Barbara Jane Pesch


Barbara Jane (Baumhoefener) Pesch passed away peacefully on May 21, 2023, after complications from Parkinson’s.

A celebration of life will be hosted on Nov. 25; the family would appreciate your attendance to honor her life and accomplishments. Details are listed below. For those unable to attend, please feel free to share stories or photos to the email address below. 

Barbara was born in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to Karl and Helen Baumhoefener in 1931. She was the second of two children, after older brother John. She began her studies in botany at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Ind. She later moved to Washington University of St. Louis, where she graduated with honors. 

Barbara married Roy Pesch in 1955, and raised three boys, Chris, Brian, and Daniel. They moved frequently as a family, including stops in St. Louis, Washington, D.C., Connecticut, New Jersey, California, New York, and Illinois. During their travels, they frequented Martha’s Vineyard, eventually purchasing a home in Chilmark in 1972. 

Barbara would go on to make the Vineyard her primary home over the years to come. She not only loved the Vineyard for its natural beauty and ample birding opportunities, but also its people. She struck up numerous lifelong friendships, and became an active voice for conservation and stewardship of the Island’s natural resources. 

Her conservation efforts included participating in the Vineyard Bird Count for more than 30 years, being a founding member of the Black Point Beach Association, and establishing the “Pesch Pole,” which still stands near South Road to welcome nesting ospreys each year. These friendships and interests led to the co-authorship with Susan B. Whiting of “Vineyard Birds.” first published in 1983, with a second edition in 2007. 

Outside of her involvement on the the botanical gardens of Chicago, Brooklyn, and St. Louis across her career, with a focus on educating and sharing her passion for botany. She published numerous educational works on gardening, which included time as the editor for Sunset Books in Menlo Park, Calif. In addition to writing, Barbara led expeditions to botanical gardens, including in the Galapagos and Ireland. 

As Barbara’s family grew, she began to split time between the Vineyard in the summer and Denver in the winter to be close to her six grandchildren, Tessa, Alex, Meghan, Olivia, Ryan, and Patrick. She would host them on the Vineyard, often treating them to fried delicacies from the Bite and soft-serve at the Galley. She was extremely proud of her family, often bragging about her great-grandchildren to anyone she could while at the Henrietta Brewer House. 

Barbara leaves a lasting legacy on the Island through her conservation efforts and education of others that will continue to benefit the Vineyard community for years to come.

Barbara is survived by her three sons, Chris, Brian, and Daniel; six grandchildren, Tessa, Alex, Meghan, Olivia, Ryan, and Patrick; three great-grandchildren,Rosie, Sloane, and Rory; and by her beloved cat Coco.

A celebration of life will take place on Nov. 25 at 14 Ben’s Way in Chilmark, at 1 pm. Email to share memories to