Rita Scott Barr maintained a family medical practice from her home in Overbrook Farms for more than 30 years. But when she turned 50, she decided to focus more on children. So she earned a fellowship in pediatric neurology at St. Christopher's Hospital for Children and, in 1967, embarked on a second career as a neurodevelopmental pediatrician there.
On Saturday, May 12, Dr. Barr, 96, died at Foulkeways at Gwynedd, the retirement community in Montgomery County where she had lived for the last 14 years. She had moved from Harleysville, her home for the previous 25 years.
She always wanted to be a doctor, said her daughter, Rita Porreca, and her late-in-life choice to specialize in pediatrics was not hard to explain.
"She had five children," Porreca said. "She had a head start."
Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Barr graduated from West Catholic High School for Girls in 1931, received a bachelor's degree, majoring in premed, in 1935 from what is now Immaculata University, and earned a medical degree at the former Woman's Medical College of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia in 1939.
She gave up her family practice when she took up a pediatric career in 1965, but taught pediatrics at Woman's Medical College and Temple University Medical School until she retired from St. Christopher's in 1985.
Dr. Barr was a former president of the Woman's Medical College Alumnae Association, a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and a member of the Pennsylvania Society of Pediatricians.
In retirement, Dr. Barr was a mentor at Lansdale Catholic High School, running a support group for children of single parents. She was also in a Foulkeways group whose members acted as surrogate grandparents for children in third and fourth grades in the Wissahickon School District.
Besides her daughter, Dr. Barr is survived by sons Victor L. Jr. and David; daughters Mary Nagele and Ann Bowman; a sister; 14 grandchildren; and 14 great-grandchildren. Her husband of 30 years, Victor Sr., died in 1971.
A visitation was set from 8:30 to 9:45 a.m. Wednesday, May 16, at St. Stanislaus Church, 51 Lansdale Ave., Lansdale, before a 10 a.m. Funeral Mass there, with burial in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Cheltenham.
Donations may be made in Dr. Barr's name to St. Christopher's Hospital for Children, 3601 A St., Philadelphia.