Susan Sanborn Barker (1949 - 2014)

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    - Nanci Young
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NORTHAMPTON - Susan Sanborn Barker, 64, of Northampton, died peacefully Tuesday, March 11, 2014, at Vibra Hospital of Western Massachusetts in Springfield, after a long struggle with polycystic kidney disease.

She was born June 18, 1949, in Newton, daughter and first child of Paul V. Barker and the late Patricia C. Barker.

Susan was awarded her bachelor's degree in plant and soil science from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. During her time as a college student, she studied poetry with James Tate. She loved nature, and was a frequent visitor to Midmount, the family's rustic cabin in Hill, N.H., and Wellington State Park on Newfound Lake in Bristol, N.H. Creative writing was Susan's true passion. Many of her poems were published in Dirt, A Garden Journal from the Connecticut River Valley, The Massachusetts Review, and Dark Horse.

Since 1997, Susan had been employed by Smith College as an administrative assistant in the Sophia Smith Collection and College Archives of the Neilson Library. In 2000, Susan transcribed Sylvia Plath's college journals prior to editing by her friend and colleague Karen Kukil and subsequent publication by Faber and Faber in London, and Anchor Books in New York. Susan also worked at the Academy of Music of Northampton, Whately Antiquarian Book Center, Hampshire Community Action Commission (fuel assistance), Highland Valley Elder Services, and Williston Northampton School. She was a long time member of the Unitarian Society of Northampton.

Susan is survived by her cherished son Ian W. Downs, his partner Monica Sumner, and three grandchildren, Ethan Sumner, Mace Sumner Downs, and Odin Sumner Downs, all of Whately; her father Paul V. Barker; her younger brother John M. Barker and his wife Patricia A. Barker; and her youngest brother Peter F. Barker and his wife Christina A. Schaefer, all of Hill, N.H.; her nieces Erin Barker Rice, Ruth Purnell Young, Jane Purnell, and Fiona Barker; and nephews John Barker and Alex Purnell.

Susan was predeceased by her beloved sister Robin B. Purnell of Washington, Va.

Susan's life will be celebrated Wednesday, June 18, at 5 p.m. with family and friends at the Unitarian Society of Northampton, 220 Main St., Northampton, with a private family burial in Hill, N.H., planned for later in June.

New England Funeral and Cremation Center, LLC, is assisting the family. Please visit for online expressions of sympathy.

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Published in Daily Hampshire Gazette on Mar. 15, 2014
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