Barbara Earley -- A Life Well Lived
By Joel Dunn (her son and a graduate of Lincoln-Sudbury High School)
Barbara Earley, known to be a kind and considerate person, was born in Toledo, Ohio, in 1943. Her two younger brothers, Michael and Dan Stack, confirmed that they hadn’t had a disagreement with her in over 70 years. At the same time, Barbara firmly believed in and stood up for equal rights and justice, a woman’s right to choose and environmental conservation. A life-long Democrat, she was willing to disagree and stand up for what she thought was fair, but she was never disagreeable. Barbara’s good nature and hard work enabled my sister, Nicole Dunn Garay, and me to pursue our passions and lead meaningful lives. Unfortunately, Barbara died on March 1st, just shy of her 78th birthday, due to complications from an acute and sudden (non-Covid) illness.
One of my mentors told me not to cry because it’s over; instead, smile because it happened. My family and I are actively trying to maintain that perspective. Barbara led a great life, full of professional success, personal triumphs and a loving family. She was unassuming but very smart, motivated and capable. People often underestimated her determination. After graduating from Boca Ciega high school in 1961, in St. Petersburg, Florida, she went on to earn both bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Florida State University. She worked her way through both undergraduate and graduate school, paying for both without any assistance from her parents. She was humble, independent and had high expectations. She moved to Massachusetts in the late 1960s and lived there until 2019, when she moved back to St. Petersburg.
Barbara spent her career primarily in two fields, first as a social worker in nursing homes helping the elderly and then in Framingham Public High School teaching social studies, computing and accounting. As I grow older, I recognize that these are both extremely important and difficult pursuits. She spent over 20 years in the Framingham Public School System. I clearly remember endless nights and weekends with her grading papers and preparing lessons with devotion. In keeping with her principles, she served in leadership at the Framingham Teachers Association, where she advocated for other teachers and ultimately received an award for service and dedication. She retired from teaching in 2008 with distinction. Barbara worked hard to make a difference in people’s lives at work and in her community.
In 2010, she led the Marlborough Community Preservation Act Committee, formed to get the City to adopt the Community Preservation Act, which was ultimately unsuccessful, but now looks prescient given growing environmental concern. She was a regular volunteer for the Sudbury Valley Trustees, receiving the prestigious Morgan Volunteer Award in 2014 and was the President of the Pinefield Garden Club for several years. She regularly donated to many nonprofit causes, particularly environmental conservation. She wanted to protect the planet for future generations and was deeply concerned about climate change and the loss of biodiversity.
Barbara was an avid reader and enjoyed painting and gardening. She painted pictures of birds, barns, fields, forests, mountains, rivers, flowers and more. Her paintings featured the beauty of life and her love of nature. Her garden was nearly always flowering in the warmer Massachusetts months, and she enjoyed showing family and other guests around the yard to see her plants and wildlife.
Barbara and her first husband, William Dunn, were married for 20 years and divorced in 1987. They lived in Sudbury for most of that time. As a single mother, she worked and raised her two children at the same time. Barbara got a second chance at love and married Walter Earley in 1998, having met at a singles dance six years earlier. Walter adored Barbara, and she liked being adored by him. Their skills and needs complemented each other remarkably well. They got a beautiful English Labrador retriever, which they named Paris. They bought a nice house in Marlborough and lived there together until Walter’s death in 2016. With a broken heart, Barbara never fully recovered from the loss of Walter. He was the love of her life. She always wished that they had more time together. Part of their love lived on in Paris, who died in January of 2021 at nearly 16 years old.
Barbara is survived by two children, Nicole Dunn Garay (Val) of Topanga Canyon, CA, and Joel Dunn (Heidi) of Annapolis, MD; two step-children, David Earley (Tina) of Cape Neddick, ME, and Kenneth Earley (Erin) of Ashland, MA; two brothers, Michael Stack of Springfield, VA, and Dan Stack of St. Petersburg, FL; and six grandchildren, Harper and Ryan Dunn, Isaiah and Elaina Earley, and Sarah and Kaillee Earley. Barbara led a meaningful life and will be sorely missed by her family, friends and community. A remembrance will be held at the conclusion of the pandemic. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Sudbury Valley Trustees https://www.svtweb.org/ or The Women's Alzheimer's Movement https://thewomensalzheimersmovement.org/
To send flowers to the family or plant a tree in memory of Barbara Earley, please visit our floral store.