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Marcia Stevens Barber

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BLOOMFIELD, Conn. -- Marcia Stevens Barber, formerly of Bennington, Vt., died at Duncaster in Bloomfield, Nov. 5, 2004, six days short of her 98th birthday. She had received numerous visits from her children and grandchildren in the days immediately preceding her death.

Marcia Lamberton Stevens, the daughter of Fred Nathaniel Stevens and Julia Minetta Wallich, was born in Hoosick Falls, N.Y. on Nov. 11, 1906.

She graduated from Mary A. Burnham School for Girls, Northampton, Mass., 1923; Les Fougeres, Lausanne, Switzerland, 1924; Wellesley College, 1929; and Sarah Conklin Secretarial School, NYC, 1931.

From 1931 to 1932 she was secretary to the treasurer of Bennington College in its New York office.

On Sept. 10, 1932, she married Norton Barber, then a 29-year old Bennington County state’s attorney prosecuting rumrunners and other miscreants, who went on to a long career as a member of the Vermont bar and in local and state government. He was chief architect of the 1970 act that consolidated the villages of Bennington and Old Bennington with the Town of Bennington.

She had been a member of the First Church of Christ Scientist, Bennington, and was later affiliated with First Church (Congregational), Old Bennington. Other memberships included Bennington Plain Dirt Gardeners and Garden Club; League of Women Voters; Vermont Natural Resources Council.

From 1964 to 1967, as chairman of the Legislative and Roadside Development committees, Federated Garden Clubs of Vermont, she helped lead the statewide effort to lobby the legislature in support of what would become Vermont’s landmark 1968 legislation banning billboards from the state. She served as FGCVT president from 1969-1971. From 1971-1973 she was New England Regional Chairman for Roadsides under the National Council of State Garden Clubs.

During the 1970s she was also active on the board of the Hoosic River Basin Citizens Environmental Protection Association (HRBCEPA, based in Williamstown, Mass.)

After studying the teaching of reading at the University of Vermont in 1964, she taught remedial reading in Bennington for five years. During this period she wrote “Joseph: The Man in the Shadows,” a one-act play emphasizing the importance of a father’s presence and influence in family life that was later produced in Bennington churches. Her second play, “The Jericho Road,” for Sunday school-age children was produced as a Union Lenten Service by the Bennington County Council of Churches.

Over her long life, she was an inveterate reader with wide interests, especially fond of mysteries and comedies of manners, modern history, family history, local and national politics, and - from her friendship with the Japanese volcanologist Shigeo Aramaki, whom she and her husband had befriended during his student years - the mysteries of the hidden earth. She and her husband enjoyed having friends to lively dinner parties full of good talk and, often afterward, to holiday musicales.

After her husband’s death in 1983 she moved to Duncaster, a life-care community, in 1984. During her active years there she took part in play readings, read widely in and wrote poetry and short stories, studied the history of the local Tunxis Indians, read aloud to sight-impaired residents, and served as editor of and contributed many pieces to in-house resident publications. From 1988-1993 she was a volunteer reading tutor in Bloomfield’s Vincent School, and kept up an active correspondence with her young pen pals.

In her late 70s, because of her interest in teaching -- and growing out of her Bennington experience in providing a home for her own aging parents until her mother’s death at 81 and her father’s at 79 (her mother having been born in 1865, her father in 1868) - she contacted the University of Connecticut Medical School to see if they were interested in finding the reasons for longevity. Upon being told they were, she donated her body to the school.

She is survived by two sons and two daughters and their families, Orion Metcalf Barber II and Carol Heald Barber of Brattleboro, Vt., Nancy Stoughton Barber of Tewksbury, Mass., Elizabeth Stevens Barber Houck and her husband Oliver Austin Houck of New Orleans, Jonathan Luman Barber and his wife Margaret Ellen Howes of Cambridge, N.Y.; her grandchildren, Nathaniel Hurd Barber, his wife Barbara Ann Lilley and great-grandson Liam Hyun-Min Barber of Delmar, N.Y., Caleb Julian Norton Barber and his wife Deirdre Molloy Heekin of Barnard, Vt., Cyprian Norton Houck and Gabriel Austin Houck of New Orleans, Claire Julia Howes Barber of Cambridge, N.Y., and by many Duhamel, Howard, Cushman, Fletcher, Stevens and MacGruer cousins and their families.

She was predeceased by her parents; two brothers, Frederick Wallich Stevens and Carl Wallich Stevens; and her husband.

A memorial service will be announced by her children for a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations may be made in her name to the Duncaster Foundation Education Fund, 40 Loeffler Road, Bloomfield, CT 06002; to non-profit organizations concerned with preserving Vermont’s environment; or to the environmental organization of one’s choice.

She was a greatly loved person of spirit and character, a link to another age, and though at peace at last, she is sorely missed.
Published in Bennington Banner on Dec. 4, 2004
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