Barbara Jean (Burnham) Richards
Barbara Jean (Burnham) Richards (nee Parks) found peace at AngelsGrace Hospice Saturday, December 3rd, at the age of 87 with her daughter at her side. She was so touched by the special visits from many dear family and friends, and especially a week with her son and daughter-in-law during her final journey at AngelsGrace. Barbara was born on September 22, 1929 in Dayton Ohio. She was a longtime resident of Dayton and graduated from Fairmont High in Kettering OH. Barbara's extreme talent as a musician, pianist, organist and vocal coach began at a young age and she received her BA in Piano Performance from the University of Illinois in Urbana, IL in 1951. She continued a long career of accompanying and coaching with many notable singers and musicians from across the country, at Carroll College, UWM and the Conservatory of Music and with numerous Theater groups throughout the Milwaukee area. She also taught piano at Carroll and was a key player in the growth of the children's theater group - Par-Cay players, collaborating with Conne Smith directing and writing music for many shows. Numerous congregations in Waukesha and Milwaukee were blessed by her gift of music as their organist with her "home" being Community United Methodist Church of Elmgrove WI, on and off for 30 years. She also played for Temple Emanuel in Milwaukee. Barb always claimed to be an ecumenical as she was exposed to so many faiths and respected them all as she was a deeply spiritual woman. In 1975 - Barbara returned to school to receive her Masters of Music in Vocal Performance and Accompaniment. She studied with John Wustman, who was the accompanist for Lucianno Pavarotti, at the University of Illinois and received her degree in one year, 25 years after receiving her Bachelors, in May 1976. It was a very proud moment for all. On July 10, 1982 They moved from Kenosha WI to Hot Springs AR in the late 90s and made many wonderful memories and friends there. Barbara continued to be very active in the music world, working with the Hot Springs Music Festival, numerous students and singers including talented Diane Kesling. Barbara was so creative in many ways and her knitting, crochet and cross stich works have graced many of our lives and homes. She loved watching all kinds of sports, especially football, was a wicked crossword fanatic and deadly Cribbage, Bridge and Scrabble player. Barbara also had a great love of nature, watching her birds and critters and so enjoyed the beauty of Garvin Gardens in Hot Springs AR. In later life she became afflicted with Essential Tremor and Parkinson's disease as well as two bouts of mouth cancer. These multiple health issues and the death of her beloved husband required a move back to Wisconsin in May of 2015 to Kirkland Crossings in Pewaukee to be closer to her daughter and monitored health care. But despite her challenges, she continued to share her craft, coaching with young performers, playing for Memory Care and working with Lisa, their dear chaplain on their "Hymn Sings" with the residents. She was known as the "Piano Lady" for most of the latter years of her life. Her wonderful kindness, compassion, positive attitude despite many odds, strength, bright spirit, infectious wit and sense of humor, smile and beautiful music will remain in our hearts forever. We will miss her wonderful stories and jokes for a long time to come. No one could have asked for a more fun, wise, loving and warm Mother, Grandmother, Sister, Aunt and friend. She was so influential in the lives and positive molding of her children and grandchildren. The family wants to thank all for their kind words, cards, letters, e-mails and interactions with Barbara. You touched her heart and the family very deeply. The family would also like to express tremendous thanks and appreciation to all the caregivers and staff at Kirkland Crossings, OMH, Shorehaven and especially at AngelsGrace for their compassion, assistance, guidance and love in helping Barbara complete her long journey home. She is playing for choirs of angels now and with her Bubba again.
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