Obituaries — Barbara Williams Madden

Barbara Williams Madden

Barbara (Williams) Madden passed away on July 15, 2017 at Wake Robin, in the loving embrace of her family, at the age of 96. Barbara was born on December 27, 1920, to Ruth Brown Williams and Frederick Edward Williams in Springfield, Mass.

Barbara grew up in Springfield through her high school years and was busily involved in a variety of interests: family, church, school, and community. Living on a lake she swam and canoed. At school, she played tympani in the orchestra that performed an oratorio each year, was a drum major in the marching band, played percussion in the concert band, and sang in the chorus. Hearing the Souza Band play annually at the Eastern States Exposition was a highlight of her year which she enjoyed with her family along with reading, gardening and exploring the area. In Girl Scouting she made the rank of Golden Eaglet, the highest award in scouting at that time and served as counselor at camp and for trips by several troops. She was also a Brownie and Mariner Girl Scout. She loved ballroom dancing, its dressing up, and had no difficulty finding partners. The young people’s program of her church home provided many of these programs. At 15, she along with three other girls bicycled around New England using American Youth Hostel Centers. It is not surprising that through the years she continued to be active physically, mentally and socially with wide interests and the daring to pursue them.

Barbara entered nursing, graduating from Boston Children’s Hospital School of Nursing, Teachers College Columbia University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked in clinical practice in pediatric orthopedics, taught in basic and graduate programs with clinical appointments at three universities, was a consultant in a program financed by the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis to the National League for Nursing. During these years she taught nursing care of the patient with poliomyelitis in about 40 states and gave nursing presentations at an International Polio Conference in Rome. She helped develop and acted in three documentaries on polio nursing care, one of which received a special award at the Venice International Film Festival in 1953. These films were widely used in schools of nursing, hospitals, public health agencies. Her last job was as Director of Nursing at a large rehabilitation center in California with the reputation of being the best in the country. Her staff was over 1000 people. She received teaching and research grants that made it possible to enrich the nursing service. One (1968-71) studied an expanded role of experienced nurses, certainly an integral part of the health care team today. During these ten years, Barbara became a wife, stepmother, and widow. Her stepson and grandson live in northern California.

Barbara served on 17 national health related committees such as the National Academy of Science and Veterans Administration Nursing Advisory Committee. She was a popular speaker and her favorite paper was “Breaking the Traditions for Nursing Practice,” a compilation of ideas from the nurses on her staff. Following retirement, she gave a series of lectures in five major health centers in South Africa at the invitation of the South African Cancer Society, the initial one being the first time black and white nurses shared a program together. At the time of the hostage crisis in Iran, she was fortunate to be home on a break. Her assignment was to develop a program on rehabilitation nursing for the Shah’s wife which was also to extend to Egypt and Jordan. Her lack of familiarity with the cultures made this a daunting task.

Barbara always had an active personal life taking advantage of what was available. Her itchy feet and adventurous spirit took her to many out-of-the-way places in our world. Being articulate, her sharing of her experiences gave great pleasure to others.

Retired again she lived on an old Long Island rural estate with close friendly neighbors where she gardened and sailed. A travel agent course did not fill her needs, so she volunteered at a U.S. Park Service museum, the home of William Floyd, the Long Island signer of the Declaration of Independence where she catalogued, inventoried and became a docent. Another move took her to Tennessee for 10 years where she helped build a log home, was cataloger and docent in a Victorian house museum and assisted in teaching computer skills in a senior center. She became an avid square dancer dancing locally, across the country and even internationally, earning a pin showing she danced to 238 callers.

Being closer to family became of major importance so she moved back to Vermont. Throughout these and the previous years she had the privilege of being caretaker to several beloved people. At 85, she moved to Wake Robin considering it the perfect place for her because of the interesting residents, variety of activities, quality of staff and facilities. She was an active member of the community, swimming, dancing, ringing bells, attending music and lectures, as well as participating in making it a rich warm place to live.

Barbara is survived by her niece, Lynn Kuralt, and nephew, Jason Peter Doubleday, both of Brattleboro, her great-nieces and nephews, and great-grand-nieces and nephews spread across the country. Her love of life and spirit of adventure will be missed by all.

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