Barbara Rainey Falmlen
Published 10:58 am Monday, May 1, 2023
Barbara Rainey Falmlen passed away peacefully at her Winchester home on Saturday surrounded by her three children and son-in-law, her beloved cats, and family friend, Blair Parson, ARNP. Flowers filled the room and casseroles filled the kitchen, a testament to her wide circle of friends and family—all past recipients of her thoughtful support during times of joy and sadness. Barbara and her family gratefully received support in her final hours from Jeanette House Sloat and Anita Bridges, dear friends of many decades.
Barbara broke the glass ceiling in Winchester politics as the first woman to serve on the Winchester City Commission, from 1977-1980. She was initially appointed to fill a vacancy on the Commission, earning a full, two-year term in the following election. Her teenaged children, Laurel and Scott, canvassed door to door and Laurel sailed a campaign bathtub down the Kentucky River in the annual Admiral’s Day Parade captioned, “Don’t Let the City Go Down the Drain, Vote Barbara Falmlen City Commissioner.”
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Barbara symbolized a newly empowered generation of women with her Virginia Slims cigarettes and wide leg pantsuits. Her campaign slogan was fitting of both the times and her personality: “She’s Not Just One of the Boys.” Highlights of her term in office included the beautification of Main Street, consideration of a local payroll tax, and the controversial Fulton Street Extension.
Barbara narrowly lost reelection in 1979 but continued to be active in local politics, serving as President of the Clark County Democratic Women’s Club and volunteering in many elections at the local, state and national level. Her son, Scott, continued this work with high ranking positions in Florida state government, and later as a successful political consultant based in Raleigh, North Carolina. He also served as a senior advisor to President Biden’s 2020 election campaign.
Barbara was widely known as The Cat Lady, fostering hundreds of strays and placing them in loving homes. Neighbors and strangers left unwanted kittens (sometimes entire litters) at her door, many times unannounced. Barbara forged deep bonds with her “cat babies” and was a fierce advocate for the humane treatment of all animals. Barbara’s daughter, Heather, carries on this work with passion and commitment for spay and neuter programs, the Kentucky Humane Society and Alley Cat Advocates, where donations in Barbara’s memory may be sent in lieu of flowers. (alleycatadvocates.org)
Barbara was a real estate entrepreneur and founded a successful real estate agency in the 1980s known as The Sold Team, whose bright yellow signs bore the slogan, “Everything We Touch Turns to Sold.” She lived in her own yellow and white Victorian home for almost 50 years.
Barbara was born in Miami, Florida, on February 23, 1942, a third generation Floridian. She graduated from Miami Edison High School where she received high marks in English and was recognized for her creative short story writing. She married young and her daughter, Laurel, was born on her twentieth birthday.
Her parents were Earl Milton Rainey—a Clark County native—and Maxine Ellis Rainey. She was exceptionally close to her maternal grandparents, Mayme and Hobart Ellis. Her sister, Alesia Rainey Butler, also lives in Winchester with her husband, Michael Butler. Barbara enjoyed a close and loving relationship with her niece, Samantha Butler, who called her Bob-Bob. Many others followed suit and the nickname became her favorite moniker.
Barbara always stood out from the crowd. Her favorite color was sunflower yellow. She was a gregarious story teller who never let the facts stand in the way of a great punchline. Her cars were often adorned with yellow flowers, taped to the antenna or affixed in all-over decals. Her family liked to say that Barbara woke up every day to see what she could get away with. She once cut class during her senior year, hiding her new two-piece bathing suit under her school clothes. The next day’s Miami Herald featured a candid photo of her sunning on Miami Beach, her bathing suit bottoms scrunched down bikini-style—a daring gesture in the conformist 1950s. About that time, she surprised her parents by coming home from school with platinum hair.
Barbara loved to cook for friends and family, celebrating lavish holiday meals and collecting hundreds of cookbooks on her travels. She enjoyed reading fiction and biography. She laughed easily and cried freely. Barbara bled blue, closely following UK basketball and football. She was an avid fan of “Jeopardy!” and friends knew not to telephone during the nightly show. She traveled widely, visiting Western Europe, the Caribbean, Africa and India. She visited nearly all of the 50 states in a RoadTrek camper van outfitted for two cats to travel along. She spent several winters in Florida and the Bahamas sailing in a 35′ trawler she named Two Cats Too. Her cats had custom life jackets on hand, deployed only once in rough seas.
Barbara is survived by her three children of whom she was exceptionally proud: Laurel Catto (John) of Aspen, Colorado, Scott Falmlen (Paul Fox) of Raleigh, North Carolina, and Heather Falmen (Keith Zirbel) of Louisville, Kentucky; her step-grandchildren Sophie and Ian Catto; her sister, Alesia Rainey Butler (Michael), and her niece, Samantha Butler. The family plans a private graveside service and a public visitation at Scobee Funeral Home, Winchester, on Wednesday, May 3, from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m.
Barbara’s family gratefully acknowledges the exceptional services of Hospice East and suggests remembrances be made to Alley Cat Advocates (alleycatadvocates.org) 3524 Newburg Rd., Louisville, Ky 40218. Barbara requested that her ashes be scattered over the resting place of dozens of family pets.