Barbara Hamilton Brainard Robbins
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MANSFIELD: Barbara Hamilton Brainard Robbins, 90, died three hours into her 90th birthday March 31, 2014 at Riverside Hospital following an emergency surgery. "I'd like to make it to 90-that would be neat! But, not a day more," she had said three weeks prior, healthy with a bright smile. Her intuition and ability to persuade even death to agree with her will surprise no one.
Sassy, spunky, faithful and generous, she was a woman ahead of her time, refusing to let gender or societal norms stand in the way of her plans.
Born March 31, 1924 in Chicopee, Mass., Barbara was the daughter of Charles Duncan and Gladys Hamilton Brainard. Rebuffing the idea of traditional girls' schools, Barbara pursued art at Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a drafting department supervisor at American Bosch Corporation to support the war effort. Upon graduation in 1945, she became an industrial designer and draftsman.
Her mother, active in the USO, organized a military dance and planned to introduce her to a young officer, but Barbara had already been swept off her feet by an enlisted man from Mississippi, Elbert Ford Robbins. They married June 15, 1946.
As her husband built his textiles business, Barbara opened her first studio in Bennington, Vt., teaching arts and crafts in every medium imaginable. Her second career was in the church, where she chaired the board of Christian education, led youth groups and Sunday School, was superintendent of the church school, and was a member of the building committee.
As she moved across the country to Leola, Penn., Flagstaff, Ariz., and Mesa, Ariz., she contributed to every church community she lived in, eventually feeling called to ministry. In 1974, she earned her MFA from Arizona State University and teaching permit and became a kindergarten art teacher in the public schools, using the language of art to reach immigrant children who did not speak English.
An artist and committed Christian, she had a gift for recognizing the beauty in all things created, by man and God alike.
As her husband became an accomplished CEO, she suggested he quit and join her in being an artist. Once retired, he did, and together they opened The Robbins Studio, designing and producing custom furniture and stained glass. They continued the studio as they retired to Jackson, Miss., where Barbara embraced a Southern lifestyle fully. They enjoyed nearly 20 years there before moving to Mansfield, Ohio.
At age 81, after her husband passed, Barbara entered into Ashland Theological Seminary-the fulfillment of a lifelong dream. Barbara's conversation with God had started in the third grade and she wrote almost daily letters to Him throughout her late years.
Forward-thinking and ambitious, a New England woman at home in the South; Barbara stretched the boundaries of age and expectation. Through her late-80s, she gardened, served meals at the food pantry, read to children (even being named volunteer of the year), and folded clothes at the thrift store just weeks before she passed.
Barbara was an artist and educator, committed to her faith and family, who lived her life in service to others.
She is survived by her four children and their families: daughter, Sara (Dale) Lewis of Mansfield; son, Glenn E. Robbins of Mesa, Arizona; daughter, Constance Martinez of Mesa, Arizona; daughter, Lisa (Paul) Ellis of Chandler, Arizona; granddaughter, Allison Lewis (Imran) Lodhi of Fishers, Indiana; grandson, Grant J. Lewis of Okinawa, Japan; grandsons, Logan Ellis and Chase Ellis of Chandler, Arizona; grandsons, Alexander Martinez and Joshua Martinez of Mesa, Arizona; grandsons, Stuart Robbins and Nicholas Robbins of Mesa, Arizona; great-grandson, Andrew Reitman-Lewis of Fishers, Indiana; great-granddaughter, Rylynn Lewis of Parma, Idaho; sister, Charlotte Ferguson of Center Tuftonboro, New Hampshire; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, husband Elbert Ford Robbins, and son-in-law, Hector Martinez.
The family will receive friends from 1:00 to 2:00 with memorial services to follow on Monday, April 7 at 2:00 p.m. at St. John's United Church of Christ, 68 Park Avenue East, Mansfield, conducted by Rev. Dawn Donato. Memorial contributions may be directed to St. John's United Church of Christ or Culliver Reading Center 276 Harker Street, Mansfield, Ohio 44903.
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Published in the News Journal on Apr. 4, 2014