Barbara Lambert
1933 - 2020
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Barbara Lambert 1933 - 2020
NEW HARTFORD - Our mom, grandmother, and friend, Barbara Lambert, ended her adventures on Earth on June 6, 2020. She had turned 87 a few days earlier, a milestone that she celebrated with her children via FaceTime.
Barb was born on June 2, 1933 in Syracuse, NY, the daughter of the late Jerry and Rose (Klein) Streicher. Owing to Jerry's profession in the retail shoe business, the Streicher family moved often, living in Kansas City, MO, Newark, NJ, New York City, and Rochester, NY before settling in Utica in 1940. Barb graduated from Utica Free Academy in 1951, and in 1955 she graduated from Syracuse University, where she majored in sociology and minored in Russian studies.
Although she originally planned to continue her dual major at Yale after graduation, she chose instead to marry Philip "Buddy" Lambert on June 19, 1955 in Utica. Barb and Buddy were married 52 years until Buddy's passing on August 12, 2007. The couple lived in Fayetteville, NY until 1962, when they and their four children (Kim, Ross, Alan, Holley) moved to New Hartford.
Barb enrolled at Utica College as a part-time student in 1966, and received her Master's degree in Elementary Education in 1971. She served as a corrective reading teacher in the New Hartford and Utica school districts as well as a GED instructor in New Hartford before being named the first Curator of Education at the Utica Zoo in 1973, a position she held until her retirement in 1987. Whole generations of school children knew her as "The Zoo Lady" as she traveled from classroom to classroom throughout Oneida County presenting curriculum-coordinated lessons to go along with four handleable zoo animals (including the ever-popular boa constrictor, Pretzel).
All of the Lamberts shared Barb's dedication to the zoo, washing donated lettuce in the family driveway, providing visitors with Ry-Krisp crackers to feed to the animals, and staffing various booths during annual Zoo Fairs. In addition, Barb and Buddy spent many a late night laying out the Zootica newsletter by hand. It was truly a family community-service effort.
Following retirement from the zoo, Barb served as a substitute teacher for the Utica City School District, a citizenship teacher at the BOCES ACCESS Center in Utica, and a volunteer reading tutor at Jones Elementary School in Utica. She was a volunteer proofreader for Utica College, carefully combing through draft Pioneer alumni magazines with an editor's keen eye, and she served as the copy editor for an instructional book on furniture refinishing written by her friend, Marge Van Slyke. Barb also enjoyed volunteering at the Lutheran Home with her therapy dog, Jenny, a rescue dog she adopted from the Rome Humane Society.
Barb greatly enjoyed reading, doing New York Times crossword puzzles, watching SU men's basketball games, flower and vegetable gardening, knitting, and, when she was able, cross-country skiing. She enjoyed watching movies and attending theatrical performances, especially musicals, and often talked about Broadway productions that her parents took her to as a child. She shared an interest in genealogy with her son-in-law, Ted O'Bryan, and together they created family histories for the Lambert, Streicher, and Klein families.
Barb was a consummate teacher and a rabid proofreader who delighted in catching grammatical errors in newspapers and magazines. She enjoyed creating humorous poems to celebrate special occasions. The poem that she wrote for her own 80th birthday included this line:
"Before I was 30, I was mothering four
Or five (counting Buddy) – oh well, what was one more?"
Finally, although she would deny it, Barb ably channeled Buddy's love of puns, a "skill" that lives on in her children.
Barb was truly a kind person who had an amazing sense of fairness; she once left a coin on top of a parking meter when winter ice blocked the slot. She was generous, thanking those who helped her over the years with home-baked goodies, gift cards to favorite restaurants, and for a few lucky people, hand-knitted afghans. She was immensely proud of her family's accomplishments, and kept numerous scrapbooks documenting their success stories. She was interesting and interested until the end.
In the last eight years of her life, Barb experienced a number of significant health issues, many life-threatening. Through it all, she maintained extraordinary grace, deep gratitude for those who cared for her, and most of all, a delightful sense of humor. About a week before she passed away, Barb tested positive for COVID-19. While her condition was miraculously improving, it was a previous illness that claimed her life. Whether it was strength or sheer stubbornness, she fought hard, and for that the family is in awe.
Barb is survived by her daughter, Kim Lambert (William Wheatley); son, Alan Lambert; daughter, Holley O'Bryan (Ted); grandchildren Randy Lambert and Kimberley Goodman and their mother, Kelley Kelley; and several nieces, nephews, and cousins with special mention of Jerry and Barb Klein, Karen Allen, Bonnie Brown, and Judy Graham. She is also survived by her beloved kitty, Abby. In addition to her parents, Barb was predeceased by her husband, Buddy; son, Ross; brother, Sydney Streicher; nephew, Jack Streicher; and her cousin and close friend, Roberta Balfus.
The family wishes to thank the caretakers who made it possible for Barb to live at home as long as she did, with special mention of Nicole, Linda, and Jasmine, and the many nurses and aides who cared for her. The family also thanks the doctors who saved her life on more than one occasion, including, most recently, Dr. Ghassan Koussa. To the front-line nurses at St. Elizabeth and St. Luke's hospitals, you are heroes. Special thanks to Dr. Amy Gorzynski, who for more than 20 years helped our mother lead a life that was not only well-lived but also on her own terms. Dr. G., there aren't enough words to thank you for all that you did for our mom.
Donations in Barb's memory may be made to the Humane Society of Rome (NY) or the Utica Zoo.
Barb and Kim co-wrote this obituary and, of course, Barb edited it from her hospital bed. She wanted to tell her children how grateful she was for their loving care, and she thanked her daughters and their husbands for their homemade "Gourmet Meals on Wheels."
After our father died, Mom created a list of "Buddy-isms" – the funny and quirky things he was known for or would often say. We will now start our list of "Mom-isms."
The family will observe a private graveside service for Barb.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Mark C. Bentz Funeral Service in New Hartford. Condolences may be posted to bentzfuneralhomes.com.
May Barb rest in peace.
May her memory be a blessing.

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Published in The Observer-Dispatch from Jun. 8 to Jun. 9, 2020.
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MEMORIES & CONDOLENCES
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9 entries
June 12, 2020
I have fond memories of being in the zoo mobile with Mrs. Lambert and my mother, Cynthia Tenney. I was always excited to get to carry the boa constrictor! I went with them to schools when I was very young. I still have a fear of llamas since the one in the zoo mobile used to try to eat my hair and spit at me! I remember having alligator chocolates at the Lamberts house, of course Id remember that! I also have so many great memories of the Zoo Fair! The Lamberts were definitely part of our Utica Zoo family! So sorry to hear of the loss of Mrs. Lambert, I hope she and my mom are running a zoo mobile in heaven!
Sincerely,
Betsy Lewis (Tenney)
Betsy Lewis
Friend
June 10, 2020
I had the pleasure of meeting Barb in December of 2017 when Alan and I visited Utica together. She was kind and welcoming to me. I loved the fact that, although she was tiny and looked frail, she was still very interested in talking and sharing her opinions about things such as current events and politics to how to cook the pasta the way she liked it! : )
I'm grateful I had the opportunity to meet her and I will keep her family in my thoughts and prayers.
Lisa Trout
Acquaintance
June 10, 2020
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Joseph Perry
June 10, 2020
I had the privilege of knowing Barbara during my teaching years in the Utica City School District. To my students she was the Zoo Lady and to me she was the best! The world has lost a remarkable person. My sympathies to her family and may she Rest In Peace.
Theresa Custodero
Coworker
June 9, 2020
Barb taught me so much. I worked with her at Utica Zoo.
God bless her and her family.
Susan Diperna
Coworker
June 9, 2020
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Robert Kozel
June 9, 2020
A wonderfully kind, always interesting person. I found she always had much to offer and the patience to listen.
Bob Kozel
Family
June 8, 2020
My students learned so much from Barb, "The Zoo Lady" and so looked forward to her visits. They loved guessing what animals she would bring to share. She was an amazing woman.
Marie Duink
Marie Duink
June 8, 2020
What an amazing woman Barb was. I knew her as the Zoo Lady to my students, a curling friend when I teamed with Phil on the ice and a neighbor to visit. Hers was truly a life well lived. My condolences to you all, especially Holley.
Deb Martin
Friend
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