Carolyn Ann (Henderson) Barney, 89, of Lancaster, MA passed peacefully on Monday July 10, 2023, at Leominster Hospital. In her final days, she was comforted by the love of her family and the certainty that she would soon be with her loved ones in Heaven.
She lived a happy life. It wasn’t always an easy life, but her optimism and strong sense of purpose allowed her to see the good in people and the joy in everyday life.
Carolyn grew up in Stoneham, MA with her loving and adventurous parents Wallace and Anne Henderson and her sister Mary. The tight bond between Carolyn and Mary made them twins born a year apart.
Carolyn met Dave Barney in high school. They were at first close friends, but when she raved non-stop about him to her parents, her father advised her to rave directly to Dave. And so she called Dave up and their decades-long love story started. They broke up in college as the distance was too much. The Christmas after graduating from college, she again called Dave to check in. They married two months later in advance of his Army officer deployment to Germany.
Dave’s Army career led to 21 moves in 18 years including two separate tours in Viet Nam. Carolyn provided their four children – Chuck, Janet, Doug and Mary Lou – with a caring and supportive home despite all of these changes. The one constant was love.
Carolyn was raised by her parents to be independent, family-oriented and focused on contributing to the community. In Dave, she found a kindred spirit who encouraged and supported her in her pursuits. In her younger years, she refused to learn how to type as she didn’t want to be shunted into a secretarial career path. She finally learned decades later when she realized it would help in her public relations work.
When the frequent moves from Dave’s Army career prevented Carolyn from continuing her social work, she shifted to a series of in-depth volunteer and community service activities. There are still service organizations in Army posts started by Carolyn from the 60’s and 70’s. The Army recognized her service as one of five finalists for the United States Army Security Agency Training Center Wife of the Year and by awarding her the Fort Devens Certificate of Distinguished Community Service. Her citation references her “understanding of other human beings, a warm personality, and an honest interest in the welfare and dignity of others.”
Once Dave retired into private industry, Carolyn was able to restart her professional career. She served as head of Volunteer Services at the Easter Seals and then at Leominster Hospital where she was asked to move into a senior position leading Community Relations. She worked tirelessly on countless community agencies and taskforces, but also made time to earn a Masters degree in Communications from Simmons. To broaden her impact, she and her colleague Joan opened Barney, Ebbeson Public Relations. Before retiring, Carolyn served on the leadership team at Nashoba Hospital.
Retirement for Carolyn didn’t mean slowing down. She dove into many community activities in the Canaan NH area where she and Dave had built their new home. She again served on countless boards and initiatives including playing major roles in fundraising for the restoration of the Old Meeting House and the founding of the Mascoma Community Health Center. Her impact led to her being named Citizen of the Year for Canaan in 2009.
As important as her volunteering, career and community service were, Carolyn shone brightest as a wife to Dave, mother to her four children, and friend to all. She raised her kids to be independent, hard-working, tolerant, optimistic and supportive. The Barney household was fun, active and loud. Very loud … especially when Carolyn was watching sports on TV or cheering on her sons’ hockey games.
Carolyn loved to cook and have big family parties. She learned to make Swedish meatballs and other delicacies from her Swedish mother-in-law and Italian food from her sister’s Sicilian in-laws. As a mother of four kids, she was also smart enough to teach them to cook so she wasn’t trapped in the kitchen.
A few years after Dave’s passing, Carolyn was diagnosed with lymphoma and moved to MA to be closer to her kids during treatment. In August 2016, Carolyn moved in with her daughter Mary Lou and the two lived very happily together. Her cancer treatments saved her life but also kickstarted her dementia. This progressed slowly however, and so she still found tremendous joy in life with her expanding family.
Throughout it all – the constant moving, uncertainties with a husband in warzones in multiple tours, the loss of loved ones including her son Chuck, cancer, dementia – Carolyn still summed up her life as “A Happy Life.” Her openness, warmth and smile meant you were going to smile and hug her back – no exceptions.
A bad fall led to Carolyn’s admittance to Leominster Hospital. The family would like to thank the medical staff of the hospital and their hospice services for the warm and expert care Carolyn received, and the support for her family members.
Carolyn is survived by three children, Janet Lane and her husband Rick of Lancaster MA, Doug and wife Luanne Kiley of South Yarmouth MA, and Mary Lou Barney of Lancaster MA; daughter-in-law Carolyn Fowler Barney of Groton, MA; six grandchildren, Matt Lane, Amy Belli, Lauren Wenners, David Barney, Nick Barney, and Kiley Barney and their spouses; three great-grandchildren; sister-in-law June Dixon and her husband Jim, brother-in-law Ed; and numerous nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her husband Dave Barney; son Chuck Barney; sister and brother-in-law Mary and Sal Perra; her parents; and other dear friends.
The calling hours are 5:00 to 7:00pm Monday July 17 at Brandon Funeral Home, 305 Wasoosnoc Road, Fitchburg, MA 01420, Phone: (978) 343-4444. The service will be at 10am Tuesday July 18 at Rollstone Congregational Church, 199 Main Street, Fitchburg, MA 01429. A luncheon will follow at Slattery’s, 106 Lunenburg St., Fitchburg, MA 01420
In lieu of flowers, donations in Carolyn’s name can be made to one of the following charities: Dana Farber Cancer Institute via danafarber.jimmyfund.org [search for Janet Lane as a Marathon walker] or Rollstone Congregational Church by sending a check to the church at 199 Main Street, Fitchburg, MA 01420.
Kevin J. Mack, Walter C. Taylor and Melissa A. McQuaid, funeral directors