Murphy Funeral Homes

4510 Wilson Boulevard, Arlington, VA


Barbara Hubner Phillips

June 16, 1934February 11, 2020
Play Tribute Movie

Barbara H. Phillips (née Bárbara Eleanora Hübner-Vidal)

Of Arlington, Virginia died suddenly in her sleep in the early morning of February 11, 2020. She was born in Santiago, Chile on June 16, 1934.

Her father, Manuel Eduardo Hübner-Richardson, was a journalist, author, congressman, government spokesman, diplomat and university professor. Her mother, Vicenta Vidal-Hübner, studied law and was at the center of the intellectual/literary youth movement of the time. Barbara grew up in Chile, Peru, Mexico, New York City, Cuba, Los Angeles and Canberra, Australia, a result of her father's career as a diplomat. She attended Liceo No. 1 in Santiago and the University of Chile, where she majored in dance and became part of the Chilean National Ballet. She immigrated to the United States in 1956 intending to join a professional ballet company, but became an interpreter working initially on contract for the State Department and the Organization of American States. She was the first regular staff member hired by the newly formed Interamerican Development Bank in Washington, DC in 1960.

Barbara and her husband, Rufus, met by complete accident and fell instantly in love in San Salvador in February 1960. They were married three months later. Barbara continued to work as a contract interpreter for the Bank, the OAS and the State Department. Her first two children were born in McLean, Virginia; then she accompanied Rufus and the children to Saigon, Vietnam where he served as Assistant Director for Rural Affairs in the USAID mission in 1962-1963, focused on counterinsurgency. The family returned to the States in 1963 and Barbara resumed interpreting. In 1985 she was hired as permanent staff by the State Department's Office of Language Services as a diplomatic interpreter. Her languages were English and Spanish both ways and from Portuguese and French into English or Spanish. She interpreted on various occasions for three American presidents, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and William Clinton. President Bush was her favorite for his notable personal kindness. He always made sure she was served at State dinners where she customarily sat behind him. If the waiter was slow he would give her his own glass of water.

Barbara went on many risky Government missions in Central America during the time of troubles there. On an official visit to Managua, Nicaragua, leaving the airport she was in the back of the same vehicle with the Assistant Secretary of State in front. The first to notice an attempted fire- bomb attack from within an angry mob surrounding the car, she alerted the Secret Service agent beside her. He lept out and tackled the attacker. Upon retiring in December 1995, she received a Superior Honor Award for 30 years of outstanding public service at State as a private contractor and staff member.

While still working for State she became active in community affairs in McLean. She was elected in 1979 by the local citizens on a non-partisan basis to the McLean Community Center Governing Board, where she served through 1985. There she led efforts to expand the Center to encompass a theatre, an art center and community meeting rooms. She ran unsuccessfully as a Democrat in 1999 for the Fairfax County Board as Supervisor from Dranesville District encompassing McLean, Great Falls and the town of Herndon. Her passions besides her family were gardening, politics, visual art, ballet and the opera.

In 1993-1994, she designed and she and Rufus built a second home in Charlotte County in Southside Virginia on part of "Gravel Hill", the farm where he grew up, and where his sister, Lucretia Whitehouse, was living. The house called Cedar Grove became a center of joy for her children, grandchildren and the family dogs. Monarch butterflies, lightning bugs, a hawk called "Buddy", an army of hummingbirds coexisted with rabbits and squirrels around the yard. Fringed by a line of red cedars on one side and a forest of tall poplars, oaks, sycamores and pines on the other, with Redbud and Dogwood trees blooming gloriously in the spring, the space was magical. There Barbara became a master gardener, surrounding the house with extraordinary flowers. An ante-bellum Greek revival mansion built in 1847, a swimming pool, a large pond with fish, two streams and original growth oaks, one at least 400 years old, were part of the larger property. Hers was a life of grace, of beauty and of love for her family and her country. She was incredibly courageous. Though confined towards the end to a wheelchair she never gave up on walking again. She left an indelible impression on all who met her of empathetic intelligence and kindness. Barbara had an uncanny ability to connect with the most diverse people from all walks, races and cultures. Few who met her would ever forget her.

Barbara is survived by her husband, Rufus C. Phillips III; her children Rufus C. Phillips IV of Richmond, Virginia, Anne Phillips Schelle of Ruxton, Maryland, Edward Dean Phillips of San Francisco, Patricia Phillips Shields of Falls Church, Virginia; and her nephew like a third son, Carlos Hübner Arteta of New York City; and by her grandchildren, Colfax Phillips, Megan Phillips, Alexandra Schelle, Amelia Schelle, Leidy Shields and Carlos Shields. Also by her sister Carla Hübner-Kraemer of Washington, DC and her brother Douglas Hübner of Santiago, Chile. She was predeceased by her older brother, Manuel Eduardo Hübner II and her older sister Alma Hübner.

Barbara will be buried in a private ceremony in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington on February 29, 2020. An open celebration of Barbara's life for all who knew her will be held at 2 p.m. at the McLean Community Center, 1234 Ingleside Avenue, McLean, VA 22101 on Sunday, March 1, 2020. In place of flowers, donations may be made in her name to her favorite charities: Planned Parenthood of Washington, D.C. or the national organization at wearepp.org/inmemory or 1-800-430-4907, or to the Nature Conservancy at nature.org or 1-800-628-6860.


  • Memorial Service Sunday, March 1, 2020

Memories and condolences

Bring comfort and tell the story of your loved one’s lifetime. Leave a memory, tell a favorite story or share a kind word or condolence.

receive updates

when friends and family add new memories


for sharing memories and condolences