Barbara J. Richards
Sept. 22, 1929 — Dec. 3, 2016
Barbara Jean (Burnham) Richards (nee Parks) found peace at AngelsGrace
Hospice Saturday, Dec. 3, at the age of 87, with her daughter at her
She was so touched by the special visits from many dear family and
friends, and especially a week with her son and daughter-in-law during
her final journey at AngelsGrace. Barbara was born to William Addison
Dinwiddie and Ruth Elizabeth (nee Harrison) Parks on Sept. 22, 1929, in
Dayton, Ohio. She was a longtime resident of Dayton and graduated from
Fairmont High in Kettering, Ohio. Barbara’s extreme talent as a
musician, pianist, organist and vocal coach began at a young age and she
received her BA in piano performance from the University of Illinois in
Urbana, Ill., in 1951. She married Cardon V. Burnham Jr. on June 7,
1951, in Urbana and they were married until 1978.
In 1961 a move to Waukesha continued a long career of accompanying and
coaching with many notable singers and musicians from across the
country, at Carroll College, UWM and the Conservatory of Music and with
numerous theater groups throughout the Milwaukee area. She also taught
piano at Carroll and was a key player in the growth of the children’s
theater group Par-Cay players, collaborating with Conne Smith directing
and writing music for many shows.
Numerous congregations in Waukesha and Milwaukee were blessed by her
gift of music as their organist with her “home” being Community United
Methodist Church of Elm Grove, on and off for 30 years. She also played
for Temple Emanuel in Milwaukee. Barb always claimed to be an ecumenical
as she was exposed to so many faiths and respected them all as she was a
deeply spiritual woman.
In 1975, Barbara returned to school to receive her Master of Music in
Vocal Performance and Accompaniment. She studied with John Wustman, who
was the accompanist for Luciano Pavarotti, at the University of Illinois
and received her degree in one year, 25 years after receiving her
bachelor’s, in May 1976. It was a very proud moment for all.
On July 10, 1982, Barbara married Robert (Bubba) Richards, in Elm Grove.
She and Bob enjoyed 32 wonderful years together until his passing on
July 4, 2014. They moved from Kenosha to Hot Springs, Ark., in the late
’90s and made many wonderful memories and friends there. Barbara
continued to be very active in the music world, working with the Hot
Springs Music Festival, numerous students and singers including her
talented niece Diane Kesling.
Barbara was so creative in many ways and her knitting, crochet and
cross-stitch works have graced many of our lives and homes. She loved
watching all kinds of sports, especially football, was a wicked
crossword fanatic and deadly cribbage, bridge and Scrabble player.
Barbara also had a great love of nature, watching her birds and critters
and so enjoyed the beauty of Garvin Gardens in Hot Springs, Ark.
In later life she became afflicted with essential tremor and Parkinson’s
disease as well as two bouts of mouth cancer. These multiple health
issues and the death of her beloved husband required a move back to
Wisconsin in May of 2015 to Kirkland Crossings in Pewaukee to be closer
to her daughter and monitored health care. But despite her challenges,
she continued to share her craft, coaching with young performers,
playing for Memory Care and working with Lisa, their dear chaplain on
their “Hymn Sings” with the residents. She was known as the “Piano Lady”
for most of the latter years of her life.
Barbara was preceded in death by her parents, Din and Ruth Parks; Cardon
Burnham; her sister Elizabeth (Betty) Smith; her cherished husband Bob
and so many dear family and friends. She is survived by her beloved son,
Christopher Burnham (Debra), Mooresville, Ind.; daughter, Cheryl Burnham
Matteson (Michael), Oconomowoc; stepdaughters Tara Richards, Baker City,
Ore., Rebecca Richards, Oconomowoc, and Valerie Pernice (Phil), Winter
Springs, Fla. She is also survived by her grandchildren, who meant the
world to her and she held on to all those special moments you shared,
Sean Matteson, Carly Matteson, her step-grandchildren and
great-grandchildren, Michael Matteson (Diana and great-granddaughter
Megan), David Matteson, Christina Schwartz (Ira and great-granddaughter
Jade Anderson), Melissa Haehl, Alex and Anthony Pernice; her dear nieces
and nephews, David Kesling, Bob Kesling, Diane Kesling, Ann Brown, Scott
Cornelius, Jennifer Rosenfeld, their spouses, children and
grandchildren. She is further survived by former sisters-in-law Marty
Cornelius and Ruth Melton and “daughter” Pamela McHardy Bennett (Bob),
Melissa and Scott.
She was surrounded by so many, many dear caregivers, family and friends,
too many to list, who all meant so much to her and made her life very
full and all the memories made her smile. Her wonderful kindness,
compassion, positive attitude despite many odds, strength, bright
spirit, infectious wit and sense of humor, smile and beautiful music
will remain in our hearts forever. We will miss her wonderful stories
and jokes for a long time to come.
No one could have asked for a more fun, wise, loving and warm mother,
grandmother, sister, aunt and friend. She was so influential in the
lives and positive molding of her children and grandchildren.
The family wants to thank all for their kind words, cards, letters,
emails and interactions with Barbara. You touched her heart and the
family very deeply. The family would also like to express tremendous
thanks and appreciation to all the caregivers and staff at Kirkland
Crossings, OMH, Shorehaven and especially at AngelsGrace for their
compassion, assistance, guidance and love in helping Barbara complete
her long journey home. She is playing for choirs of angels now and with
her Bubba again.
Church and Chapel of Waukesha is assisting the family in caring for
Barbara’s remains per her wishes. A memorial service will be held at
Kirkland Crossings, 700 Quinlan Drive, Pewaukee, on Saturday, Dec 31 at
10 a.m. In addition, per her request, a Celebration of Life will be held
in Hot Springs, Ark., sometime in March, her favorite time of the year
there, at a location and time to be determined. Interment of her ashes
will also be determined at a later date and time.
In lieu of flowers, donations would be appreciated to any of the
following: AngelsGrace Hospice , N74-W35908 Servants’ Way, Oconomowoc WI
53066 Wildlife in Need Center, W349-S1480 S. Waterville Road, Oconomowoc
WI 53066 Diann Shaddox Foundation for Essential Tremor, 241 Boxelder
Drive, Aiken, SC 29803 Church and Chapel Funeral Service is serving the
family. For more information, call 262-827-0659.