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 side.

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.