Barbara K. Spring was born on March 17, 1943, the third child and only daughter to Robert and Leola Bayles, then of Colorado Springs. Her family lived in many places including camping for a year in Gallup, New Mexico, and she characterized her childhood as “simple living.” She figured that by the time she died, she had lived in 46 different homes throughout her life. Barbara often attributed her drive to make community to her relatively unsettled childhood.
For high school, Barbara attended a Brethren in Christ academy in California and, against her mother’s wishes, went on to college, graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in education. She earned a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education at Indiana University at Bloomington, and later, a Ph.D. in Gerontology from Union Graduate School at the age of 50.
In her late 20’s, Barbara moved with her husband to Zambia for two years of mission teaching with the Brethren in Christ Church. It was here that she had her daughter Tabitha. Two years later, after returning to the United States, she had her son, Jeremy.
Barbara and her family first attended Friends Meeting at Harrisburg Monthly Meeting, Pennsylvania in about 1975, becoming active members shortly thereafter.
Barbara moved with her family to Billings, Montana in 1981. She became a member of Billings Friends Meeting, which convened for many years in the living room of local Friends, Tom and Ruth Towe. In the early 1980s, Barbara was part of a group of Montana Friends that started Montana Gathering of Friends, including northern Wyoming, under North Pacific Yearly Meeting. MGOF continues to have semi-annual meetings.
In 1990, she moved to Missoula, Montana and became a member of Missoula Friends Meeting. She used her training and experience as a real estate agent to assist and advise the purchase of Missoula Meeting’s meeting house in 1993, financing the costs using rental income and personal contracts with Friends.
Along with cherishing her relationships in whatever community she resided, Barbara loved traveling. She often stated that her two years in Africa were some of the best years of her life. Barbara took great delight in all of the varied children of God, and loved to travel, to see and celebrate diverse cultures. She traveled frequently, often internationally, including a six month round the world trip with a dear friend, collecting many treasured memories that she recounted over her remaining years.
At the heart of Barbara’s community were her children and grandchildren. After her grandchildren Jack and Nora were born, she moved to Albany, New York from Missoula in the Fall of 2006. For the next twelve years Barbara took a very active role in the lives of her grandchildren and made her home with them for several years.
Upon moving to New York to be with family, Barbara immediately became active in Albany Monthly Meeting, which received her transfer of membership in 2008.
In her work life and community, Barbara started many groups and projects, and rejoiced in passing them along to others to continue. She also liked to work in teams because it enriched her work and provided for strong foundations to grow.
She worked with Ira Byock to start The Missoula Demonstration Project, a community-based program to collect stories about and provide solutions and guidance for support during the dying process. Ira used the work they did together to write the books “Dying Well: The Prospect for Growth at the End of Life” and “The Four Things That Matter Most”. Barbara often reminded people of these four things to remember to say at the end of life, “Please forgive me,” “I forgive you,” “Thank you,” and “I love you,” usually adding a fifth: “Goodbye.” She used these herself many times in the last few months of her life.
In 2007 she and Anita Paul of Schenectady Monthly Meeting embarked on another such project. At that year’s New York Yearly Meeting (NYYM) Summer Sessions, they attended an interest group with representatives of the newly formed Friends Foundation for the Aging (FFA), and promptly launched a pilot program to offer consultations on aging and end of life to Friends in the Albany metro area. The success of that pilot became the ARCH (Aging Resources Consultation and Help) Program of NYYM, funded by FFA and under the care of NYYM’s Committee on Aging Concerns (CAC). With persistence and help from the CAC, she and Anita grew ARCH into a volunteer-fueled ARCH Visitor Program, offering training for ARCH Visitors to gain a sense of confidence in making referrals to appropriate services, spiritual listening, and building meeting capacity to care for one another as we grow older. In the last few years the ARCH program has begun to expand beyond the borders of NYYM, creating sister programs among Friends in other places. Many Friends remarked at the end of her life how this training she had provided to others came back to her as Friends turned their capacity to organize their care to her dying process.
Barbara led ARCH trainings for Albany Meeting members and recruited several to be ARCH Visitors. Barbara reminded Friends to ask for help when needed and to be available to help others. She helped the entire Meeting develop a loving, caring culture for one another. Her work with positive aging also extended beyond the Quaker community. She organized and nurtured two Seasons groups of Quaker and non-Quaker older women in the Albany area, which both have continued for over ten years meeting monthly to share support and perspectives on the experiences of aging.
In addition to her passion for creating cultural change in our society’s ageism and death denial, she was passionate about racial justice and healing. Barbara often spoke about how moving to the more racially diverse Albany area opened her eyes to new aspects of racism. She quickly volunteered to support the community’s Underground Railroad History Project, joined Albany Meeting’s Friends for Racial Justice Committee and was its inspired clerk for many years. She was deeply involved in developing the committee’s Stories for Racial Justice Program which offered listening and learning experiences to the wider community.
Under Barbara’s leadership, Friends for Racial Justice reached out to other faith organizations to plan together a community conference in 2017, Building the Beloved Community: Beyond Racism. The conference created an ongoing network which facilitated discussions about racial history and racial justice. The group has educated itself and others about implicit bias, white privilege and how to be a good white ally. Barbara and others in the Beloved Community group participated in rallies and other events supporting racial justice and were involved in educational initiatives organized by the Institute for Racial Equity and Healing at the Macedonia Baptist Church.
In the fall of 2017, an African American friend asked Barbara to read “Gather at the Table”, a book written by a descendant of a slave and a descendant of a family that held slaves. Barbara formed a book group to read it together, after which Barbara and several others attended a national Coming to the Table Conference, resulting in the creation of an Albany Coming to the Table group in the summer of 2018. She was also on the Board of Albany’s Grand Street Community Arts organization, helping to create a low power radio station to serve a largely African American area of Albany. Barbara involved others in lobbying on behalf of racial justice issues in the state legislature. At the end of her life she brought her concerns about aging and racism together through exploring providing ARCH services to those who are growing old while incarcerated.
Barbara put into practice other Quaker testimonies as well. After moving to Albany, Barbara became active in the Iran Project of Women Against War. In 2007 she traveled to Iran as a member of a citizen diplomacy delegation of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, speaking about the need for a peaceful US-Iran relationship on her return. Barbara was also deeply concerned about living with respect for the environment and for her retirement built a very small, very green, house.
In all of her projects she saw herself as a bridge person, making connections and bringing people together. She did this to enrich the lives of others and for the pleasure she got from seeing connections made. She taught by example how to live into our dying with verve and wisdom.
She died on June 11, 2019 surrounded by her family at her home in Voorheesville, New York.
Approved at Albany Monthly Meeting business session July 14, 2019, Anne Liske, Clerk