Donor Story

Donor Spotlight: Barbara Upton Wilson's Legacy Lives Forever

Barbara Upton Wilson was among southeastern Virginia's first female bank vice presidents.

During a banking career in Norfolk that spanned more than 40 years Barbara Upton Wilson proved to be more than a “sweet” employee. Armed with her Maury High School diploma and the will to learn and succeed, she moved from bank teller to one of southeastern Virginia’s first female bank vice presidents.

“Barbara was remarkable. She could step into any job and keep on moving,” recalls the late M. Lee Payne of Norfolk, her former boss. “She was thorough, effective and pragmatic.” It was that practical side of Wilson that prompted her to make estate plans long before she died in December 2013 at age 75. She was an anonymous member of the Legacy Society for Hampton Roads whose members all have plans to benefit their community forever through the Hampton Roads Community Foundation. A bequest from Barbara’s estate created the Barbara Upton Wilson Charitable Funds 1, 2 and 3. Barbara chose field-of-interest funds to provide grants in areas she was passionate about, including the environment and animal welfare.

Barbara was a Norfolk native raised by a single mother who worked as a waitress at Doumar’s Cones & BBQ. Barbara got her first job at age 15 in a dime store. She joined United Virginia Bank right out of high school and moved to Seaboard National Bank where she rose through the ranks during mergers that led to SunTrust Bank. As a private banker, Barbara had about 100 clients -- most of them attorneys or executives.

“Barbara forged ground as a woman in the banking industry,” says Ellen Oast Keeter of Virginia Beach, executive vice president at TowneBank. “She was always a top producer.” Barbara’s former colleague Allison Stanton McDuffie of Virginia Beach remembers how well Barbara treated her when she was a brand new loan officer. “Barbara was welcoming and a great mentor for a young loan officer.”

Outside the office Barbara was a single mother who “was fun loving, liked to play sports and be with people,” says her best friend Francis Facchini of Norfolk. Golf, travel, pets and hunting ducks were among her hobbies.

Barbara’s charitable funds at the community foundation are permanent and will forever make life better in Hampton Roads. In 2017, Barbara's funds underpinned grants to the Nansemond River Preservation Alliance to work with students at King's Fork High School in Suffolk and Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center to provide hands-on learning for Virginia Beach middle school students.

To learn how you, too, can forever make life better in Hampton Roads, download a copy of our charitable bequest guide.

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