Vail Daily obituary: Barbara Jaffee Fey, 1928-2014
Barbara Fey, a pilot and designer of airline interiors, died Dec. 10 in Denver. She was 86.
Barbara Florence Jaffee was born in New York City in 1928. She attended the Dalton School and earned her undergraduate degree from Simmons College in Boston. Her mother, Ethel Linder Reiner, was a Broadway producer in the 1950s.
Barbara’s father, Wilton Jaffee Sr., a pioneer of American skiing, introduced her to the sport in the 1940s, around the time Fred Iselin drew Wilton to the powder snow in Aspen. Barbara and her father skied in New England, Aspen and Europe just after World War II.
In the 1950s, Ms. Fey began her design career with a line of women’s ski parkas. Working out of the dining room of her suburban Massachusetts home, employing local women who could sew from their own houses, she produced a line of quilted parkas made with brightly colored fabrics and bold flower prints. Soon her parkas could be spotted on ski slopes across the country. The business went national and was featured in Life, Sports Illustrated and Ski magazines. She was later asked to design a line for McGregor and spent a few years designing sportswear for White Stag and Sportscaster.
In 1964, she married John T. Fey, who had just accepted a job as the president of the University of Wyoming. In those early years of Vail, the family commuted for ski weekends. In Laramie she secretly began to take flying lessons at the local airport. It was the beginning of her love affair with aviation. After two years in Wyoming, work took Barbara, Jack and her family to Vermont.
It wasn’t until 1973 when she moved back west to Denver permanently that she became a Vail lifetime pass holder and spent most every weekend and powdery weekdays skiing every slope on the mountain. During these early years in Denver and Vail she worked as an interior designer and soon began a business designing aircraft interiors. An avid sportswoman and skier, and an active pilot throughout her life, she helicopter skied in the Himalayas and was a member of the Explorers Club, a delegate for the first pilot’s group to the People’s Republic of China, and a board member of the Silver Wings fraternity — those who have flown more than 50 years. She was also a passionate art collector, supporting many local Denver artists.
In 1984, Ms. Fey joined a group of fellow pilots, all of them men, who were flying their own planes across the Atlantic to Europe. She refused to entertain the idea of taking another pilot along to help, removing the back seat of her Beechcraft Bonanza to make room for extra fuel tanks. The group set off on their solo flight across the ocean on May 27, 1984. They touched down in Montreal and then Greenland, eventually arriving in Denmark. Several years later, as Russia opened up, Ms. Fey gained permission to fly from Alaska to Kamchatka, in the Russian Far East.
Ms Fey is survived by two daughters, Andrea Barnet, of New York, and Kim Springer, of Wilson, Wyoming; a stepson, John T. Fey IV, of Tucson, Arizona; and three grandchildren, as well as one step-granddaughter.