Barb Tapovatz fearlessly takes on volunteer duty
Family: Was married to her second husband, Warren Tapovatz, a Rock County Court bailiff, "for just 25 years." He died in 2004. She has a daughter, Patti, in Verona; son, Bob, in Janesville, and six grandchildren. At home are two dogs, Molly and Misty.
Occupation: Real estate agent. Retired administrative assistant for Alliant Energy.
Education: Janesville High School Class of 1963.
Favorite book: "A Sparrow Falls" by Wilbur Smith. A native of southern Africa, Smith has a way with English that has kept Tapovatz reading all 30 of his books. "His descriptions are unbelievable," she said. "He knows the word that fits."
Her cookbook: It's filled with recipes that she and Warren loved. The couple liked to experiment with new dishes. "After we'd try 'em, we'd decided if it was a keeper or a tosser."
Annoying: People who fail to keep to their commitments. "When people say they'll do something, they need to do it."
Influences: Her brother, Tom Larson, four years older, who was her childhood "watchdog." He lives in Florida, but they talk three times a week. "We're very different people, but we're always on the same page." Also the late Marilyn Keating, who got her started in watercolors at L'Atelier, an art gallery and teaching studio in Janesville. "She was wonderful. An inspiration."
JANESVILLE As an executive assistant for Alliant Energy, Barb Tapovatz was once assigned to drive to Madison. She had never been there before.
She took a deep breath, taking a big step out of what she calls "my little Janesville shell."
Pretty soon, she was zooming around town with the best of them. Now retired from Alliant for seven years, Tapovatz continues to take on new tasks as a volunteer for a wide range of local causes, such as the Hedberg Public Library, Rotary Gardens and the Bower City Garden Club.
"There's nothing much that scares me anymore, except introducing an act at JPAC," she said.
Tapovatz, who serves on the board of Janesville Presents!, once introduced a piano duet at the Janesville Performing Arts Center. She was terrified, she said, but she wore outlandish earrings in hopes it would take the focus off of her, and it apparently worked.
Someone afterward told her she had done a good job and complimented her on her choice of ear wear.
Friend Millie Babcock calls Tapovatz a "Wonder Woman" for her ability to get so much done in her own life and for others.
"She's busier volunteering than most people are at their full-time jobs," Babcock said.
Her administrative-assistant skills come in handy, and once people find out you can turn out a newsletter, for example, they keep on asking, Tapovatz said. Late-night deadlines are too common.
"But it's fun. You work with some really nice people," Tapovatz said.
On a personal level, Tapovatz is one of those people who is easy to warm up to.
"To know her is to love her," Babcock said.
"There's something really genuine about Barb," said Lori Stottler, who served on a First Lutheran Church committee with Tapovatz for several years. "She really knows how to get things done, but she does it tactfully. … I just admire her as a person. She's very good to the elderly people of our church. She's very caring, and she's a busy woman."
Outside of the volunteer realm, Tapovatz sells real estate and paints watercolors.
"I really liked art, but I got married, and I really never took the time to do anything about it," she said.
Tapovatz began taking art classes about five years ago. She is humble about her efforts, but Babcock marvels at them and notes they're good enough to be auctioned off when Tapovatz donates them to charity auctions.
Add doting on grandchildren to the list of must-dos in Tapovatz's life, and she's always on the move.
For other retirees, Tapovatz has these thoughts: "People say 'I'm lonely.' I say, 'Oh, my gosh, get out there, open yourself up.' I don't have lonely days."