Barbara Alice Sarson
9 November, 1931 – 28 September, 2020
BARBARA ALICE SARSON
For the first time in her adult life, the ferocious Barbara Alice Sarson has done something that she cannot tell anyone how to do better. On September 28, 2020, in the early hours of the morning, holding her beloved eldest daughter’s hand, Barb died peacefully from pneumonia. She had spent her last years caring for her husband then battling against then living with Alzheimer’s disease.
Barb was born in Winnipeg on November 09, 1931. Her parents Mary Irene Bowen (McNair) and Stanley Evan Bowen raised Barbara and her brother Stan in downtown Winnipeg. When she was about six Barbara became ill and started living her summers with her parents in a tar-paper cabin at her Aunty Lal’s house on the Assiniboine River, near Sturgeon Creek, in St. James. This is the home Barbara would live in for over 50 years with her husband Ken and their eight children.
At a large house at the first bend in the creek Barb hung out with her beloved cousins Bill, Rosemary, Joselyn, June and Patty Lobb. She attended Bannatyne School and St James Collegiate. A shy girl, she loved school, didn’t study much, and, was an A-student.
When she was 16 her brother brought a friend, Kenneth Sarson, home for dinner. From the first time they met, they knew two things: Barbara was too young and they would marry. Barbara continued her education into the Commerce department at the University of Manitoba and in 1951 they were married. In 1952, after writing final exams while nine months pregnant, Barb and Ken welcomed their first child, Ken, into their world. Being the youngest in her extended family, Barb had never held a baby until her first child was born. A year later, Bob was born.
Moving to Brandon with her family, she worked toward completing her Bachelor of Arts degree as no commerce department existed at the University of Brandon. She had another child, Lahl. She birthed her fourth child Janet after the family’s return to Winnipeg. Then, she completed her degree. Inspired by her beloved cousin Rosemary, who was blind, and had graduated from the University of Winnipeg, Barbara decide to teach in the “Special Education” system of the Winnipeg School Division. And so began her inspired and creative career as a teacher and principal.
In the spring of 1964, while working full time as a teacher, Barbara and Ken adopted her brother’s four children – Barb, Gary, Irene and Patty. Overnight her family grew from six to ten. Already teaching, Barb continued going to school at night and during the summers while working full time. Always, she was a mother who also worked outside of her home.
Throughout her career she taught at Gordon Bell and Prince Charles where she also became the principal for the full lifetime of the school. Her final principalship was at Fort Rouge School.
Barb didn’t just teach or just administer. She believed that any student could participate in and contribute to community, could learn, with good teachers, the skills to a full and active life regardless of their challenges. She took her students camping every year she taught at Prince Charles, baked for staff and parent meetings in all her schools. She believed that neither a school nor a community could function without the other and did everything she knew possible to create opportunities for members of community to interact with her students. She helped re-build communities with this philosophy. Every Friday night for 35 years one of Barbara’s ex-students called her. She was a loved principal until retirement in 1995.
Barb loved lilacs, dogs, crocheting afghans, peanut butter and brown sugar sandwiches on fresh bread, bacon, hobnob cookies, old movies especially musicals, Shirley Temple, Jimmy Stewart, Mitch Miller, and Frank Sinatra singing with the Jimmy Dorsey Band. Sitting in a principals’ conference, when Barb noticed everyone was bored, she climbed up on a table and tap-danced. She read dictionaries, Harlequin Romances and anything she could find on the history of St. James. She completed a Master’s Degree in Education.
She was adamant in her values of what was right and what was wrong: vote; feed whoever is in need of a meal; do your part to make the world a better place; hold your head high; never give in or up or over; keep your nose to the grindstone and put one foot in front of the other; do what is just; never do anything but your best. She attended Pride and Take Back the Night Marches, fought against anything that she felt would jeopardize her students.
Mothering was not an easy journey for Barb, but she left her children and grandchildren with beliefs that would help keep us alive and connected to the world. She taught us to value community and to stand up with and for the “little guy”. She taught us to be tough and not to whine. She left us all with a love for the written word. She overcooked her roasts and was famous for her fruitcakes, shortbread, walnut slice, matrimonial cake, sharp tongue, intelligence and generosity. She always had something in her hands and something on her mind.
She is survived by 7 of her children; their partners (Davida, Annie, and Praba); her grandchildren Allistair, Claire, Elana, Evan, Franke, Jackie, Jenny, Katie, Ken, Leah, and Michael; her great- grandchildren; her good friends Pauline Morris, Kay Thompson and Mary Lobb; and her beloved sister-in-law Nora Lewinski. She is pre-deceased by her son Gary, her grandson Lloyd and her beloved husband of 62 years, Ken.
Dozens and dozens of the Sarson Clan and associates mourn her passing, honour her with our stories of her life. She will be almost impossible to forget.
The family would like to express our thanks to her care-worker and friend Colleen Molter, and the staff at West Park Manor, particularly those who work on Unit 1 South.
As per Barbara’s wishes, cremation has taken place and no formal service will be held at this time. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Barb’s name to the Alzheimer’s Society of Manitoba or Siloam Mission.
No public services are scheduled at this time. Receive a notification when services are updated.
Barbara Alice Sarson
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7 October 2020
My condolences to all of the Sarson family. I was saddened to hear of Aunt Barb's passing although I know she had been unwell for some time. She was a force of nature and someone who was always inspiring for her keen intellect and curiosity. She and Uncle Ken were such good and generous friends to my parents. I will always remember fondly the interaction of the Sarson clan with Aunt Barb being a primary contributor. I am thinking of all of you during this time. The obituary was wonderful and captured the essence of Aunt Barb.
John Combs and Patti Campbell
5 October 2020
To the entire Sarson family, we're sorry for your loss! We have great memories at your parent's place on the Assiniboine River! They invited our parents, Rosemary (AKA Auntie Peg) & Armand and us five kids. It was always a fun event with lots of kids and food!
I remember when Barnabus and Sol (if I remember correctly) tackling our brother in the back yard.
A special hug to Pat, my bud! I loved the times there with all of the family.
Love to all of you!
4 October 2020
My sincere condolences to the whole family
The world has lost a great lady!!
There are so many memories from the kitchen on Assiniboine as we were growing up and after you always knew you were welcome to stop in and have a talk!!!
Barb you educated more than just students over the years!!
3 October 2020
Barb was the most influential person in my work life. It was mere chance that I started work at Prince Charles and it changed everything. Not only did I find a fulfilling career but I met a boss and mentor who took me (and many others) under her wing and made us better. Her mission for the school was "whatever will help our students to become more independent." She assembled and supported an amazing staff to accomplish what had never been done before - helping students with disabilities to engage as fully as they could in typical lives and environments. She led the development of life skills, vocational and community education when those were all novel ideas. She supported the development of community services that complemented what the school was working on. We always knew that she cared deeply about the students and staff, including welcoming us all into her home. It's impossible to discuss the progress in (special) education in Manitoba without recognizing the amazing direction that Barb provided. And from a personal perspective, it's impossible to imagine my own life and career without giving a ton of credit to her modelling and encouragement. She and Ken were a formidable example of how to live a life with others' best interests in mind. They loved each other and their children and shared that love for all of us to appreciate. The family, teaching profession and city have lost a great person but the legacy lives on.
3 October 2020
I worked with Barb at Prince Charles School and consider my time there to be the greatest learning experience of my career in education. Barb's commitment to her students was amazing. My wife Erin and I also got to experience the kindness which she and Ken shwed to everyone.
Our sincere condolences to the entire Sarson family
29 September 2020
My condolences to the family. Barbara was always supportive of me and my work and that was greatly appreciated. I have many memories of the time spent at the Assiniboine house, in the pool, at the pool table, listening to CBC radio, and eating seafood lasagna.