By Donna Scully
I had heard about Barbara Moseley for years before I actually met her. Her stature in the small town we live in had donned her as “The Matriarch” of Vernon. Always involved with charitable events, raising money for the historians, seniors, and her beloved church. A teacher and librarian at the Vernon Elementary School for years. I had even heard her best friend was Joan Green, but I had yet to meet her also.
Barbara was very special to me. I had a teaching art studio, and she would take classes. She was multitalented, working in several mediums. A natural artist, with a love for her church, family, friends, home town and homestead. She had both an eye and talent for art.
Early life shares on railroads being built, horse and buggies, she was so knowledgeable but more importantly, willing to share her stories so generously. If I were to choose only one word to describe her it would be “generous”. She truly cared about others, and I truly believe she would give the shirt off her back to anyone who was in need.
Her homestead was her haven. Her artwork displayed all over, on the occasion you found her at an empty table, it was because Shirley had been there helping her clean. She surrounded herself with stacks of papers, magazines, books, notebooks, and photo albums. Not only was she interested in history, her wealth in knowledge of such, her stories, were great. Her writing shared with us all, in brilliant color, her memories of yesteryear and before.
When she first came to classes, the respect for this woman was apparent. And almost to the point where some didn’t feel comfortable joking around her. One day she came in late for class, there were probably a dozen women there at the time, and having spoken to Barbara the night before regarding some class info, she had told me she was unhappy with the cluttered bittersweet she added. So when she walked into the studio, late, I said to everyone “Hey guys, wait til you see the piece of s*&t Barbara painted!” Jaws were on their chests, how could I say this to her? They quickly learned that she had a great sense of humor, and liked to laugh like everyone else. And Barbara’s paintings were always beautiful, and reflected her own style. Quickly everyone was joking about helping her with her projects. There was the piece that I was teaching, and then there was Barbara’s piece. “When are we going to paint like Barbara?” Smiling.
What astounded me, and I still feel this way today, was how much diverse change she had lived through, and how accepting she was of all of it. I remember in her 70’s she was traveling to help a gay friend who had been ill. There was no judgement, no shock, she loved this person as they were. At this point in her life I started to pay close attention, because this was a woman I would learn from. How wonderful if I could become half the person she was at her age! Barbara was a true Christian. I loved this about her. She didn’t preach, she lived her life in this faith, and what a rich life it was.
She traveled to some beautiful places, which she would share with others. Enjoyed it. But this came to a halt once she adopted a cat named “Nola”. This was the name she would first say after serious illness and lengthy hospitalization at Dartmouth. Of course, David and Shirley made sure that Nola was cared for, just as they did when she adopted “Marcia”. Trust me when I say these two cats lived privileged lives!
I loved hearing her stories. In her 80’s she got a bit grumpy, but who wouldn’t? And one story in particular that I was sharing today was when she was telling me her father died when she was a baby. Her brother, a couple years older than her said he remembered their father bringing him fishing. With a grimace on her face, it was clear she didn’t agree or believe him. Her facial expressions revealed her thoughts and sometimes very bluntly.
She mentored me throughout the past 20 years or more, taught me so much about art, color, and she did this like she did everything else, generously. What a kind soul she was. And how blessed I have been to have had her in my life in such a significant manner for so long. My mom would bake pies, her favorite (of my moms) was custard. My mom always baked Barbara’s custard pie in the blue pie plate, because as an artist, Barbara appreciated not just the taste and aroma but also the aesthetics of the combined colors. She would always smile and ogle over the combination of blue and bright yellow (only fresh eggs for Barbara!) were just fabulous together! Barbara was an amazing artist. My studio was never busier then when Barbara was raising money for one of her many causes, and raffle tickets were sold, with the prize being one of her paintings. It was so nice to see this, and to hear all the wonderful things fellow townspeople would share about her, and her art. I hope she knows how respected and loved she was, and how much her community appreciated her.
I want to mention how beautiful she would dress, her hair was always neat and tidy, her favorite color was purple and she would adorn herself with pieces of jewelry, many gifts from friends. And how beautiful she looked in RED lipstick! One time when I found some largely reduced I went to deliver to her but she wasn’t there so I stuffed it between her doors. This proved to be quite the conversation piece! I left no note, just knew that I would see her soon!
I think I am a better person for having spent as much time with her as I did, on both a personal and professional level. I will always think of her as the seasons roll in, when a certain tree or visual catches my eye. Barbara’s “trees” she painted were spectacular. I recall one time we were painting a winter scene with sap buckets. She insisted the trees should be brown, I insisted charcoal grey (a mix of brown and gray). Well, on her way home she looked and called me “By golly, you are right, they do look more Charcoal Grey!” It felt great to be able to teach HER something!
I feel I need to mention a period of time where I don’t even know how to define it, but an unrest, a period of unease and lack of peace. Call it political, I’m not sure if that is correct, but she lost herself in this. It was a time where her peacefulness, her joy for life and all that she loved so dearly could not trump this difficult time. For me, it was so painful to see this. It was painful because she was angry, and resentful, and during this time became someone many of us didn’t understand. Thankfully that eventually ended. But it was a tragic time to me, to see this beautiful woman get bogged down in others untruths and vengeance.
I have always loved driving by her home. All the animals she drew out, that David cut out for her, and the quilt she painted that she envisioned and wanted on her barn. What a beautiful job she did. She came to paint with me one day in between painting on this and said her arms were so tired, it was more work than she ever imagined…. And yet she finished. This was important to her, these things were important to her. As well as her collection of blue pots that she liked in her porch. I learned so much from her, in life and art.
No doubt if there is a heaven, that is where Barbara is, and I hope to see her again. Barbara was an important part of my life, a lovely part of my life, a learning part of my life. I miss her, and always will. But I will always smile when I think about all the stories she told and recalled, and the passion that fueled her tired body when she had projects she wanted to do, even in her late 80s. An amazing woman, a good friend, and a beautiful person.
RIP Barbara Moseley. You will never be forgotten to me, or this town, that you called home!