Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Barbara Ann Van Orden, 88

Barbara Ann Van Orden of Westport died July 1. She was 88. Image
Barbara Ann Van Orden: active in community affairs. Contributed photo

Born on July 3, 1929 to Lucille and John Schneider in South Euclid, Ohio, she grew up with her younger sister Jane in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. She attended Cuyahoga Falls High School. 

She was 14 when she first met the love of her life Paul Van Orden. They married in 1950. She graduated from Bowling Green State University. Her studies in sociology were a good match for her lifelong interest in people. 
Barbara possessed a rare combination of warmth, intelligence, and humor. She loved art, history, traveling, gardening, and later in life, her summer home in Nantucket. 

But most of all she loved her family, and all the meaningful traditions that went with celebrating a full life with her husband, two daughters and four grandchildren. 

It’s been said that no matter where they moved (and they moved frequently) Barbara made it home, both by her skill in making do with whatever they had at the time, and by her attitude; this is where love is, this is home.

There is a story about coyotes; they get to a good place, turn around three times in grass and they’re home. She recognized that fundamental truth and it’s a lesson that served both her and Paul well over time.

Barbara’s work outside the home evolved over the years. Early on while Paul attended Northwestern and they were living in downtown Chicago, as well as later when they were in Grand Rapids, Michigan she was out in the workforce. 

As her daughters, Sharon and Lisa grew older, Barbara found herself with “free” time and began to study art history. She went on to volunteer as a docent at the Munson Williams Procter Art Museum in Utica, New York.

She had found a fulfilling vocation which drew on her natural curiosity and interest in helping people. After moving to Syracuse, New York she applied her knowledge and gifts to the Everson Museum where she became the senior docent managing some 40 volunteer docents.

The move to Westport in the spring of 1977, started a new chapter for Barbara. She became active in the community taking on roles at the Westport Historical Society, Westport Garden Club, and the Saugatuck Congregational Church. 

She also connected with the Yale Art Gallery in New Haven as a docent and began what became a passion of hers for 26 years. She was not only senior docent in title but also in years of service, knowledge, and skill of conducting tours.

Throughout her life, Barbara provided a constant example on the value of personal strength, discipline and perseverance, even in the face of challenges. Both her daughters, and the grandchildren have inherited her tenacity, openness to new ideas, a keen perspective on what is really important, and an appreciation for all the good things life has to offer.   

Barbara is survived by her husband of 67 years, Paul, two daughters Sharon Alexander, Lisa Berger and her husband Paul Berger, and four grandchildren Zachary Alexander, Rebecca Alexander, Dylan Berger and Patrick Berger and a nephew, Jeffrey Harig. 

Everyone who knew Barbara recognized her genuine interest in their lives and ability to bring out the best in them. This is especially true of her grandchildren whom she loved with all her heart.

A funeral service will be held on Sunday, July 8 at 1 p.m. at Saugatuck Congregational Church, 245 Post Road East, followed by a reception at the church. There will be a private burial service at Evergreen Cemetery.

Arrangements are being handled by Harding Funeral Home in Westport.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Barbara’s name to the Westport Historical Society, Westport Garden Club or the Saugatuck Congregational Church.

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