Barbara Jackson Richberg, 75, a researcher and reporter for The Inquirer from 1979 to 1997, died of breast cancer on Monday, May 7, at the hospice of the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Philadelphia in East Falls.
Gene Foreman, who was a top editor of The Inquirer during Mrs. Richberg's career, said Wednesday that "Barbara was a valued member of the staff for 18 years, beginning as a clerk and earning promotions for her dedicated work."
Mrs. Richberg worked as a clerk and researcher from 1979 to 1993 for "Action Line," a readers' service that offered solutions to consumer problems reported by the public. From 1993 to her retirement in 1997, she was a reporter on the obituary desk and also wrote for the Weekend section.
"We were consumer advocates for our readers," said former Inquirer reporter Sally A. Downey, who worked with Mrs. Richberg on "Action Line."
"She was always very cheerful, always very kind to the readers, and fun to work with," said Downey.
Downey recalled that she, Mrs. Richberg, and others on the "Action Line" staff helped solve serious problems that included how to apply for a bank loan or food stamps to more entertaining queries such as what to feed a pet peacock.
Born in Philadelphia, Mrs. Richberg graduated from what is now the Murrell Dobbins Career and Technical Education High School in 1954 with a major in dressmaking. She earned the Outstanding Award in Active Modeling at the Flamingo Finishing and Modeling School in 1952.
"Barbara enjoyed modeling and fashion her whole life," her daughter Nancie said.
Mrs. Richberg was a phone operator for Bell Telephone in Philadelphia from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s, when she began to raise her family, her daughter said, and "was the first African American woman to record the daily weather line for the phone company."
She took psychology courses at Temple University and served for a time as president of the parent-teacher organization at the C.W. Henry Elementary School in West Mount Airy, the neighborhood where she lived from 1965 to 2005.
Besides her daughter, Mrs. Richberg is survived by sons Mark and Samuel III, daughter Debra Richberg-Williams, two sisters, and three grandsons. Her former husband, Samuel Jr., died in 2010.
A viewing will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. Friday, May 11, at Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church, 250 W. Coulter St. A funeral service will be held there at 11 a.m., and the burial will follow in West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Lower Merion.