Barbara Blackstone touched countless lives over the years as a mediator, helping people negotiate life's hurdles at a time when few women practiced professional conflict resolution.
Blackstone served as director of the Minnesota Office of Dispute Resolution, where she worked in the late 1990s and early 2000s. And for nearly 20 years she mediated Americans with Disabilities Act conflicts through the Key Bridge Foundation.
The courses she taught at Marylhurst University in Oregon included "Negotiation for Women: Making It in a Gendered World."
Blackstone died Jan. 6 at the N.C. Little Hospice in Edina after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a serious fall in October. She was 79.
Barbara Kay Blackstone was born in Waukesha, Wis., on Nov. 13, 1941, the second of six children. Her father was a lawyer, her mother an active community volunteer.
After graduating from Carleton College in 1963, Blackstone married classmate Richard Reilein. The couple moved to the Chicago area and had two daughters.
Their daughter Lisa Blackstone, a documentary filmmaker in Minneapolis, said her parents divorced after about nine years. She remembers how her mother emphasized the importance of education and how she was deeply influenced by the second wave of feminism in the United States.
"She was hugely into the women's movement," Lisa Blackstone said, recalling how her mother took her and her sister Laura to an Equal Rights Amendment march. Her mother subscribed to Ms. magazine from its launch.
"My sister and I had 'Ms.' T-shirts," she said. "It was totally cool. That was an ongoing constant in our lives. There was no 'Oh, girls can't do this.' "
Her mother was an introvert, the daughter said, and enjoyed curling up with a book. Architecture was a favorite subject. She always had the local classical music station on the radio.
She also wanted a career outside the home, Lisa Blackstone said, and started doing temporary office work when the girls were young. That grew into doing market research for banks and thrifts, and working for Weyerhaeuser's financial products division, both jobs that required travel.
After getting a master's degree in urban planning, Blackstone worked in zoning for a town in Illinois. Then she returned to work at Carleton College as alumni director. "She loved Carleton," her daughter said.
In her middle years, Blackstone discovered her true calling and undertook training for mediation and conflict resolution. "She kind of reinvented herself," Lisa Blackstone said.
Aimee Gourlay, who teaches conflict resolution at Mitchell Hamline School of Law, called Blackstone a pioneer at a time when conflict resolution was expanding and being adopted by the judicial system. There were very few female mediators then, Gourlay said, and they formed an informal group.
Blackstone developed a statewide peer-mediation program for state government and the state college and university system, Gourlay said.
Blackstone moved to Portland, Ore., around 2002 to be closer to family on the West Coast. She returned to Minnesota, to Edina, in 2017. She was a longtime member of the First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis.
Blackstone is survived by brothers Baird Blackstone of Vancouver, Canada, and Robert Blackstone of Seattle; and daughters Lisa Blackstone of Minneapolis and Laura Reilein of Portland.
The First Unitarian Society of Minneapolis will host a Zoom memorial service for Blackstone at 2 p.m. Jan. 30.
Jennifer Bjorhus • 612-673-4683