Obituary : Barbara C. Whitney
Following two weeks of insightful and loving farewells, and surrounded by close family, Barbara Collins Whitney, age 90, died on July 4, at the home of her daughter Jean in Cape Coral, Fla.
The youngest daughter of LeSeur Thornton Collins and Marjorie (Post) Collins, Barbara was born on Feb. 19, 1918, and grew up in Newtonville, where she met her future husband, Norman E. Whitney, in the seventh grade. They both graduated from Newton North High School, and while Norman went off to the University of Maine to do his undergraduate work, Barbara remained at home but took a secretarial job in Boston. When Norman graduated in 1940, the couple married in the garden of her parents' summer residence at Humarock Beach in Marshfield.
A woman with deep thoughts and a passion for words, Barbara loved to read and tell stories to her children. She wrote poetry all of her life but kept it hidden away in a drawer. To celebrate her work, in 1998 her children surprised her by publishing her volume of poems written over the course of 70 years. Her book, entitled "A Poetic Journey," includes nearly all of her poetry and is a treasured keepsake for us all. About her poems, Barbara wrote, "There are times when poetry is the only way I can truly express how deeply I care for all of you, and how sure I am that through time and space my love will always be able to reach and help you."
A few years after World War II, Barbara and Norman moved back to Newton where they spent 30 years bringing up their six children. Every year, when school let out in June, they would pack up their car and move the family to Martha's Vineyard where they lived in their gingerbread cottage in Oak Bluffs. Barbara loved her summers in Cottage Park with her sister Marjorie and brother-in-law Tom living just down the path and some of her best friends in surrounding cottages.
After retirement, the Whitneys winterized their cottage, sold the big house in Newton, and spent several happy years in Cottage Park watching their family grow. Barbara particularly loved sweeping her front walk, where like a magnet, she attracted a number of neighbors and friends each day. She would always call out to them with a cheerful "Good morning" or "Hello-o" and conversations and encouragement were shared with each and every one. This was her ministry, she would say, and she brought good cheer, hope, and comfort to every soul she encountered.
Eleven years after her husband's death in 1991, Barbara moved to Florida to live with her daughter Jean and her family. She continued her "work" at the Senior Day Program where she catered to and comforted her new friends no matter how disabled and debilitated they were. In 2000 at the age of 82, a dream came true for Barbara when she was asked by Jean to take the trip of her lifetime. They traveled with members of their parish at St. Katharine's to Florence, Venice, Lake Maggiore, and Rome. The highlight of their trip took place at St. Peter's Square where they were thrilled to celebrate mass with Pope John Paul ll.
Barbara Whitney is survived by her life-long friend and brother-in-law, Tom Frary, of Portland, Maine; several nieces and nephews whom she adored, and her beloved children, Norman and Maryann Whitney of Oak Bluffs, Marjorie C. Whitney of Cambria, Calif., Ruth Major of Tisbury, David and Susan Whitney of Pleasantville, N.Y., Barbara and Len Bernstein of Oak Bluffs, and Jean and Joe Vinci of Cape Coral, Fla. Mrs. Whitney loved and was proud of all of her seven great grandchildren and her 13 grandchildren, Jodi Niesley, Tim Whitney, Paris and Alanna Major, Tannar Whitney, Jade and Caleb Bernstein, Justin and Ashley Whitney, Chris and Ryan Muckerheide, Lizzie Torres and Sister Jean Bernadette (formerly Joyelle Muckerheide) who is now a member of Mother Teresa's Order, The Missionaries of Charity.
Barbara Whitney was a kind and compassionate woman with a quick wit and a keen intelligence who touched the lives of everyone she knew. She could "read" people and always knew when any one of us needed support, a prayer, a hug or just someone to listen. Barbara Whitney will be sorely missed by all who knew and loved her; she leaves us with her own words.
"My Prayer for You"
By Barbara C. Whitney
I've asked the wind
to sing for you,
A star to shine
within the blue,
And Oh, I've said
a little prayer
That all the time
God's great unmeasured
love may be
For you a wide
and shining sea.
A funeral mass was celebrated by Fr. John Deary for Barbara Whitney at St. Katharine's in Cape Coral, Fla. on July 7. A service will be held at the Oak Grove Cemetery in Oak Bluffs at 4 pm on August 3 for all who wish to attend. Gifts may be made in her memory to Hospice of Martha's Vineyard, or of Cape Coral, Fla.