Saturday, May 25, 2024
May 25, 2024

WILD, Barbara Mary

 Barbara Mary Wild (née Smardon) was born in Montreal on May 30, 1929, fifth child of Elizabeth (née Booth) and Frederick Smardon. Barbara grew up during World War II, losing her father and a brother before she was eleven years old. She went from high school to McGill University, earning a Bachelor of Arts in 1950. 

Barbara married Robert (Bob) Wild in 1949. The couple had a daughter, Catherine, in 1951. After Cathy’s birth they moved to rural Southern Ontario, where Bob was employed as an Anglican parish priest. Stephen, Nora and Anne were born while Bob and Barbara lived in Ontario. In 1959 Bob’s work took the family to Saskatoon, where their youngest child, Peter, was born. Barbara used public libraries and CBC Radio FM as a lifeline during the years when the children were young, informally continuing her education as best she could, both in literature and classical music.

In 1968 Barbara earned a Diploma of Education from the University of Saskatchewan, then worked teaching Grade 7 in Saskatoon. She threw herself into her work with a passion until the family moved to West Vancouver late in 1969, where Bob had accepted work. 

After trying (and hating) substitute teaching, which was the only public school work available in the Vancouver area at the time, Barbara attended UBC to become a teacher of English as a Second Language. She taught English to new Canadians at Vancouver Community College, exploring and laughing at the idiosyncrasies of the English language with her students, whom she admired and respected.

In the mid 1970’s Barbara once again went back to school, enrolling at Simon Fraser University to earn a Master’s degree in American Literature. Barbara absolutely thrived in the academic community at SFU, writing her thesis on American author Willa Cather and publishing a paper on BC novelist Ethel Wilson. In these years Barbara began to pursue a long cherished ambition to become a writer herself.

In 1979 Barbara and Bob parted ways, after which Barbara completed her studies at SFU while also working as a support person at a women’s shelter–work that drew upon both her tremendous compassion and her outstanding communication skills. She closed out her working years with Vancouver Housing Registry, an initiative of the YWCA, helping low income earners find housing. In these years Barbara met Jennifer Bradley, who became her dear friend and partner in the last three decades of her life.

Barbara struggled most of her life with self doubt and anxiety, while at the same time showing courage in the face of change, and a great appreciation for small pleasures. She preferred to live simply. She felt great empathy toward animals and developed a deep attachment to the various dogs and cats who shared her home through the chapters of her life. She knew the names and habits of many birds, and spent countless hours visiting and learning about the diversity of trees for which Vancouver is famous. She never lost her passion for music, especially classical. Always at home in a bookstore or a library, Barbara continued to write poetry into her mid 80’s, frequently attending readings and participating in writers’ groups. 

Barbara was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease about ten years before her death. Jennifer cared for Barbara for the first five of those years, until Jennifer herself became ill, passing away in 2021, by which time Barbara was living in a care facility in Vancouver. In 2023 Barbara was moved to Greenwoods Eldercare facility on Salt Spring Island, where she spent the last year of her life, closer to her two youngest children, Anne and Peter. The staff at Greenwoods offered her a very kind and caring home, where she truly seemed to feel safe, loved and contented. 

Barbara left us very quietly on February 22nd, 2024. She is survived by her children Catherine Kleinman, Stephen Wild, Nora Morgan, Anne Millerd (John), Peter Wild (Tara), seven grandchildren (Fredrick, Peter, Frances, Jeffrey, Kieran, Joshua and Rosa) and seven great-grandchildren (Reuben, Orïa, Taika, Benjamin, Luke, Anna, and Claudia). Barbara was pre-deceased by her partner Jennifer Bradley and by grandchildren Sara Ewen and Michael Morgan.

1 COMMENT

  1. Wonderful story of an exceptional woman who was fortunate enough to end her journey on Salt Spring Island in the arms of her family there,

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