Barbara Otis | Passages

May 11, 1928 – June 13, 2022

Imagine a young girl full of laughter and frolic on the beaches of southern California, tanning with her girlfriends and flirting with the boys, and you would know Barbara.

She was like the child who saw the world new each day finding discovery in the beauty and fun of life. Although Barbara was shy, she used her quirky, Gracie Allen, sense of humor to bring laughter, levity, and easy connection with others to create life-long friendships. She was a mother, a gardener, a wife, a volunteer, a baker of sweets, and a lover of animals.

Just as with any long life, there were challenges. Through her challenges, she found strength in her Christian faith and knew God granted her the serenity to accept the things she could not change, the courage to change the things she could, and, most importantly, the wisdom to know the difference. An inspiration to others on how it’s possible to recover from alcohol addiction and realize life’s potential.

She lived a long and wonderful life, leaving this world on June 13, 2022 at the age of 94, two weeks after the passing of her youngest son, Greg.

In 1935, at the age of 7, Barbara and her father made a cross-country bus trip from her birthplace of Framingham, Massachusetts to Pasadena, California where her grandmother lived. Once established, they were joined by her mother, two younger sisters and older brother. The family was poor and in search of a new life. The early years were a struggle, often moving between houses too small, and, at times, pitching a tent on the beach. Food came from the school and clothes from the Salvation Army. The three girls frequently slept in one bed, head to toe. Arguments ensued, but so did laughter and love of family.

In her late teens, while chatting with her girlfriends at a fraternity-sorority dance, Barbara heard someone say, “May I have this dance?”. She turned to look into the friendly eyes and welcoming smile of Bob Otis. In her fun, teasing way, she said, “It depends, are you a good dancer?”. “No”, he said, “Not with other girls, but I will sweep you off your feet!” Barbara smiled and replied, “We’ll see about that!”Bob already knew Barbara was the love of his life, as moments before meeting her he told his friend, “That’s the girl I’m going to marry!”. And so it was … Married in 1950, Barbara and Bob bought a small house in Temple City, California on a cul-de-sac populated by young couples with small children, got a collie dog, and relaxed at after-work cocktail parties alternating between neighboring homes. The post war 50’s — a new life and party time! Two sons, Jeff and Greg, entered their lives following a number of years of marital bliss.

Barbara reveled at being a homemaker – cooking, making household items, caring for the kids, “don’t forget your sweater”, and, of course, the ultimate warning “be careful!”. Barbara and Bob loved to experience and explore the hidden places between the mountains and the shore, indulging in skiing, camping, hiking, and travel. In 1965, they embarked on a monumental road trip throughout the United States. In addition to experiencing the amazing diversity found from coast to coast, Barbara discovered her talent as a referee to Jeff and Greg poking each other in the back seat, and, that a loud shriek was good enough to persuade a meandering black bear from devouring Bob as he slept outside in Yellowstone!

Bob’s job as a financial planner with Unocal led the family to Washington State in 1971. Living in Washington enabled time to explore the Pacific NW, including the San Juan Islands. They bought a motorboat and went camping at the island marine parks. The family often stayed with their good friends Bob and Elvira Kelton at their historical over-the-water house in Westsound on Orcas Island, sharing many wonderful times on the deck, laughing, eating oysters fresh from the tidelands, and crab from the nearby waters. Great memories that eventually led to retiring on Orcas Island.

After Bob retired in 1985, they bought property in Westsound and built their dream house. The motorboat was replaced by a sailboat, which Barbara was not thrilled with … “Bob, quit making the boat tip!” … but enabled travelling to beautiful places among the islands and shoreline communities of Washington and Canada. Barbara and Bob immersed themselves in the Orcas Island community, joining the Orcas Island Yacht Club, Tennis Club, Westsound Community Club, Walkie-Talkies (a hiking group), Fidelis Circle (a woman’s club), volunteering at the Historical Museum, and became members of the Orcas Island Community Church. Many friendships were made and good times had from their association with these organizations.

Barbara wholeheartedly embraced her English heritage through the tradition of sharing tea and treats with friends from the comfort of her sunny breakfast nook or on the deck of her home. She loved gardening and expressed her passion by creating a beautiful flower garden of hydrangeas, roses and giant sunflowers. Barbara also helped Bob build and care for a large vegetable and fruit garden, growing everything from asparagus, beans, corn, various greens, apples, and plums. A bounty every summer!

Sadly, Bob passed in October of 2019. Two days before his planned memorial service, Barbara fell and broke her hip, requiring cancelation of Bob’s memorial, surgery, physical therapy, and assisted living . Three years later she joined her husband. Barbara is survived by her son Jeff, many nieces and nephews, and wonderful friends. An intimate graveside funeral was held for Barbara and Bob in July of 2022.

Please imagine Barbara with welcoming arms saying, “There’s my friend!” and sending blessings of love, laughter and joy to all.