Barbara Van der Veer
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1931 - 2013
Resident of Walnut Creek
Knowing that she hated the name "Babs," her doting, yet treacherous older brothers ensured that "Babs" would be her nickname for her entire 82 years. Barbara Pearson Van der Veer passed away peacefully in San Francisco on July 21, 2013. A native of St. Paul, Minnesota, Barbara vowed not to live there again until global warming raised wintertime temperatures by at least 20 degrees.
She studied history at the University of Minnesota, and loved history all her life. The tale of Henry VIII's six wives was a favorite bedtime story. After graduation she moved to New York City, where she met Paul Van der Veer while ice skating at Rockefeller Center. They married in 1965, purchased a home in New Jersey and gave birth to daughter Karen in 1967. His job as editor of Pulp and Paper magazine brought the young family to Walnut Creek, California in 1972. Paul died suddenly in 1976.
The following year Barbara met and married Dick Shankwiler of San Rafael, California. Barbara and her young daughter moved into Dick's home in San Rafael, where Barbara became step-mother to Dick's three active teenagers. Nine year-old Karen could now experience the same treachery of two older brothers that Barbara had enjoyed in her youth, and Barbara now had four children to impress with her tireless domestic skills-growing and canning fruits and vegetables, playing the piano, sewing and knitting, maintaining a spotless, well-ordered home, and serving delicious dinners on time, every night. She made June Cleaver look like a slob.
Holiday meals were particularly impressive, not just for the quality of food, but for the assortment of guests, as Barbara invited shut-ins and family-less acquaintances to join her family so that they would not be alone for the holidays.
After Dick's passing in 1994, Barbara filled her days with church work, music, theater, and travel. She was a season subscriber to numerous performing arts groups in San Francisco and Marin, and she traveled extensively with Elderhostel.
In 2004 Barbara returned to Walnut Creek, where she continued her active lifestyle. During the winter months she was a daily fixture (rain, shine, or fog) at the Walnut Creek outdoor ice rink. Even after her walking abilities had slowed, she could glide across the ice with the same grace and ease that she had exhibited on the frozen lakes around St. Paul seventy years earlier.
Hearing a friend's lament that "good men are hard to find," Barbara reflected: "I don't know. I found two good men in my life, and I'm no one special." But Barbara was indeed special to those who knew her, and especially to the loved ones she leaves behind: Stan Pearson of Kansas City, MO, Karen Van der Veer of Portland, OR, Lynn (Shankwiler) MacDermott of San Rafael, Paul Shankwiler of Walnut Creek, Dave Shankwiler of Pasadena, and several grandchildren, who knew her affectionately as "Bama," a name she preferred immeasurably to "Babs."
Memorial donations can be made to Arden Wood, 445 Wawona St., San Francisco, CA 94116.
Published in Contra Costa Times on Aug. 3, 2013