Retiring ‘Sister B’ advocated for domestic violence for 2 decades

MONROE — She’s a nun who’s seen more crime scenes than she can count.

Sister Barbara Geib, better known as “Sister B,” is retiring after spending two decades advocating for domestic violence victims in Monroe.

The 83-year-old will continue her work as a chaplain for the city police and fire departments. She’ll also keep serving at St. Mary of the Valley Catholic Church.

“God has called me to all these things,” she said.

For 33 years, Geib has helped officers and firefighters by supporting those affected by crimes, fires, accidents and other emergencies. She became the city’s first chaplain in 1983, and is the only woman to have held the volunteer position.

“She’s pretty iconic in town,” said Debbie Willis, a Monroe Police Department spokeswoman.

Geib has also been a steady, stable presence through ups and downs at her church for almost four decades, Father Phillip Bloom said.

She prepares for Mass, funerals, baptisms, communion and religious education.

“She’s my right hand … She’s got that traditional nun ability to tackle anything undaunted,” Bloom said.

“She’ll leave an enormous legacy in the parish and the community.”

Geib has made a difference in many lives. For 20 years, she stood up for victims of domestic violence, guiding them out of unsafe situations. She helped them find a place to stay, keep their children out of harm’s way, navigate courts and connect with other resources.

Geib also supports people after traumatic situations, including homicides, suicides, baby deaths and fatal car accidents. The chaplain prays that she’ll know what to say and do when she arrives to offer any comfort she can.

Sometimes she brings heavy news. She is the one who knocks on the family’s door to let them know their loved one has died.

“You just have to be there,” she said. “God is the one who’s going to help.”

Geib also sees to it that police and firefighters get support after responding to difficult calls.

“They always say, ‘Sister is always here when she needs to be,’ ” she said Thursday at the Monroe police station. “I’m here all the time.”

Geib celebrates holidays by bringing firefighters, officers and even police dogs small gifts, such as candy for St. Patrick’s Day. She makes it a point to get to know new officers.

“I kind of give them the third degree,” she joked.

Growing up, the San Francisco native wanted to be an airline stewardess or get married and have 12 children. After high school, Geib decided to become a nun instead, despite some people’s attempts at talking her out of it, including her boyfriend’s father.

At 20, Geib joined the congregation of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur. She spent more than two decades teaching in Catholic schools in California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington.

In 1977, she volunteered for a new mission. On the way to St. Mary, she starting having second thoughts.

“I thought, ‘Dear God what are you doing to me?’ ” she said. “When I got to Monroe, I said, ‘Where is everybody?’ There was no one.”

Now, almost four decades later, Geib knows almost everybody in town. She has no plans of giving up her work at the church or as a chaplain anytime soon.

“People are my life,” she said. “I want to go out with my boots on.”

Amy Nile: 425-339-3192; Twitter: @AmyNileReports.

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