Barbara J. Rom, 96, of Ely, dies

Barbara Jean Rom (96) passed away in Ely, Minnesota, on March 25, 2017. She was born on June 23, 1920, in Kent, Washington, to Laurence and Doris Berlin, and the older sister to Judy Berlin Brislawn. The Berlins ran a successful grocery store where her father was known for his big heart; she told many stories of her dad giving away food to the needy during the Great Depression. Following her father’s path, she devoted considerable effort to philanthropy, focusing on education and environmental causes.
Barb was a 1942 graduate of the University of Washington where she and Judy were members of the Tri-Delta Sorority. She married William Nicholas Rom, Sr. on August 15, 1944, a Lt. Commander in the Navy during WWII. Together, they opened Bill Rom’s Canoe Country Outfitters (CCO) in Ely, Minnesota in 1946. Barb and Bill worked tirelessly over thirty years to grow their business from a small boys’ camp into the world’s largest canoe outfitter, retiring in 1975. She gained her pilot’s license in 1965 and with her bush pilot husband ran Camp Harris, a fly-in resort in Ontario. Barb and Bill championed strong protection of the environment and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) and were honored to be the recipients of the Friends of the Boundary Waters’ 2006 Conservation Award.
Barb was an advocate for education and life-long learning. She was a board member of the Ely Community Library where she helped it expand from its small corner in the Ely Community Center into a thriving organization with a professional paid librarian. She was also an active member of the American Association of University Women and regularly attended community events, from the Vermilion Community College to Ely’s Tuesday Group lectures. She was an avid knitter and quilter, creating over 100 beautiful quilts. Her stories were among the best – tales of raising bear cubs in the 1950s, early life in Ely, and traveling the world with her beloved husband, told with wit and humor. She shared her love of skiing and canoeing with her children and grandchildren. Barb spent summers hosting picnics on Burntside Lake with friends and family where she rejuvenated her youthful spark. At 96, she loved being on the pontoon boat teaching her many life lessons to her granddaughters and great-granddaughter. She was a staunch supporter of independent women and inspired each of those close to her to actualize their dreams, and was an early suffragette who believed in empowering women and the power of the vote. She was forever young at heart and lived a full, adventurous life.
Barb is survived by her four children, Bill Jr., Becky, Larry, and Roger Rom; seven grandchildren, Will and Ben Carron, Nicole and Meredith Rom, and Katie, Lauren, and Emily Rom, and three great-grandchildren; Audrey Rom, and Liam and Finlay Carron. To honor Barb memory, donations can be made to the Bill and Barb Rom Scholarship Fund at the Vermillion Community College or the Presbyterian Church in Ely, Minnesota. At memorial is planned July 31st, 2017.
Family arrangements have been entrusted to Kerntz Funeral Home of Ely.