Barbara Wade left this world on Saturday, April 11, 2015, the same way she lived in it: surrounded by family in the place she called home.
Born March 29, 1934, in Warren, R.I., to Albert and Blanche Brisson, Barbara grew up an only child after an infant brother died at birth. Loneliness, however, failed to color her childhood. Growing up, Barbara loved her cousins and extended family who were a cast of characters in their own right.
Decades later, the appearance of Necco wafers in the Wade home elicited memories of Barbara’s playing “church” with favorite cousins with Barbara invariably acting the priest who administered the “communion” wafers.
A student of St. Mary’s Academy in Warren, Barbara had nuns praying for her regularly, especially when she convinced them she was too ill to stay in class. These became prime opportunities for Barbara and a friend charged to see her home to visit a nearby boys’ school or meet sailors in the Navy shipyard instead.
Only one sailor, however, caught her attention for good. Barbara loved Navy enlistee Don Wade for his quiet demeanor and shy smile, while he took an instant liking to the good-looking schoolgirl and her crazy, carefree spirit. Married for forever and celebrating their anniversary each May 11, Don and Barbara complemented each other like their favorite popcorn and any one of a dozen flavors to season it.
Following a stint in Don’s home state of Kansas after his honorable discharge from the Navy in 1954, the Wades came to Rangely, where Don took a lineman position with Moon Lake Electric Association in 1957. As soon as she arrived, Barbara knew that the little blue house with its cool patio situated just so to watch the traffic go by, would be home for good.
Together, the couple raised their four children with a finely-tuned mix of sarcasm, gentleness, humor and love, parting ways only to win each other’s quarters in endless card games played on their scratched Formica dining table.
Barbara wasted no time getting involved in the community as a scout leader, room mother and unofficial Planner of Fun for her kids. For a time, she and friend Flossy Eddy headed up a show on a Craig radio station, and together the duo established the RAID Committee, a precursor to Rangely’s annual Septemberfest. Recognition as the event’s 2005 Grand Marshal remained one of Barbara’s top honors. Barbara and Don later opened Special Friends Gift Shop in Rangely, which afforded her opportunities to visit with people and have another excuse for shopping.
Being designated the “Keeper of the Key” for Rangely’s Tank, an empty water tank turned sonic sound space, was another honor, but woe to those denied entrance to its portal based on Barbara’s keen sense of their failings, real or imagined. Her joy at the Tank’s current transformation into a Center For Sonic Arts was matched only by her passion for country and 1940s music, feeding people, dancing in the kitchen with her husband, and jokes, especially dirty ones.
The Wade place wasn’t just home for the Wades. Folks trying to get their feet under them took up temporary residence there. Musicians finished midnight recording sessions in the Tank and returned to find hot food and a waiting bed. Until a month before her passing, Barbara hosted weekly meals for Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints missionaries, for whom Barbara saved her most raucous jokes. She enjoyed these young people, even though she was Catholic, and many of them returned to visit her long after they left Rangely.
In the Wade home, everybody was loved unconditionally. Nobody left hungry or without their beverage of choice from the wide selection in the sunroom. And, if they did, it was their own fault.
A yard sale aficionado, Barbara could hone in on just the right addition to her patio, living room wall or kitchen with the accuracy of a heat-seeking missile. Favorite beloved home decor included her grape collection, a carved log end that resembled her face, a pair of wooden horses and a wagon made by Don and a log lamp made by her son, Thumper.
Over the years, certain traditions became inviolable. Christmas demanded exorbitant numbers of presents and stocking stuffers planned for and bought months beforehand. Patio parties between the Wade place and the home of their next-door neighbors, daughter Cheri and son-in-law Mark Smith, were the best of times, especially if plenty of extra people showed up. Egg tosses at Easter time were enjoyable only if the eggs were raw and, one year, because Barbara and Don snuck in with a rubber egg.
Above all, nobody was a stranger. Nobody was better or worse because he was rich or homeless. Barbara was at the heart of the family, they were her heart, and everybody knew it.
Barbara is survived by: her husband, Don; four children, Paul (Anne) Wade of Mechanicsburg, Pa., Paulette (Lance) Comstock of Montrose, Colo., Thumper Wade of Rangely, and Cheri (Mark) Smith of Rangely; nine grandchildren, Danette (Brian) Lurvey, Suzy Comstock, Brooke (Charlie) Lohse, Blake Smith, Chris (Tiffany) Wade, Jillien Boren, Cody Wade, Samantha Wade and Emma Smith; and seven great-grandchildren, Olivia, Elijah, Chloee, Cutler, Brianna, Everett and Gavin.
Barbara truly loved people, her family most of all, and requested that no public service be held and that her family would gather to celebrate her life, which they will do this summer. They would love for her memory to be honored, however, and because of Barbara’s passion for feeding people, ask that donations be made in her name to the Backpack Program, which provides food for children in Rio Blanco County who may not have enough to eat on the weekends.
Donations can be sent to Rio Blanco BOCES, 402 W. Main St., Rangely, Colo., 81648.