Goodbye Barbara Jean. Northampton is grieving the loss of Barbara Jean Boski, [Bedard], who died on May 8 at the age of 93.
Barbara spent most of her life in Northampton. She was born on March 19, 1930, and grew up in a house on Williams Street. When she was 14 years old, she found out that she had a half-brother, Gene, living in Connecticut. As soon as she could, she found a ride to visit him. She slept at her father’s house that night, and when she woke up, she met her brother and many of his little 4-year-old friends, who had been staring at her as she slept, commenting that she looked like a princess --- maybe she was Sleeping Beauty? Gene and Barbara remained close through the years, and she loved his wife, Sue, and their four daughters, Jean, Mary-Jane, Denise, and Bridget. Over the past few years, Gene’s wife and girls cared for Barbara tremendously when she needed them most. Barbara’s niece, Jean, is an amazing nurse who helped her beloved aunt organize her meds, and was always there as a health advocate. The stories of their lives, of their husbands, their children, and grandchildren filled Barbara’s heart with joy, and she was happy that Gene’s children shared their children and grandchildren with her.
Barbara also had a half-sister, Patsy. Patsy was beautiful, delicate, and wonderfully brilliant. Patsy had a daughter, Michelle, who inherited the same brilliance. Unfortunately, soon after Michelle was born, Patsy was diagnosed with Huntington’s Disease, and quickly declined into poor health. Michelle was raised by her grandmother, Albina Cichy, and escaped the Huntington’s gene, growing up to be a successful writer with two beautiful children.
Barbara Jean lived, for one year, in California, but missed the Berkshire mountains of home, and returned quickly to marry Alfred Boski. They had met over 15 years earlier when Alfred worked at a bowling alley, setting up pins. Barbara and her friends did their best to roll their bowling balls down the lane simultaneously.
Barbara went to school for hairdressing with her friends, Janet and Dee. She recalled it as “the time of her life,” and often came home late, when there was some after-class fun to be had together. Janet’s son, Mickey, ended up picking up the trade, coming to the house every week, over the past few years, to give mom a cut and style. She always loved seeing him. Looking presentable was important to Barbara, and she never let company in without putting a bit of makeup on and applying some lipstick. She did her best to convince her daughter, Jill, to do the same, hoping that that way, someone would marry her. This was her biggest failure.
Barbara’s husband of 50 years, Alfred, passed away in 2018. They enjoyed going to the casino together, and their love of gambling led to a trip to Las Vegas on their 40th wedding anniversary, where they met up with their friends, Ed and Noreen, Godparents to their daughter Jill. Barbara and Alfred met Ed and Noreen on Elizabeth Street in the mid 1960’s, and stayed friends over the years. Barbara was also recently reunited with her dear friend, Henry, who grew up in the same Williams Street neighborhood. Henry has been a lovely friend, taking Barbara on outings to the beach, the nail salon, or out to dinner. Henry will always have a place in our family and in our hearts.
Barb’s friend Kathy has been a tremendous help. Kathy treated Barbara Jean like her own mother, and did everything she could to keep her comfortable in the past few years. She took Barbara for rides, brought her food, warmer jackets, and just watched TV and kept her company in conversation. Barbara wished to remain at home in her final years, where her loving son, Brian, took great care of her, granting her wishes. She appreciated this more than she ever said, and her gratitude was always evident in the way she spoke of him.
Mom loved seeing people from the past. She ran into Jill’s college friend, Julie, a while ago and this brightened her week. Our kind family friend, Andrew, frequently showed up at Barbara’s door with some Hungry Ghost bread, which we all know is the closest thing to perfection in this town. Her friend Donna was also always on hand to help and be there for her. When Jill’s middle- and high school friend, Mona, stopped by with flowers and soup, Barbara talked about it for a week. She has also had some timely visits from her Cichy cousins, Ray, Bob, Mickey and Charlie, who were able to say goodbye and wish her well on her final journey. It was always a lovely time with her sweet friend, Gerri.
We thank you all for brightening her day with your visits. We are so grateful that we were able to have such a turnout on her 93rd birthday two months ago. Barbara was happy to see everyone together. She loved being together with friends and family.
Until she was about 80, her favorite pastime was going to the beach and body surfing. She was an expert body surfer, always able to catch the wave in the right manner to bring her to the shore. She passed on this skill to her children, Brian and Jill. She asked to be taken to her favorite beach after she passed, this will be done in the near future.
She hated electric cars, and said they snuck up on her while she was just sitting in her walker; “I swear, I wasn’t sleeping, but, when I woke up, that thing was there!” She loved watching people make out. She glowed when she saw one of her students at Bridge Street School, where she worked as an aide for many years, out and about in the world.
Over the past few years, Barbara Jean was blessed with wonderful dreams. She dreamt that she met up with her old friends, Janet, Dee, now deceased, and in the dreams, Jeannie and Janet and Dee would go dancing, or gambling at the casino and just generally raise hell together, to the extent that she dreamed their husbands were mad about their cavorting. The last dream she reported was that her blind grandmother, her Babchi, took her for a ride in the car and called her a wimp for giving up on driving. A recent dream of her own death prompted her to make plans for her funeral.
The remaining Boski family, Brian and Jill, could not have handled this time of transition without you all. Your incredible love and generosity have defied expectations. We are so grateful to you.
Thank you too to Hospice of Northampton. Your amazing, prompt care enabled mom to feel as comfortable as she could have hoped with all the pain she experienced. I don’t know how you do it, your care is simply spectacular.
Thank you, finally, Barbara Pickford. Your sweet presence in the house was the touchstone our mother compared all the others to. When you were out on leave, all I heard was, "They weren't like Barbara."
A celebration of life will be at her home on 82 Parsons Street on Sunday, May 21, 2023 from 1 pm to 5 pm. There will be plenty of food, please stop by.