|Barbara Jean Wescott Pontliana Genealogical Information|
|Barbara at 2 days||Barbara at 3 months|
|Barbara at 6 months||Barbara at 1 year|
|1959 Family picture.
Top right: Ann
|1967 Family picture for my parents 25th wedding anniversary.|
The following newspaper article is the uncut version of a story that appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune
NEWSPAPER OF THE TWIN CITIES
March 27, 1990
Brian Nordstrom remembers that the water was crystal clear, "the prettiest blue," and he remembers the seductive underwater beauty of the sea, and how it seemed to envelop the divers and draw them, almost unwittingly, deeper and deeper into it.
And then he remembers the black regulator, the one that Barbara Wescott Pontliana was trying to twist into the mouth of an unconscious diver held by Janet Arnold, at a depth of 280 feet. And how, after grabbing the diver, he watched Pontliana and Arnold rise through the water ahead of him.
"They were hanging onto each other, arms like this (locked) ... perfect. Just what you do. One person can pull the other person up," Nordstrom said.
Brian Nordstrom will never forget that sight. It was the last time he saw Janet Arnold and Barb Pontliana. No one has seen them since.
Nine days after disappearing in the Caribbean near Ocho Rios, Jamaica, the bodies of Arnold and Pontliana are yet to be found. Officially, they are listed as missing, a status that may not change for 7 years, according to Alice Moore, consul with the U.S. Embassy in Kingston.
The body of a third victim, Nigel Andrade, a Jamaican dive master, was found on the surface of the water, even before all of the divers had made it back to the boat.
The official search for the women, conducted earlier with helicopters, ships and divers, has been called off. The Jamaican government has asked local fishermen to watch the coast.
A memorial service for Pontliana, 32, who lived in Eden Prairie, was held Friday at Christ the King Catholic Church in south Minneapolis. Yesterday, many of the same people attended a service for Arnold, 32, of Minneapolis, at Grace United Methodist Church in Webster, Wis., near her mother's home.
But while the search and the services are over, the pain and grief remain, a long with the questions of what happened.
The trouble apparently began when some of the divers hit bottom at more than twice the depth expected. It was compounded when Phil Ruffley, 39, of Minnetonka, lost consciousness and convulsed, leading to frantic attempts to rescue him that imperiled some of the others.
It had not been a good week for diving in fact, said Jim Stark, 63, of Richfield, the rainy and windy weather had made many of them sick. The group had arrived at Ocho Rios on March 11, but they had been forced to wait three days to dive, and then only off shore.
A short dive off the boat Thursday whetted their appetites for something better, said Nordstrom, 29, of Shorewood that night, Andrade told the group of a good reef 60 to 80 feet down, Mommytree Reef. They decided to dive for it the next morning.
On Friday there wasn't a cloud in the sky, and the winds had calmed slightly, although heavy swells remained on the sea. Clifford Whitehill, 58, a senior vice president for General Mills who has made up to 75 dives, said conditions wore fine for diving.
Jude Arnold, 37 was suffering from motion sickness, so her sister Janet was paired on the dive with Pontliana. Arnold had learned to dive six years ago; Pontliana was certified for diving by Nordstrom in December.
According to Whitehill and Stark an argument about the roughness of the sea and the diving location erupted between the ship's captain and Andrade, both of whom worked for Sea & Dive Jamaica, a local dive shop. The captain said he couldn't let down the anchor and allow the boat to tug up against it. So the anchor wasn't dropped. "If the anchor had been let down, one would have known it was not 80 foot water," Whitehill said.
Nordstrom said he never heard any such argument. What he remembers is his excitement, and Andrade's, about what they figured to be an easy and care free dive. Two dive masters for seven divers was an exceptionally safe ratio, he said.
"We were kind of laughing about it and saying, this is going to be great, maybe I'll be able to see some coral and some fish and still watch the people," Nordstrom said.
The plan was to dive to a maximum depth of 80 feet and spend about 20 minutes on the reef, which would require about 900 psi (pounds per square inch) of oxygen per diver. Nordstrom said each diver had about 2,500 psi, while he had about 1,800 since, as an instructor, he knew how to make his supply last longer. The deeper a diver goes, the faster his air supply is used up.
The group dived off the boat and met underneath it. "We all signaled OK at 15 feet, then the indications were to go ahead and make the descent," Whitehill said.
"What is normal on dives like this is, the native instructor will bring the group down to the bottom. He knows the bottom . . . like we know our city blocks," Nordstrom said "So they were to follow Nigel to the bottom."
Since Andrade was leading his group down, Nordstrom brought up the rear, watching for signs of trouble. He helped Stark clear his ears and continued down. Most of the group was below him.
"I still couldn't see a bottom and we should've seen a bottom," Nordstrom said. He realized the group was going too deep.
"Steve (Whitehill, 23, his son) was descending faster than I was," said Cliff Whitehill. "We kept descending and descending and I became concerned that something was wrong here. We were passing 100 feet and still no bottom in sight."
Nordstrom rapped his dive cord on his cylinder, which makes a loud noise underwater. Everyone kept going. By now, he was at 95 feet.
Merlin Knuth of Brooklyn Park, realizing they were going too deep, broke from the group and swam to Nordstrom, who now saw that the group's bubble stream had moved some distance away. It meant there was a current, pushing away from the shore out to sea.
Nordstrom sent Knuth and Stark back up and then started down after the rest of the group. By now he sensed trouble, but he did not yet know how much.
Cliff Whitehill hadn't caught up with his son until they touched bottom. At that point, he said his depth gauge read 180 feet
The Whitehills were 10 to 15 feet down a slight slope from Andrade, Ruffley, Pontliana and Arnold, also on the bottom. They went to join them.
"We all in a controlled panic. We knew we mare in trouble, but we knew we had to do something about it. We panicked and thought and acted," Ruffley said.
Andrade motioned to form a circle, and the group -- Arnold, Pontliana , Andrade, Ruffley and the Whitehills -- linked arms and began to ascend together. They had gone about 25 feet when Ruffley suddenly became disoriented, losing consciousness along with his regulator. What had been an organized group of six turned into chaos.
Steve Whitehill tried to give Ruffley air, despite the fact that he was perilously low. Then the others took over, and Steve came alongside his father. Cliff Whitehill, who has the use of only one arm because of polio, grabbed Steve and started up.
"Steve was out of air," Whitehill said. "I gave Steve my regulator and he was breathing from that as we were ascending. Then Steve indicated my tank was out of air." With about 50 feet remaining, the Whitehills made an emergency ascent, using the air remaining in their lungs.
When they reached the surface, Steve Whitehill was incoherent and bleeding from his mouth and nose as his father dragged him to the boat 100 yards away.
"His father saved (Steve's) life," Knuth said.
The first person Nordstrom saw on his way down was Andrade, floating up and looking relaxed "My initial response (to him was), what are you doing --there's divers down there -- what are you doing -- go down," Nordstrom said. Andrade looked at him and made a helpless gesture with his hands.
"I was angry with him because he left," Nordstrom said.
"The possibility is very great that, after the group formed and we started up, that (Andrade) suffered under (nitrogen) narcosis," Whitehill said. Nitrogen moves into the body in proportion to the water pressure, and too much nitrogen may result in a feeling of euphoria, dulling a divers senses and slowing his mental processes.
Nordstrom remembers seeing the Whitehills ascending together. And then he saw Arnold and Pontliana with Ruffley, who was unconscious.
By now, the current had carried them away from the continental shelf where they had alighted, over the shelf's edge and into ocean depths plunging as low as 450 feet.
The continental shelf on Jamaica's north coast is only a few hundred yards wide, said Jeremy Woodley, a biologist with the Discovery Bay Marine Laboratory who is assisting Ocho Rios police in its investigation. The shelf forms a boundary between land and the deeper parts of the ocean. The top of the shelf is about 100 to 200 feet deep; at its edge, the drop-off to the bottom measures from 100 to 150 feet, Woodley said. "When the people touched bottom at 180 feet, they were very near the edge," he said.
Nordstrom saw the two women holding Ruffley as Pontliana tried to insert her emergency regulator in to his mouth, to enable him to breathe air from her tank Ruffley's eyes were closed. He looked asleep.
Pontliana, seeing Nordstrom arrive, moved aside as he grabbed Ruffley by the neck and signaled the women to ascend. They went ahead as he secured Ruffley for the long trip back up. His electronic depth gauge, which has since been checked for accuracy, registered 283 feet.
"Everybody I saw in the water the whole time was fine except Phil, and Phil I thought was gone," Nordstrom said.
Another problem presented itself: Nordstrom had no air left. "I couldn't breathe," he said, although on the way up he kept the regulator in his mouth and caught short breath of air from his tank.
At the surface, Ruffley awoke with a start. An astonished Nordstrom, who had believed he was dead, pulled him to the boat.
Then Nordstrom began shouting: "Where are the girls? Where are the girls?" No one new.
The ship's captain spotted Andrade's body and went to pull it in, and Nordstrom swam to the Whitehills, who were drifting some distance from the boat. Steve Whitehill was on his back and "In bad shape." Nordstrom said.
After getting back to the boat, Nordstrom said he again hollered for Arnold and Pontliana. Three ships were in the area, having responded to radioed calls for help from the boat captain. Nordstrom climbed to the top deck and yelled to them, "Two girls!"
"It didn't drawn on me that they were in the water" Nordstrom said. "I knew they were scared floating on the surface. I expected to see them, 100 percent.. And we (had) to find them."
The boat circled the area for several minutes, and then -- with other ships on the water and a helicopter apparently on the way -- they decided to get Steve Whitehill to the hospital. Nordstrom, Ruffley and Knuth returned to the area after dropping the rest of the team off at the pier They searched, Nordstrom said, for about two hours.
The entire episode, from the dive into the water until Nordstrom emerged with Ruffley, had taken about 12 minutes.
It's clear the group wasn't diving where they had intended, but why is another matter. You have to question the mistake of both the captain and the dive master (Andrade) as to the location," Cliff Whitehill said. "Certainly Brian couldn't have known. We assumed it was a very broad reef, maybe a quarter mile wide."
Janet's mother, Fran Arnold of Danbury, Wis., said, "If they didn't hit the spot, they should not have let the divers off the boat"
The big problem, Nordstrom said, was the ocean itself. "If the current was going in, we would've been fine. If the current was going sideways, we would've been fine," he said. "There was a current. There was something that took us away from where we were supposed to be"
And why had the divers followed Andrade so deep? Some said they trusted the dive master to know what he was doing. He was experienced in those waters. "When they say you're going down and you're going to be on a 70 foot reef, nobody expected literally for the bottom not to be there low," Cliff Whitehill said.
Nordstrom said he thinks the beauty of the sea and their own excitement may have distracted the divers. He cannot explain Andrade's behavior, and doesn't know if it may have been caused by alcohol or drugs. An autopsy of Andrade's body has been done, but test results will not in available until next week.
Might Arnold and Pontliana have made it if they hadn't stopped to help Ruffley?
"The possibility of living would have been greater if they didn't try that, sure," Nordstrom said. "They could've been down there for maybe an extra 15 seconds, which could be a long time: It could be the difference."
Woodley said the bodies may never be found. "My feeling is that by the time they hit bottom, they would have been at 400 feet; the bodies would have sunk well out of scuba depth," he said. "They were, in fact, well out of scuba depth when they were last seen."
Nordstrom discounted hero status, even though Woodley said, "I think the save Brian made was fairly incredible. He saved the life of the man called Phil."
Brian was a trooper through the whole thing, "Ruffley said. "He grabbed the person in most distress and that was me."
Nordstrom and his wife, Rue, met with the families of Pontliana and Arnold an Wednesday and Thursday. "It was hard to look at them, because they have had no idea what happened, and I was the last one to see them alive, and to tell them what happened -- I feel so bad," he said.
Janet Arnold was a computer systems analyst at Marigold Foods Inc. in Minneapolis, ever since traveling six months in Europe last year. A St. Paul native, her family moved to the Danbury area in 1971 and she graduated from Webster (Wis.) High School in 1976. A graduate of a two-year computer course at Minneapolis Technical Institute, she served as president of the board of directors for the Wedge Community Coop in south Minneapolis.
Arnold, who was certified as a diver in 1981, won the trip to Ocho Rios through a contest sponsored a year ago by Club Scuba. She elected to take along her sister Jude, a more experienced diver
"She died as she would have wanted, in a beautiful place on an exciting adventure, and trying to help those around her," Jude Arnold said.
Pontliana, the fifth of six children, had been manager at TGI Friday's in Roseville for three years. She graduated from the University of Minnesota and married Como Pontliana, general manager of Grandma's Saloon & Deli in Minneapolis, in September 1981.
She was introduced to diving while the two were an a Jamaican vacation last October, and her fascination with the sport led to her certification as on open water diver in a cold, Missouri lake in December. Her trip to Jamaica last week was her first chance to try out her newly-acquired diving skills, Como Pontliana said.
Sunday and Monday night, Pontliana's husband and sisters -- Ann of Northville, Mich., Jane Schadegg of Maple Grave and Mary Wescott of Edina -- waited for hours at the Humphrey Charter Terminal for Pontliana's baggage, not knowing when it was to arrive. The wait was long and frustrating, but there was nothing better they could think to do.
"The shock came Friday night. We waited until Saturday to tell our parents. We weren't able to spring into action We just held onto each other and cried," Ann said. But on Sunday and for the last few days, the sisters have worked hard to find out as much about what happened as possible.
Ann said she was angry, in part, because her sister apparently had trained for diving in the right way "Barb went about this properly -- proper training, proper conditioning, proper certification, proper equipment -- She did what she was told."
Recently, Pontliana had fill out the organ release form on her driver's license application and asked her mother to sign it. When her mother objected Pontliana became adamant, Ann said "you have to do that, "Ann recalls her saying "Giving your organs is just something you have to do."
"Now," Ann said with a catch in her voice, "there's no body to do that with."
Sermon, Readings, and Prayers
Prayer for Barbara, Lost At Sea March 16, 1990
Eternal father the storm blows,
But when splinters only can be found
For if the seas were not challenged,
And if life were not lived,
Chaplain Neil Thompson,
First Reading (Read by Shelly Orr, Barb's friend)
A reading from the book of Lamentations [Lam 3, 17-26]
It is good to wait in silence for the Lord God to save.
My soul is deprived of peace,
But I will call this to mind, as my reason to have hope:
This is the Word of the Lord.
Intercessions: (Read by Mike, Barb's brother-in-law)
Brothers and sisters, Jesus Christ is risen from the dead and sits at the right hand of the Father where he intercedes for his Church. Confident that God hears the voices of those who trust in the Lord Jesus, we join our prayers to his:
In baptism Barbara received the light of Christ. Scatter the darkness now and lead her over the waters of death.
R. Hear our prayer.
Our sister Barbara was nourished at the table of the Savior. Welcome her into the halls of the heavenly banquet.
R. Hear our prayer.
Many friends and members of our families have gone before us and await the kingdom. Grant them an everlasting home with your Son.
R. Hear our prayer.
Those who trusted in the Lord now sleep in the Lord. Give refreshment, rest, and peace to all whose faith is known to you alone.
R. Hear our prayer.
The family and friends of Barbara seek comfort and consolation. Heal their pain and dispel the darkness and doubt that come from grief.
R. Hear our prayer.
We are assembled here in faith and confidence to pray for our sister Barbara. Strengthen our hope so that we may live in the expectation of your Son's coming.
R. Hear our prayer.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Second Reading (Read by Linda McHargue, Barb's friend)
A reading from the letter of Paul to the Romans [Rom 8, 31-35, 37-39]
Nothing can really come between us and the love of Christ.
If God is for us, who can be against us? Is it possible that he who did not spare his own Son but handed him over for the sake of us all will not grant us all things besides? Who shall bring a charge against God's chosen ones? God, who justifies? Who shall condemn them? Christ Jesus, who died or rather was raised up, who is at the right hand of God and who intercedes for us?
Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword? Yet in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us. For I am certain that neither death nor life, neither angels nor principalities, neither the present nor the future, nor powers, neither height nor depth nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from the love of God that comes to us in Christ Jesus, our Lord.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Sermon by Father William Martin, St. Mary's Catholic Church, Waverly, Minnesota
Whenever we gather together as a Christian community for a funeral of one of our members, we always come with a couple of reasons. The first thing is we are here to say good-bye to somebody that's been important to us. We are here to recognize the value of her life. We are here to recognize that there's going to be an empty space now because of her passing. We are here to deal with all of those feelings we have about the fact that this should never have happened. We are angry that she is dead. We're having trouble coming to terms with the fact we will not see her again. This is the kind of thing that is very difficult for us as human beings and there's a definite time for mourning as we gather together to remember her life and to pledge our support to those who were closest to her, especially Como, and to her parents and family, and her in-laws.
We're going to miss here terribly. There is nothing that can replace Barb. I suspect that if I could go around the room today --- and it would take us a long time, which is some measure of how many lives she touched in her life --- but each of you probably have a different story about Barbara, and you could tell them and say something about what she meant in your life. Those stories would be different depending on your relationship to her --- maybe her life affected yours very directly, especially if you are a member of her family --- maybe not so directly --- maybe somebody in her family touched your life, and it is through her affect on that person that you have been touched by her. But all of us are here today because she was important to us.
I can't say that I knew her real well. I can say that I was the presider at Barbara and Como's wedding, and I knew them from the preparation work that we did and from the celebration that we had of their marriage. I knew her to be somebody who was bright and who enjoyed life and who enjoyed people. And I still use the program from their wedding as a good example of how you should set up a service like that. I might have to retire it now.
She was somebody who affected us deeply and I think we are mistaken if we come here today to try to figure the meaning of her death. From all accounts there is no meaning that we can figure out. From all accounts, all that happened was stupid. But it happened, and yet what we can answer here is not the meaning of her death, but the meaning of her life. All of us can tell the stories about Barb's life and when we put all of that together, we will begin to have some idea of the meaning of her life. We will be able to begin to give thanks to God for her life and for all the ways she affected our life, and we will begin to have some understanding of how we can carry on her memory and make sure that her life was never meaningless.
All of us wish there was some way we could bring her back. That's impossible and yet at the same time, we gather together as people of faith and while it's important that we say good-bye to her and that we mourn her passing and that we recognize the profound loss that we have, still also we come together believing those words we just read from the scriptures. Believing that there is nothing that can overcome God's love for us, not even death. Believing that we who are Christians hold within us the promise of the resurrection when we pass through death.
It may be characteristic of Barb's love of life that she was willing to take on the risk that's involved in scuba diving. Because if you take on the risk, then you also get to enjoy all of the beauty of things that are under the sea. That's what she was doing. There are time and time again in the scriptures where Jesus says, "If you really want to live, you have to be willing to give up your life. If you want to be safe, you'll never really live." Barb wanted to really live and she understood the risks and she was willing to take the risk in order to live life to the fullest. Jesus recommends that kind of attitude. He says without it you will not have lived. If you never taste all of the joys that life has to offer, you may avoid getting hurt, but you will never enjoy the riches that God's creation has to show you. And Jesus tells us further that if we are willing to risk death, that we can look forward to a new kind of life.
Before us today we have a couple of Christian symbols, the Paschal candle and the Cross. The Paschal candle was carried into this church last Easter at the vigil service in the dark. And in the light of that candle, the stories of our salvation were told, beginning with the story of creation and on to the story of the exodus as people escaped from slavery into freedom. We concluded all that story telling with the account of finding of the empty tomb of Christ. That candle, through it all, was for us a sign of the light of Christ that overcomes the darkness of sin and evil and death in people's lives.
We believe that death does not overcome us but rather changes us and we believe that we also pass through the cross and also pass through death and then into new life with Christ. We believe those words of St. Paul that say, "There is nothing that can overcome the love of God in your life."
We are not a people of despair who think that Barb's life has ended. We are rather a people of faith who believe that her life is changed. We believe that because she has shared in Christ's death, she also shares in his resurrection. We believe in the words of Jesus that say, "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places. Otherwise how could I have told you that I was going to prepare a place for you?" And he says, "When the place is prepared he will return." We never know when. We don't choose the time, but if we're willing to go with the Lord when he comes for us, then we also enter into his life.
Barb was somebody who tried to enjoy her life here as fully as she could. We ought to do the same and we ought to do that knowing there's an even better life to come.
We will not be overcome by sin or evil or even death because the Lord calls for us to light our way to overcome the darkness and bring us into the place that has been prepared for us. This is the last time that we gather to celebrate the Eucharist in Thanksgiving for Barb's life. It's the first time we celebrate it with her at her place in the Kingdom. We believe in the Communion of Saints and everybody who has gone before us in faith down through the ages including us. Barb still belongs to the Communion of Saints but now she's in a different capacity, a different position within that community. Today she shares with us the Lord's supper at the Lord's table. She does not care about us any less now than she did in her lifetime, and in that case she's in a better position now that she ever has been to know what it is that we really need.
And so we need to come to the end of the time of our praying for her and as a people of faith begin to ask her to pray for us. In her lifetime she was very much involved in the hospitality industry. That hospitality will stand her in good stead in the Lord's kingdom and it will be she who welcomes us home when the time comes for us to go. And so we commend her to the Lord.
We believe that her life has not ended but is fulfilled, fulfilled before we would like it to have been, but fulfilled none the less. We believe that she is not really dead, but lives on with the Lord who has come to take care of death for her and for all the rest of us. The Lord who is the way and the truth and the light. The one who does not leave us in death, but brings us to light and life in God's kingdom.
Since almighty God has called our sister, Barbara, from this life to Himself, we commit her body to the deep. Christ was the first to rise from the dead, and we know that he will raise up our mortal bodies to be like his in glory. We commend our sister to the Lord: May the Lord receive her into his peace and raise her up on the last day.
A Eulogy for Barb
A few weeks ago, I was watching "The Wonder Years". When the main character met up with his friend on the street, he looked at him and thought, "I wanted to tell him how important he was to me. I wanted to tell him that I was a better person for having known him. But I didn't say anything, because he already knew that."
That's how I feel about my friend Barb. We've know each other for more that half our lives. Now, all my memories of her come back like snapshots.
I used to walk behind her on the way home from school. By 7th grade, Barb had mastered the art of flirting, and I envied the way she attracted boys. Here, I thought to myself, is a girl who can teach me a thing or two.
And she did. Above all, Barb taught me the sheer thrill of bending the rules. She had an irresistible naughty streak, and I was drawn into it more times than I can say. And when she'd take me on her escapades, it was like a roller coaster ride, and I loved every minute of it.
Barb taught me how to take a multiple choice test. In junior high, we'd sit in study carrels that faced each other, separated only by a high wooden shelf. When one of us wanted the answer to number 31, we'd tap three times on the other's left foot, and once on her right foot. If the answer was "a", we'd tap once, if the answer was "b", we'd tap twice, and so on. Barb and I did very well in biology that year.
Barb taught me how to keep my composure when the pressure was on. Once, when we came to the stop sign at 58th and Wooddale, Barb asked me if I saw any police cars. "Nope," I said, "there's just an old Chevy behind us." With that Barb laid a patch of rubber and squealed around the corner. It didn't take long for the unmarked squad car to flip a flashing red light onto the dashboard. "What was the big hurry to get around the corner," he asked, "was that van bothering you?" Barb smiled at him coyly and said, "yes, it was." After the policeman left, and she had rolled up her window, I asked, "What van?" And she laughed and said, "I don't know, I never saw any van.
Barb taught me that where there's a will, there's a way. When we were sixteen, we went to France with a group from high school . Before we left, we had to have our parents sign permission slips. They were to check "yes" or "no" as to whether we had permission to smoke cigarettes, drink liquor and see burlesque shows. Barb's parents did the responsible thing and checked "no" after every category. But by the time Barb turned in her permission slip everything was simply checked "yes" .
Barb taught me how to settle an argument. During college, Barb and I had a fight with our other roommate over the housecleaning. For the next three days, our roommate wouldn't speak to us. We got the silent treatment over breakfast. And the silent treatment over dinner. Leave it to Barb to find an eloquent way to handle a sensitive situation. She stretched a pair of underwear over a tennis racquet and waved it in our roommate's door as a white flag of surrender. And the fight was over.
There are many other things I learned from Barb. She taught me how to ride a horse bareback. She taught me how to drink white Russians. She taught me how to do doughnuts in the snow with my car. And this week, she taught us all to hold on tighter to the people we love.
Beautiful Boo Boo, we've known each other for such a long, long time. In all those years, we've shared our make-up, our albums, our frustrations, our joys and more laughs than I can count. After all this time, it would be impossible for our lives to be anything but intertwined. That's why, as you leave, you take a part of me with you. Just as I will always carry a spark of you inside of me.
In early America, women had a simple way of dealing with the sorrow of their husband's death. They would gather up their husband's clothes, and cut them into squares, and diamonds and circles, and piece them together in a quilt. It was their way of using the things they cherished to create something new and warm and enduring. That is why we're here today. Each member of Barb's family, each one of her friends, each one of her co-workers, each one of us comes with a very personal and loving memory of Barb cradled in our hands. Together, we form a loving patchwork of all that Barb means to us. And it's something that is warm and comforting and everlasting. I feel very privileged to have had Barb in my life.
Letter To My Friend Barb
Susan Adams Loyd
March 22, 1990
You were a wonderful friend! You were a college roommate, a fellow Steak and Ale waitron, (for awhile there, I think you were even my manager,) a sorority sister. You were one of my bridesmaids, and I was one of yours. During our high school years, you were one of the F.N.O.T.D.B. gang sworn to secrecy never to reveal the meaning of F.N.O.T.D.B. You were my archrival at the tether ball court back in sixth grade at Wooddale Elementary. (You were a very natural athlete. You could run so fast!) The year you and I were born, Barb, our parents lived just down the street from one another on Beard Avenue South.
Like so many other people who shared your friendship, I have many, many fond memories of you. All of those memories are filled with laughter, You had a musical laugh, a mischievous one at times. so many people here remember your happiness, your effervescence. Not only did you have a great sense of humor, but you had a great deal of fun with life. You were like a tango, with a rose in your teeth and a lampshade on your head. Crazy, nutty Barb! It was always fun to be with you. George Bernard Shaw once wrote that "Life does not cease to be funny when people die, any more that it ceases to be serious when people laugh." It's been hard to laugh in the last couple of days, but in time, when we think of you, Barb, we will once again laugh out loud, and remember that infectious chortle of yours.
I was flipping through some albums last night, thinking about you. I picked-up a Stevie Wonder Album that you use to life listen to often when we lived together. How appropriate that the title of the album was called "Songs in the Key of Life!" That was you Barb! You were a song in the key of life. You were so filled with energy. You worked so hard, you played hard, and you always drove your car way, way too fast! Some people live like cool blue flames simmering on low for many years. But, you were a bright, flash of light, a fireworks that filled the sky with so many beautiful colors. And it seems like the Fourth of July while we sitting on blankets, applauding, cheering, wishing we could see you soar through the horizon just one more time.
To be perfectly honest with you Barb, I didn't know this until I looked it up in a silly quote book, but Norman Cousins who is a writer and editor for The Saturday Review once wrote that "Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live." We won't let any memories of you die. Science tells us that energy never disappears. It simply transfers from one form to another. Your energy was so vast that it now fills this huge room, and each of us will take a piece of you energy and rejuvenate, rekindle our own lives with it.
In sadness, your death has brought many old friends and family together, but how wonderful it feels to be near them today. You have reminded us that life is so fragile, but that a good friendship like yours gives us the tenacity to make it through the hardest of times.
Sweet, beautiful Barb. How we will all miss you!
With all my love,
Memories Of My Sister, Barb
My earliest recollection of Barbie is as a baby in her crib. She was a beautiful chubby baby with lots and lots of thick beautiful hair. I can also remember a few formative years later going to my mother to ask her, "Why does Barbie follow me wherever I go?". My mother replied, "Because she loves you". My mother was right. I couldn't shake this toddler.
More formative years went by and I realized that I had a real fun sister on my hands. She was much taller and skinny now. She was the perfect size to play airplane. We coordinated some magnificent acrobatic maneuvers in the living room. This delicately boned, limber, athletic girl was a master at doing flips off of my extended feet and hands.
Barbie was fun to play with in college too and a very helpful study companion. My only complaint at this time was that she was enrolled in the College of Agriculture working toward her nutrition degree. The College of Agriculture is located on the St. Paul campus. If I wanted to meet her for coffee, I'd have to schlep all the way over there. I did so happily.
Barbie was such a loving person. Thinking of her always made me smile. Her love and nurturing has shaped my life powerfully. Her unconditional love and support helped me pull my life together---many times. Barbie was someone I trusted to let in. She was my ally. I cherish the gifts that Barbie gave to me.
Others automatically felt comfortable with Barb. Her wit and sparkle endeared her to her friends. I am proud to have had Barbie so close to me and to have had the honor of having this extraordinary human being as my sister and my friend.
Barbie was really funny, she was so tongue-in-cheek. She left many a message on my answering machine. She'd say, "this is your beautiful, sweet, charming, adorable, wonderful baby sister." She was right. am happy that she knows how much I love her. She knows I'll miss her.
I have been grieving along with all of you. This is all very puzzling. But, I know that Barbie was very happy in her final days. I know that Barbie died painlessly and peacefully. I feel a powerful spiritual peace hovering near us. I know that Barbie will always be a part of us. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Thoughts from Barb's Family
I'm Ann, Barb's sister, Bunny, and I would like to share some thoughts for the family.
Every one of the family has been dealing with more grief and sorrow this week, than any of us have ever wanted to deal with. We have all handled it as best we can and we are so lucky to have so many friends and relatives to help us through this.
There are so many questions:
Barbara went about the scuba experience properly. She had professional lessons with both classroom and water experience. She received her certification. She carefully selected the best, the safest equipment. She trained and worked to be physically fit. She followed the plan.
Barbara prepared for the Jamaica trip. She followed the plan. The only thing she didn't have was experience. And her experience was growing, she was learning from every dive. Her last dive, her first big dive, she followed the plan.
We will probably never know or understand the exact set of circumstances that brought the dive group to a 275 foot depth in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Ocho Rios, Jamaica. Everyone, the members of the dive group, and Barb's friends and family want to know what happened.
Truth is a perception of the senses. And what is the truth with senses dulled by nitrogen narcosis and limited by 275 feet of ocean? Sight and touch were all they had. Barb was in sight of the dive group and touching her partner. Our last image of her is arms locked with her partner, looking at each other on the way to the surface.
Barbara's story is not ended here. It will continue even though the search has ended. It will continue as we search for the answers, work through our pain and struggle to understand what happened.
The entire tragedy was twelve minutes. Twelve minutes from the group joyfully entering the ocean to part of the group returning in disarray and confusion.
Your family had you for 32 years, 6 months, and 6 days. We'll miss your smile, the swing of your hair, and your excitement over each day. Your family will miss you, Barb, our Auntie Boo, our Barb-a-links.
I'd just like to recount two stories that I've been a part of in the last two weeks. They're very important to me and maybe you can get something out of them also.
The Sunday that Barb left for Jamaica, normally she is always late. But for once she got up early and this time we made it to the airport in plenty of time. Things just didn't seem right. Barb discovered she didn't have her credit card. For those of you who didn't know Barb very well, if Barb doesn't have a credit card, she's completely lost. She can't function. I said, "Okay, I'll go home and get your credit card." I arrive back at the airport, I walk in, and I look at her and she's very frantic. She says, "You'll never guess what I did. I took your passport instead of mine!" Well, it's 8:30, I jump in the car and race home a second time.
I make it home and I'd asked her where she'd left it and she didn't know. I'm tearing everything apart, go through cupboards, put everything in the middle of the floor. It's five minutes to nine, the plane's leaving in five minutes and I can't find the passport. Only one drawer left and I find it jammed in the back.
I jump in the car take off to the airport, there she is with her jean skirt on, jumping up and down waving at me. She reaches in the car, takes the passport and she's gone. So I'm driving away and all of a sudden for no apparent reason, I'm overcome by this feeling, this emotion. I begin to cry, and it was unexplainable. In talking with some members of the group, they said Barb had a similar experience where she was overcome by an emotion and not till a couple days later did I think, looking hack, maybe God was trying to prepare the two of us for what was going to happen. I thank Him for that.
The second story I'd like to tell you about was told to me earlier this week. It concerns the Barb's last dive, and it's reflective of the type of person she was. As it happened there were problems on the bottom. One of the members realized this and started swimming towards where they were. As he was getting closer, one person passes him, another raises and another raises past. As he gets down on the bottom, there's Barb and the other lady, Jan. And they were helping one of the gentlemen who had passed out. There's Barb, I'm sure aware that she's in great danger, but she was thinking more of these friends, not worrying about herself, trying to save this gentleman's life by sharing her air with him.
These two stories have really helped me to accept what has happened.
I feel very lucky for what I have. I feel very happy for the Wescott's, for accepting me as a son. I feel very fortunate, her sister's, Mary and Bunny, who have really helped me get through this experience.
I'm fortunate for my parents --- for accepting Barb as their daughter.
I feel very, very fortunate because I am able to say that I knew her the last nine years and shared her life and her friendship. We shared a lot. It's not so much that we were husband and wife, but I cherished the friendship that we had and I'm sure I can say this for all of you:
Barb we love you.
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This Page was last updated on June 2, 2000