when she and her husband moved here after a long career of service abroad. Barbara was the daughter of Sidney Williams and Margaret (Frankenburger) Williams. She was predeceased by her sister Dorothy Williams Whitney.

For more than 25 years Barbara and her husband did community development work in Guatemala, Nigeria, Zambia, Portugal, Spain, Egypt, Singapore, Indonesia, Australia, Germany, Mexico, Canada and the United States. Working with the Institute of Cultural Affairs, they shared an intense commitment to education, community organization and human development, dedicating their lives to helping others in rural and urban communities. Barbara was a program organizer, instructor and facilitator for leadership training workshops, human development leadership seminars, community forums and village meetings. In Indianapolis, she was a program coordinator and instructor for Technical Training Services, Inc., an employment training program.

Barbara was educated at Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois and earned her bachelor’s degree from Martin University in Indianapolis. Two years after receiving her bachelor’s degree, Barbara, at the age of 77, earned a master’s degree in adult and community education from Ball State University in Muncie, IN.

She was a proud member of the Indianapolis Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Alpha Iota, an international honorary music fraternity, a member of the International Association of Facilitators and a member of the National Council of Teachers of English.




Barb and we (Doris and Charles) arrived at the Institute in the summer of 1964, and we last visited her shortly before Bill’s death when she was in a nursing home in Indianapolis. Barb was bright; she was tenacious; she was a life-long student–she received her Master’s Degree when she was in her 70’s or thereabouts. She had some tough assignments around the world, and she was obedient to those assignments. She loved the Order, and she embraced our mission. Our appreciation and our gratitude go with you, Barb. Grace and Peace,

          ~~  Doris and Charles Hahn


TO: Barbara …. to one who journeyed with joy and intention, loving life as she went …. I give thanks that your earthly life was completed following times of peace and joy.  You are loved.

~~  Nancy Trask

Barbara was a smart, strong and gracious woman.  I never worked closely with her, but my single strongest memory is of being paired with Barbara to dance the whirling dervish at a council in Bilbao, Spain.  We were about the same height, so one of us stood ready to catch the other who was “whirling” in case dizziness set in.  She went through the whole dance with a sort of bemused smile, but I knew she wouldn’t let me fall. We celebrate her complete life.

          ~~  Marsha Hahn

I remember Barbara with such fondness.  If memory serves me right I believe she and Bill were on the faculty of the Academy with Carlos and me for at least one stint. Journey on Barbara!

          ~~  Joyce Sloan

Barbara who, like Kaze, stands in my memory as one of the foremost pioneers of imaginal education; giants whose care and intensity trained another generation of educators.

          ~~  Sunny Walker

Just a note to say that Charles and I went to Indianapolis yesterday to participate in Barbara’s funeral. It was held in a small, well-filled chapel that is a part of the nursing home where she finished her life. The chaplain there led the service. We sang Amazing Grace, and then anyone who wished to share a memory of Barbara was invited to do so. Several people who had worked with Barb in Training Inc. in Indy and others who had known her in the nursing home shared short and delightful stories. Our colleague, John Gibson told about having been impressed with Barb’s leading a workshop on very short notice during the 1984 global gathering in Chicago. He remembered how she had done that job with great aplomb, even though without time to prepare. He also told us about Barbara’s coming to Indy from Guatemala to study Training Inc. in order to put that learning to work back in Guatemala. She brought with her a big bag of braided “bracelets” which she planned to sell in order to buy her return ticket. John had one bracelet to show us and laughingly said that was the only one he could find around his house, though he had finally bought the whole bag full when Barb had little success selling them. John asked me to add to the stories, and I mostly talked about Barb’s having worked in many countries and continents around the globe. When I said I wished I could remember all the places, John quickly handed me the obituary that he had printed; so I was able to share the (long) list.

Several of our Indy colleagues attended the service, as well as Bill’s sister and her husband from Connecticut and a few Alerding cousins. Barbara had no living family. The service itself seemed totally appropriate, with hymns, scripture, and memories of Barb, all reminding us that life is a gift that is crowned by death. Grace and Peace to us all,

          ~~  Doris Hahn



Barbara, I just learned that you and I share the same birthday. You and Bill will always remain on my mind and in my heart on that day. I have such fond memories of our time together in Winnipeg. Peace be with you.

          ~~  Pat Boivin Price










July 6, 2011


William Alerding A longtime resident of Indianapolis died after a brief illness Tuesday July 6, 2011 at St. Vincent Hospital. He leaves a large and loving family and many friends, but none so dear as his wife of 42 years, Barbara Williams Alerding, who together shared a lifetime commitment to human development work. With Barbara he worked around the world and in Indiana, studied and read voraciously, a partnership of caring, giving and hard work for the benefit of uncounted others. He was a teller of great stories, an educator and friend to those in need. His life was marked with amazing energy, a sense of wonder and huge joy.

Bill is the son of the late John E. Alerding and Helena Goos Alerding. He was predeceased by his brother John E. Alerding Jr., and is survived by a brother Leo of Abington, Mass., and his sisters Therese Ryan, of Walpole, Ma., Mary Anne Curtis of Bantam, Ct., Louise Masters of Bangor, Me., and Patricia Horgan and husband Denis of West Hartford, Ct., and their families. He has always been a very dear uncle to his 24 nieces and nephews and many grandnephews and grandnieces. In the Indianapolis area, he is mourned by many cousins and other relatives and dear friends. Bill was educated at Christopher Columbus High School in Boston, Mass., the Josephite Minor Seminary in Newburgh, N.Y., and the Josephite Major Seminary in Washington D.C. He also studied at Tulane University and, most broadly, in the university of life around the world. He was ordained as a priest in 1961 and taught for five years at St. Augustine High School in New Orleans where he was active in the Civil Rights movement.

With the Institute of Cultural Affairs, he served in Guatamala, Egypt, Zambia, Nigeria, Indonesia, Singapore, West Berlin, Mexico, Winnipeg, Canada, and Adelaide, Australia. In such far flung places, he and Barbara were committed to community organization and human development work.

Bill and Barbara returned to the place of his family roots, Indianapolis, in 1991 where they were active in community affairs and continued his studies and professional endeavors at a variety of challenges. He was a enthusiastic golfer, reader, teacher and sports and political enthusiast. His passion for helping others never flagged and his work and life was dedicated to helping raise up others less fortunate. His capacity for storytelling was legendary and his wide range of interest was exhaustive. But he was never more deeply dedicated than in his love and care for Barbara, who returns the happy favor in unmatched devotion. A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m Saturday at St. Michael’s Church, 3354 West 30th Street, Indianapolis. In place of flowers, donations can be made to Little Sisters of the Poor of Indianapolis, Doctors Without Borders or other charities of one’s choice.




In the last 4 years, Barbara and Bill came to spend weekends with Carol Pierce.  I would come home from work and find them at Carol’s telling stories, remembering their assignments together and laughing and laughing.

One of the best stories was about when the Pierces and the Alerdings were assigned to start a religious house in Australia. JWM went with them and they had many meetings with the clergy families there. After a few weeks, Joe prepared to leave. At the airport, someone said, “But where will we live and how will we support ourselves?” And Joe said, “I am sure one of those great clergy families will be pleased to share their manse with you all to be the religious house”.  And Bill and Barbara and Carol would laugh and laugh. What a legacy of courage and capability we are privileged to be a part of.  God’s peace to both Barbara and Bill and all the saints.

           ~~  Mary Laura Jones




We’ll always remember Bill and Barbara in Hai Ou at the start of that project. They brought humor and grace wherever they went. Have a great new journey.

          ~~  Doug and Pat Druckenmiller




I first met Barb in 1968 on the West Side of Chicago when my husband, Joe, and I arrived for an “intern year” with the Ecumenical Institute – a commitment that extended for 22 more years as we became members of the Order Ecumenical.  Barb was then Barbara Williams, and I’m not sure she had yet even met Bill.  The EI staff lived in the former Bethany Seminary, just off the Eisenhower Expressway, and there always seemed to be “repairs and improvements” necessary.  As part of our discipline, we had quarterly “work weekends” when we scraped and painted and transformed the spaces used by participants in regular weekend courses as well as apartments used by staff families.  Barb and I were often assigned to the same “team” and her company and philosophical conversations made those long, laborious hours so full of delight for me – always replete with lots of laughter.  Barb helped me to mollify my tendency to take everything so seriously.

In 1976 I had the treat of being assigned to work with Barb and Bill in Kreutsburg Ost, Germany and El Bayad, Egypt, where my role was to train them to take over two of the leadership roles Joe and I had played the year before in facilitating the first eight Human Development Consults.  What a gift they were  –and such a pair of “quick studies” in the complex research and planning processes of the week-long consult in the local community, plus another week writing the summary document – a key tool for garnering funding for the local socio-economic renewal projects – Barb with her easy-going “well let’s think this through another way” approach, and Bill with his proactive “let’s get moving or we’ll never pull this off!”  I loved them both so much and consider the 2+ months I worked with them a treasure – even tho’ that “assignment” had required that I leave Maliwada village in India (and my husband and 5 year-old twin sons) just three weeks after we had arrived from NYC!  I’m sure Bill and Barb filled you in over the years on those quick-turnaround responses to “the mission.”

What I beheld in Bill and Barbara’s relationship was akin to what I have been blessed with – true and unconditional love.  My husband, Joe, 14 years my senior, and now 85, is wrestling with progressive memory loss; Bill was 10 years younger than Barb, and must have mourned the loss of her presence and spark as his partner in so many activities, especially after she entered the long term care facility. I hope her last days were comfortable, and that her two years without Bill had some significant meaning and spiritual substance.  I say this without knowing at all what her illness or frailty was, but believing that if such were within reach, she would embrace it.

When Bill and Barb visited us here in West Newfield, ME about 10 years ago, they gifted us with a lovely Crate and Barrel bowl – far more generous than the usual overnight guest’s gift.  I fill it with bananas, grapes, strawberries, tomatoes – variously, whatever the season – and always think of them.  The other image from their visit is a funny one:  at that time our guest room was on the first floor (now it is on the 2nd with queen sized bed and private bath) and the old fashioned double bed only allowed one night table with lamp in the far corner – plus the guests would have to trek to the bathroom through the living room and the dining room!  Ever the one to care responsibly for space requirements and intellectual pursuits, Barb asked me – “So, kiddo, how will Bill (who chose to sleep on the side near the door in order to get to the bathroom quickly) be able to read HIS book if we’ve only got one light?”  We immediately hooked up a floor lamp. That is such the Barb Alerding I love!! Please know that as long as many of us continue “on this mortal plain,” I will hold Barbara before us as one of the first “new” women – of the ilk that have, indeed, shaped history. With love and appreciation,

           ~~  Marilyn Crocker