On the days leading up to the carnival, Barbara Moeller could be seen driving around a golf cart — her throne as the unofficial mayor of Glen Burnie — barking orders at people.

They did as they were told, with a smile on their face, knowing she meant business. She stayed put on the grounds of the festival, now a more than a century-old tradition in the community, juggling what looked like a thousand different things.

But stop by to say hi, and down went her clipboard, and with it her abrasiveness and gruffness. Amid that chaos of the carnival, she made it feel like the world had stopped, her longtime friend Candy Fontz said.

“To know her is to love her,” Fontz said.

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Also known as Miss Barb, Moeller, who presided over the Glen Burnie Improvement Association since 1998, died last week at a hospital in the Glen Burnie area at the age of 80. The community organization had a viewing for her Monday, which was livestreamed on social media. Her funeral will be on Wednesday.

No matter how many years had gone by, she remembered you and she cared about you.

“How are you doing?” she would ask.

And then she would ask about their mother, their grandmother, their daughter.

Her parents moved to Glen Burnie when she was 5 years old, and she never left. Moeller was a proud graduate of Glen Burnie High School, class of 1961, and was inducted into the school’s hall of fame for her volunteer efforts. Many knew her because of her role at the Glen Burnie Improvement Association, which she joined in the 1980s as the chairperson for the Big Glen Burnie Carnival.

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The carnival is a special time in the community, where people mark the day on their calendars; it can almost feel like a family reunion with generations getting together. Moeller did not run the first carnival — it long predates her — but people said she continued to make it magical. She may have been the head of the organization, Fontz said, but she was “in the trenches” every bit as much as everybody else.

She had an unmatched drive for her community. She volunteered at a local hospital, pushing a little snack cart across the halls and going room to room. She coached softball for teenage girls for years in the 1960s and 1970s, and she still had a core group of softball players that tried to meet every month for lunch before she died. She joined a bowling league for people with multiple sclerosis, after a friend of hers was diagnosed with the disease.

Her strong sense of morality and ethics guided her, which Fontz thinks came from her parents. Moeller thought it was easy to complain about life — it was much more difficult to make a change. She believed that “if you want to see improvements, you need to take action,” Fontz said. And that’s how she carried herself.

Moeller could be off-putting with her directness. There were no gray areas with her, no room to wonder how she felt about a decision, a topic or a person, Fontz said. And yet, she could be funny and playful, too.

Thomas Lester, who met Moeller when he was 12, could tell the difference when she was joking and when it was time to be serious, he said. He spent many hours helping her out with community events, like setting up fireworks. He did whatever “Miss Barb” told him to do, and he joked with her when he caught her sitting down.

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“Working hard, huh, Miss Barb?” he would say.

“Yes, I’m taking care of this chair,” she joked back.

She usually hired teenagers to work for the carnival, often their first job ever. She liked to do theme nights where everyone had to wear suspenders or crazy socks. One time, she made everyone do the bumblebee dance. There was a year she had a purple mohawk.

Beneath that gruff exterior was a “heart of gold,” said Bob Mosier, chief communications officer at Anne Arundel County Public Schools and former editor of the Maryland Gazette. It wasn’t very complicated with her. She was passionate about making her community a better place, so that is what she did.

“She was just the epitome of devotion to making her community a better place,” Mosier said.

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Around 2004, a woman brought up to Moeller that she couldn’t take her daughter, who had a disability, to the carnival because it was too crowded and too loud— so Moeller started a day dedicated to people with disabilities, so they could enjoy the carnival without the hassle of long lines and noise, according to an article by the Maryland Gazette.

Another time, when Lester told her his mother was sick and with mobility issues, Moeller arranged to find something to help her, like a scooter or a wheelchair.

Moeller would do almost “anything for anybody,” Mosier said, without seeking recognition for herself. Yet, Moeller was “simple,” Fontz said, never wishing for a big, fancy life, or “diamonds and jewels.”

Still, in 2006, the state named a street after her. Now the Barbara Moeller Way, the path connects Baltimore Annapolis Boulevard with Post 40 Road, located just north of the carnival grounds. The carnival was the GBIA’s sole fundraiser for many years.

And, Mosier said, “the Barbara Moeller way was one of caring and passion and selflessness and devotion to just trying to leave things better than you found them.”

That’s how he will remember her.

Clara Longo de Freitas is a neighborhood reporter covering East Baltimore communities. Before joining the Banner, she interned at The Baltimore Sun as an emerging news and community reporter. She also has design and illustration experience with several news organizations, including The Hill and NPR.

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