Who was Barbara Roufs? How Did She Die?

Barbara Roufs, an iconic figure in drag racing during the 1970s, left an indelible mark on the racing community. Revered as a beloved personality, this remarkable woman, at the tender age of 29, simultaneously embraced motherhood with two children. Renowned for her captivating presence, Barbara earned the title of the most striking trophy girl in Southern California drag racing. Beyond her glamorous role, she infused the race with an infectious spirit, radiating boundless enthusiasm and joy. Tragically 1991, Barbara Roufs bid farewell to the world at 46. In this concise biography, we delve into her illustrious career, explore facets of her wealth, reflect on her marriage, and examine the circumstances surrounding her untimely demise.

Early Life

Barbara Roufs, a native of Southern California born in 1944, belonged to a tightly-knit family consisting of three biological siblings – Vivian Deaton, James Riles, and Bruce Riley – along with an adopted brother named Ben Gube. The union of her parents, Thelma Ruby Riles and Wayne Eldon Riley, occurred in 1947, marking the culmination of their relationship that commenced in 1942.

Throughout her extensive five-decade career, Barbara not only owned a successful beauty salon in Clovis but also showcased her musical prowess as an organist, contributing to various churches such as the Church of the Nazarene, Calvary Bible (Bullard), Baptist Valley Bible, and Grace Baptist Church. Despite the passage of time, memories of her mother, Thelma Ruby Riles, continued to resonate following Barbara’s passing in 2005.

Wayne Eldon Riley, Barbara’s father, left an enduring legacy as an avid motorcycle enthusiast and racer at Kearney Bowl. His passion for fishing was evident through his ownership of a houseboat on McClure Lake, which served as the backdrop for cherished family vacations. It is noteworthy that Thelma and Wayne, Barbara’s parents, etched their names in history as the inaugural couple to be honored in the Clovis Hall of Fame, solidifying their lasting impact on the community.

How Was Roufs’s Professional Life?

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, Barbara Roufs rose to prominence within the drag racing community, assuming the coveted position of a trophy girl. Her notable achievement unfolded at the sixth edition of the United States Professional Dragster Championship hosted at the Orange County International Raceway. It was during this event that she secured the championship title of the Professional Dragster Association (PDA) in the year 1973. Barbara Roufs not only graced the racing scene with her presence but also etched her name in history as a trailblazer in the world of drag racing during that era.

Despite advancing, Barbara remained a beloved figure among racers and spectators alike. Her magnetic charm endeared her to the racing community and caught the attention of producers and businesses eager to connect with drag racing enthusiasts. Consequently, Barbara’s popularity soared, featuring prominently in advertisements and gracing the fronts of t-shirts. Many credited her with breathing life into drag races, particularly during the transformative shift from the 1960s golden era to the evolving landscape of the 1970s. This period witnessed racers upgrading their vehicles to newer models with more potent engines. With her timeless beauty, Barbara Roufs not only presented trophies to the winners but also became a household name synonymous with the PDA, leaving an indelible mark on the drag racing legacy.

What Did Barbara Roufs Do Before Her Death?

As the drag racing scene underwent significant transformations post its peak in the 1960s, Barbara Roufs made her entry as a trophy girl in the early 1970s. The newer vehicles had replaced the older models by transitioning from traditional dragsters to fuelers featuring a driver’s seat behind the engine. The auto technology advanced over time, and the overall race experience witnessed notable changes. The giveaways for race participants evolved, encompassing shifts in women’s attire—hair lengthened, shorts shortened, and even bras met fiery fates.

Barbara, however, stood out as the quintessential trophy girl, boasting long, straightened hair, breezy freedom tanks, and iconic 1960s go-go boots. In the Professional Dragster Association era on the California streets, only women matching Barbara Roufs’ height, physique, and beauty were deemed suitable for this coveted role. Consequently, she carved a niche, injecting excitement and vitality into the races and earning a well-deserved reputation.

Cause of Death

In 2016, talented photographer Tom West graciously shared a collection of early snapshots featuring Barbara as a trophy girl. The post garnered heartfelt comments from Jet, Barbara’s daughter, who lovingly paid tribute to her cherished mother. Jet emphasized Barbara’s widespread recognition and people’s genuine affection for her. Although initially surprised by the online publication of these nostalgic photographs, Jet believed that her mother would have been pleased, considering they beautifully encapsulated some of Barbara’s happiest moments.

Adding a poignant layer to the narrative, Jet sadly disclosed that Barbara had tragically departed in January 1991, the result of a deeply saddening suicide. The precise motives behind Barbara’s fateful decision remained elusive. At the time of her passing, Barbara was 47 years old, leaving a poignant legacy that transcended the captivating images captured by Tom West.

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