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‘Barb Embodied the Very Best’; We Mourn the Passing of Barbara Kaplowitz

“I first met Barbara when I was just out of college attending SIPA meetings for the first time. She was hosting a marketing roundtable, and I very quickly realized that she was someone I should get to know. Over the nearly 30 years that I knew her, she was always generous with her time and expertise. We had many laughs at dinners as well as serious conversations about work. I sought her out when we lost Margie Weiner to cancer, and she was strong when I was weak. I will miss her very much and know that I am much better having known her.”
Denise Elliott, CEO, Kiplinger

Barbara Weckstein Kaplowitz, owner of Big Huge Ideas and an even bigger heart and mind, passed peacefully Saturday in the comfort of her home, surrounded by family. “In September 2019, she was diagnosed with Stage 4 esophageal cancer,” wrote her husband Brett Kaplowitz yesterday. “She was keeping her diagnosis very private… Barb left this world the way she lived in it—fiercely determined, proud and compassionate towards her family and friends, and loved and cherished by all who knew her.”

Barb was one of the first people I met when I joined SIPA in 2009. If everyone is like this, I thought—generous, smart, dedicated, funny, opinionated—I’m going to stay with this group for a while. They were and I did. A couple memories jump out at me: Barb, Helen Hoart and I sorting out the SIPAwards in a small room during a time when everything came by mail, of course. I was so thankful to have them by my side. Barb had a way of being business-like and fun at the same time.

It was that same combination and energy that drove her to host so many SIPA BrainTrust Dinners over the years. No matter the number of people—from four to 20—Barb would have everyone engaging with each other in the back of this old-school Italian restaurant, La Panetteria, in Bethesda. Her themes were always right on. One of the best dinners that I remember focused on Ideas That Didn’t Work, well before the fail-first mentality took center stage.

“Barb embodied the very best of the SIPA community,” Meg Hargreaves, COO of Industry Dive, wrote to me“She was always willing to share her experiences and mentor those coming up the ranks. She also served on the SIPA board for many years as a way of giving back and advancing our industry. She will be deeply missed.”

Ed Coburn, president of Cabot Wealth Network, kindly sent this along: “Barb came into our industry as the marketing director for UCG and as editor of What’s Working in Direct Mail. She eventually went out on her own as a marketing consultant under her company name—Big Huge Ideas. And she had big huge ideas, a big huge heart, big huge talent, and big huge willingness to help others advance in their careers. She volunteered extensively for SIPA and the SIPA Foundation, and served on the boards of each… She leaves a big hole.”

When Lesley Ellen Harris of copyrightlaws.com needed marketing help for her business a couple years ago, she asked for recommendations and one name kept coming up: Barb Kaplowitz. “Barb always had her heart in the right place and will be missed by everyone,” Lesley wrote. “As a consultant, she was intelligent and wise and led me through a turning point in the publication of my newsletter. I’ll always appreciate what she did for me—with intelligence, warmth and wisdom.”

Phil Binkow, CEO, and Patti Wysocki, COO, of Financial Operations Networks worked closely with Barb through the years at SIPA and the SIPA Foundation. “Barbara was in all ways a champion supporter of SIPA,” Binkow wrote. “Through easy times and hard she brought her great creativity, tremendous sense of humor, genuine kindness and strong intellect to the numerous SIPA boards on which she served and the SIPA projects in which she was involved. We will all dearly miss her.”

“Barb was very giving of her time and talents to SIPA and was always willing to do anything asked of her to help the association…” wrote Wysocki. “Barb was brave, and her spirits were always good as she battled cancer over the past months. We will miss her smiling face at meetings, her passion and her readiness to lend a helping hand whenever anyone needed advice. I will miss my friend of more than 30 years.”

In looking through old conference photos today trying to find one that captured her best, I found that Barb was always in the middle of something good—be it a discussion with other members, presenting a session, smiling and conversing at a luncheon or dinner, or simply, as this photo shows, listening happily and intently to another speaker.

“Barbara was a friend, neighbor and colleague for close to 30 years,” wrote Adam Goldstein, publisher, Business Management Daily. “When I became a consultant many years ago, rather than treating me as competition she took me to lunch and showed me the ropes. In addition to her SIPA work, she was a tireless volunteer and fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association. We’ve lost a giant. Hug your loved ones.”

When I last got takeout at La Panatteria back in June with a good friend, I was so excited about the good food and wonderful memories that I had to email Barb right away and tell her. She wrote right back, of course. “Glad you enjoyed. Miss that place.”

We will all miss you, Barb. Thank you.

Barb is survived by Brett and their sons Maxwell and Scott. In lieu of flowers, they ask that you donate in Barb’s memory and name to either the American Diabetes Association, the University of Virginia General Fund, or the Alpha Delta Pi Sorority Chapter at the University of Virginia.