Barbara Coffeen Fischer (1929 - 2014)

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Barbara Coffeen Fischer

Calico Rock, Arkansas resident, Barbara Coffeen Fischer, passed peacefully away on January 31, 2014 from multiple injuries sustained as a result of a January 22, single vehicle auto accident precipitated by a stroke. She was born on October 24, 1929, in Little Rock, Arkansas to parents Richard Preston Coffeen and Lydia Eleanor Eslinger. Relocating to Illinois, Barbara grew up in the town of Wood River where her father managed the Colonial Dairy.

Upon graduation from high school 1947, Barbara went on to attend the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana where upon graduation in 1952 she received two Bachelors of Science degrees, one in Zoology and the other in Sociology. She was proud to have been a third generation U of I graduate, preceded by both parents and her grandfather, who graduated from the university in the late 1800's. This tradition has been carried on by three of her four sons and her granddaughter, Sarah, making the alumni string now five generations long.

Utilizing her Sociology degree, Barbara's first employment was at an Illinois women's correctional facility in Dwight, Illinois. She married Hans J. Fischer in 1953, transitioning to the role of housewife. The union produced her four surviving sons, Richard Coffeen Fischer of Calico Rock, Arkansas; Kurt Frederick Fischer of Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada; Eric Matthew "Matt" Fischer of Flower Mound, Texas; and Mark Preston Fischer of Sycamore, Illinois. The family settled in Carbondale, Illinois, in 1960, where all four boys ultimately received their primary and high school educations. Under her tutelage fostered by a firm belief in the value of higher education all four sons ultimately received college degrees, ranging from BA, MBA to PhD, with each moving on into fulfilling professional careers.

Divorced in 1975, Barbara assumed full responsibility as a single, working mother raising her two youngest sons singlehandedly. During this time she was employed as an electrocardiogram technician, first at the hospital in Herrin, Illinois, and later at the U.S. Veterans Hospital in nearby Marion, Illinois.

Upon the deaths of her parents and inheritance of the Coffeen family farm in central Illinois originally acquired in 1869, Barbara remotely managed the tenant lease farming of the land from her residence in Carbondale. Coffeen Street in Homer, Illinois was named after the prominent family. Retiring from professional life, Barbara began a search for a location in the beautiful Ozarks in which to spend the final phase of her active life, with Calico Rock, Arkansas being the ultimate selection. She quickly acquired 56 acres of undeveloped, raw land on which she spent the next 25 years building what today exists as Merrythought Farm.

Directing construction first of the large barn, into which when finished she moved her furniture and belongings for storage, Barbara set up housekeeping on the property in a 28 foot travel trailer while a spacious farmhouse designed to her specifications was constructed. The little hobby farm came together over the years with the addition of other buildings, clearing and fencing of pastures, and the introduction of various livestock, including the beginnings of a herd of registered goats of various breeds.

As a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), Barbara was proud of her ancestry which stretched back to Captain John Coffeen of Vermont who had fought for the Nation's independence. She also performed extensive family genealogical research that traced the Coffeen family to Ireland prior to immigrating to America.

To all who knew her, Barbara was considered a determined, independent woman who set goals and then did the planning and work needed to achieve them, as is illustrated by her many accomplishments throughout her long, adventurous life. Barbara set the rules for how she lived and enjoyed on her own terms a wonderful 84 years.

In addition to all four of her sons, Barbara is survived by four grandchildren: John Coffeen Fischer and Lucas Matthew Fischer (sons of Matt and Maggie Fischer), both students at the University of Oklahoma; Sarah Caroline Fischer, graduate student at the University of Southern California and Kiah Amara Fischer, student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point (daughters of Mark and Tammy Fischer).

A memorial service has been scheduled for Saturday, February 15, at 2:00 p.m. at the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in Calico Rock, Arkansas. Interment will be at Mount Hope Cemetery in Champaign, Illinois at a date to be determined. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made in Barbara's honor, to the Calico Rock Museum Foundation, 104 Main Street, Calico Rock, Arkansas 72519.

Published in Baxter Bulletin on Feb. 12, 2014
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