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Barbara O. Silver

September 17, 1934 — August 21, 2022

Barbara O. Silver

Barbara Oaks Silver, 87, of Philadelphia, an award-winning attorney, teacher, women’s advocate, beloved friend to people from all walks of life, and incomparable mother, died peacefully on Sunday, August 21st from Parkinson’s disease at her home on Rittenhouse Square.

Barbara lived an extraordinary life of joy and giving. She touched the lives of others in profound and abundant ways. Her heart was vastly proportioned: for such proportions were required to contain the sheer volume of love, care, generosity, warmth, humor, and simple joie de vivre that was her remarkable life.

For some who live such brightly painted lives, the experience of their family may not fully correspond to the public’s experience. With Barbara, just the opposite was true: the care that others received, her husband, child, and family received many times over.

As expressed by a colleague,

“A light has gone out in the firm.

Barbara was one-of-a-kind: tenacious, life-loving, fearless, always looking to grab more of life - more music, more travel, more fun, and, of course, family and friends. A veritable whirling dervish, a multi-armed Siva reaching out in all directions to capture whatever joy, pleasure, or experience may have eluded her insatiable grasp. She found fun and joy in the practice of divorce law. Who else could do that? Work and play seemed interchangeable, and maybe they were since both involved what was most important to her: relationships. She made everyone in her circle feel important, appreciated, loved, and understood. And there was never any pretense.  She was always Barbara, the one, the only.

Born September 17, 1934, in Philadelphia, Barbara graduated from Olney High School in 1952. She then received a full scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania and graduated with a B.A. in 1956 (Phi Beta Kappa). Barbara married her first husband, Martin Oaks, in 1955, and gave birth to her beloved son, Robert in 1959. After teaching piano lessons for several years, Barbara entered Temple Law School in 1965, graduating first in her class in 1969.

In 1967, she married Edward W. Silver (also an attorney), and thus began a 50 year marriage filled to the brim with love, life, and celebration. In 1974, they formed the law firm Silver & Silver, which specialized in family law, estates, and financial planning. Their law firm thrived but, after 17 years, they were ready to relinquish the managerial duties of law firm principals. In 1991, therefore, they began the next phase of their career at the law firm Astor Weiss Kaplan & Mandel, with which Barbara worked until weeks before her death.

During her long career, Barbara was named one of the Top 50 women lawyers in Pennsylvania and, in 1999, she was chosen by her peers as a “Best Lawyer” in Philadelphia Magazine.

Because the empowerment of women was a core motivator for Barbara, in 1978 she began a teaching career that included 11 years as Professor of Corporate Law at the Paralegal Institute, and 13 years at both the Institute of Awareness and TARP teaching courses on practical law and money to thousands of women.

A passionate, life-long, classical music lover, Barbara was Chair of the Board of Friends of Curtis Institute of Music and a member of the Stokowski Society Executive Board.

Later in life, Barbara joined the board of the LiveWell Foundation, a wonderful, Philadelphia-based non-profit that empowers people with depression to transform their own lives through free and effective peer support and skill-based education.

Barbara loved playing bridge, conquering crossword puzzles, and reading detective novels.

Most of all, Barbara loved loving: family, friends, colleagues, women in need.

Barbara is survived by her son Robert, daughter-in-law Clair, grandsons Caleb and Elijah, and great-grandchildren Cora and Greta.

A memorial celebrating Barbara’s life will be held in the near future.

Donations in Barbara’s name can be made to the LiveWell Foundation (, 250 South 17th Street, #1400, Philadelphia, PA, 19103.


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