Mom passed away this morning, March 30, 2020 at about 6:15 am Mountain Time. The virus season is hitting us hard right now, but she didn’t die from that. In her case it was just her body finally telling her it was tired, and it was time. She would have been 97 in a couple of weeks.
Mom was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan in 1923. She was the oldest of four siblings and found herself in charge of her brothers and sister when her parents were away. From stories I’ve heard, from mom and her siblings, her sister and oldest brother tended to bug one another so mom had to break them up every once in a while, to varying degrees of success. She also had to sit between them during car trips.
When Mom was in kindergarten, she drew a green model A Ford and her classmates were impressed that she could draw a car! From an early age she was artistic, a talent that she enjoyed and served her well through the years. Mom liked to play with dolls and once I remember her saying her baby doll had tiny dark dents in its head because her dear little brother Bob (the same Bob mentioned above) made the dents with his hammer!
Mom grew up during the depression so life could be hard at times. Her father had to endure a 90% pay cut which resulted in several moves before things finally settled down in the late 1930s.
While all this was happening, the family still found a way to get away. Their place of choice was Silver Lake State Park near Mears Michigan. The family stayed in a tent and Mom’s cot was in one of the corners. She kept her clothes in a box under the cot. When it rained the family would lay on their cots waiting for the rain to stop and one time it rained so hard the tent flooded and Mom was marooned on her cot! This is and was a beautiful area that includes Silver Lake, Silver Lake Sand Dunes and Lake Michigan. A great place to be both as a child and as an adult.
Mom had many great times there. In fact, it was one of her absolute favorite places to be. She bought a canoe that stayed in the rafters of my grandparent’s cottage. The only time it came out was when mom was there. She purchased it in the late 40s and it is still being used to this day.
Mom graduated from Ottawa Hills High School in 1941 and attended Grand Rapids Junior College for the next two years. After that, she worked for several years at American Seating Co. where her dad also worked. There she helped with the war effort as World War II was in progress. Mom could still recall the attack on Pearl Harbor many years later, when I asked her about it.
Mom continued her education over the next few years studying art and music. Mom had a beautiful voice and for many, many years was always a highly requested soloist at whatever church she attended. A favorite song she sang was “I Know That My Redeemer Liveth”. She recalls one time when she sat in the front row of the church by an exit waiting to sing. She had an irresistible urge to run out the exit and not sing! She stayed and sang but years later sang the same song again and her voice cracked during the solo. The song was challenging to sing and that was the last time she sang that song as a solo!
The art studies really paid off as mom was an artist for Herpolsheimer’s, Wurzburg’s and May D&F department stores. She did advertising artwork for these stores. Back then there were newspapers and no computers meaning all the art was drawn, by hand, for that week’s paper. I remember she liked to draw the shoe ads.
As a child I loved visiting mom at work at the downtown Denver May D&F. She worked with several other folks in a little back office. It was especially wonderful at Christmas time as there was an ice- skating area outside of the store and all the store windows were decorated with Christmas displays.
Dad and mom were married in 1950. They lived in Delaware, Indiana and Michigan while dad finished college and seminary. Their first church, where dad served as pastor, was the First Baptist Church in Edmore, Michigan in 1956.
The following year dad became a Chaplin in the Army and they were stationed at Ft. Carson in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
This is where mom’s love of the mountains started to bloom. She was never a fan of the narrow winding roads but always loved drives and especially picnics in the mountains. We had many family picnics by mountain streams where my sister and I tended to get wetter than we were supposed to.
In 1959, mom and dad moved to Murnau, Germany where dad was stationed for the next few years. They were able to travel through much of Europe while they were there.
One of mom’s favorite memories was the night they arrived in Germany. They stayed in the town of Garmisch, and since it was dark, they couldn’t see any of the area around the town. The next morning when she walked out of the hotel, the first thing she saw was the Zugspitze, Germany’s highest peak. She said it took her breath away!
While in Germany, mom and dad adopted two children, my sister and I. We aren’t related and they adopted my sister first as she is much (okay, only a little) older than I am.
After Germany, we moved to Texas until dad left the Army. We moved to Colorado after that. Many years later we moved to Ohio and by then, my sister and I were grown and eventually moved back to Colorado. After a time in Wyoming, mom and dad returned to Colorado as well.
During this time dad was a pastor at several churches. Mom truly filled the mission of a pastor’s wife at these churches and was involved in everything from Vacation Bible School, to teaching, to helping out folks in need, to cleaning and taking care of the church and more. She was also a mom and took care of us as well. We all had our chores, of course, but mom did a lot.
One of the things that pastor’s and their families do is entertain different groups and families at the church. We were no different and did our share. One of the big reasons that folks liked coming over was mom’s cooking. She became “famous” at these small churches for her pizza. Still the best pizza I’ve ever had. Mom was also well known for her pies and other baked goods. My favorite pie she made was Lemon Meringue. Today that is still my favorite pie! A few times I tried to make the same pie and my pie was never as good as mom’s!
In later years, after my sister and I were gone, mom and dad continued to serve in several churches and were missionaries to Jamaica where dad taught at a college and mom worked in the library. They finally retired to Bon Carbo, Colorado where they enjoyed living for a number of years surrounded by nature. Around this time, they purchased a second home in Ajo, Arizona where they could enjoy warmer weather in the winters. Wanting to be closer to their children and grandchildren, dad eventually became a pastor in Erie, Colorado where mom again had the duties of a pastor’s wife.
Dad passed away in 1996, while he was the pastor of the church in Erie. Mom, after selling their house in Ajo, settled down in her own condo in Lakewood, Colorado. This is where she lived until she had a stroke. She was 89 at the time. She recovered from that and broke her hip a few years later. Again, she recovered. And again, and again. Through it all her spirit was high, and she was a blessing to others around her. Many, many times we would hear from folks that mom was an inspiration to them. At the skilled nursing home where she lived, she told one of the nurses if he wanted to go to heaven “come and talk to me”.
In her last few years, she was a tireless worker doing art projects for the nursing home where she lived. Mom taught a ladies Bible study and drew different landscape pictures for the monthly calendar bulletin board. Mom always wanted to be busy, doing something of value. Something that would bring joy to others. She also painted a lot during this period and was also a voracious reader.
Mom was very special. Everyone that knew her thought the world of her. She was tough, stubborn and while not very emotional (until after her stroke), she always showed her love for us and others. She had a good life and a hard life. Work and helping others through her work is what brought her joy. The director of the nursing home where she lived said “Barbara made such an impression on the staff and was revered and respected by all”. She was an artist, a pastor’s wife, a draftsperson, a student, a sister, a daughter, a friend, but most of all, she was my mom. For whatever reason she picked me to be her son. I am so, so lucky for that! Mom, I love you and I miss you…
John is our family historian and wrote the summary of mom’s life. I added a few memories of mine to his. He captured our mother’s life and spirit in a nutshell to share with each of you. I love you too mom and will miss our weekly visits. So long until we meet again.
Donations in memory of Barbara Stevens may be made to Mapleton Care Center in lieu of flowers. The donations will be placed in a fund to purchase a new shuttle bus. The address is:
Mapleton Care Center, Attn: Business Office, 115 Ingalls Street, Lakewood, CO 80226