Cristina Antonia Arias, 60, passed into the arms of a greater universe and surrounded by love on March 13, 2019, in Fayetteville. She was born January 16, 1959, to Bogddy Wus and the late Eduardo M. Arias in General Roca, Rio Negro, Argentina.
Cris was raised by her mother and maternal grandmother, Cristina Korch Wus. As a young child, she moved to the United States with her mother and grandmother when her mother received a scholarship to study abroad. Her mother studied at the University of Arkansas and obtained her doctorate in comparative literature in 1967. Her Ukrainian maternal grandparents escaped post-revolutionary Russia by boat and immigrated to Argentina. Her grandmother spoke only Ukrainian and Spanish so Cris served as her English translator growing up. Her paternal grandmother was a concert pianist.
Cris attended the Fayetteville public schools, the University of Arkansas and received a Master of Social Work from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.
Cris married and had one daughter, Ashley Barker, with her former spouse, Lonnie Barker.
Cris initially worked as a social worker for the state of Oklahoma in the rural community of Holdenville. She described the practice as “pioneer mental health services,” carrying medications in her car trunk and interacting with local officials. In 1995, she returned to Fayetteville to work for Ozark Guidance Center. Cris served as director of mental health services at Washington Regional Medical Center from 2002 until 2009, at which time she transitioned to the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences-Northwest Campus to assist in establishing the psychiatric inpatient unit at Northwest Medical Center. In 2018, she accepted a position with the Community Clinic.
Cris made numerous lifelong friends throughout her professional career. Her family and friends are grateful for the incredible support the Community Clinic gave her during her illness. Throughout her career, Cris was admired as a skilled clinician and administrator, passionate teacher, community activist and loving friend. Her work with the Judicial Equality for Mental Illness led to the founding of a crisis stabilization unit in northwest Arkansas. In 2019, she was named the University of Arkansas Social Work Department Clinical Instructor of the Year.
Cris found much joy in her work, traveling the world, enduring friendships, beloved pets, knitting and spiritual exploration. She had a gift for finding the hurt and healing it. The light of the world has momentarily dimmed with her absence but her life’s work and loving relationships have forged a brighter future.
Of all her roles, she most enjoyed and cherished being grandmother. She was intensely involved in her grandchildren’s lives. Hateya, Kavian, Aria and Kairo were the light and soul of her life.
Cris is survived by her daughter, Ashley Barker, four grandchildren, and mother, Bogddy Arias.
A memorial service will be held at 2 p.m. Tuesday, March 19, at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to the Northwest Arkansas Crisis Stabilization Unit.
To place an online tribute, visit www.nelsonberna.com.