Barbara Lou Burnham Thompson
Blanchette Barbara Blanchette died peacefully on Saturday, September 19, 2020 at age of 92. Barbara was born on February 1, 1928 in Rice Lake, Wisconsin. She lived and attended school in Chetek, Wisconsin. On April 24, 1948 she married Robert Thompson a longtime classmate from Chetek. In 1953 she and Bob moved to Essex Jct. and raised their four children. Barb was a homemaker for many years and very active in the community and schools. She eventually went to work as the school secretary at Summit Street School and retired from there after over 20 years of service. Bob and Barb were very active as a family in church, camping, boating, hunting and fishing as well as flying. In 1973 tragedy struck for Barb and family and community losing Bob in the Delta Airline crash. After Barb went on to finish her pilot’s license and flew her plane cross country to Oshkosh Airshow among other places. She is survived by three of her children, Linda Livingstone (Bob), Paul Thompson (Carol), Cindy Cykon (Phil), Daughter-in-law Linda Thompson. Sister-in-law Norma Burnham of Chetek, 10 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. Barb is survived by her very close friend, Carolyn Wilson and many other valued friends throughout her life.
In 1975 Barb met Hank Blanchette, recently widowed, at the local roller skating rink. They went on to marry that year and enjoy 35 years of families and activities. They skated, danced, traveled, skied and skydived in their seventies. They were great sports fans and fixtures at ballgames, concerts, birthday parties for their numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren.
Barb is survived by four of Hank’s children, Jackie Masse (Del), Betti Zehnacker (David), Diane Valway (Rick), Donna Sprout (Greg), daughter-in-law Rainy Blanchette, as well a 14 grandchildren, 35 great grandchildren and several great -great grandchildren.
She was predeceased by Hank (2011), Bob (1973), her son Robert Thompson (2016) and Hank’s son Ron Blanchette ( 2011), and her siblings and spouses, Thayer Burnham (Catherine), Natalie Eberly (Dale), Elizabeth Nicoll (William), Bill Burnham. There will be no service at this time.
If you were fortunate enough to know Barbara, you would have been a recipient of her generous spirit and creative energies. She loved giving of her talents and gifts.
Barbara had the gift for music. As a young girl, she played the piano for weddings, birthdays and gatherings for her Wisconsin community and played and sang in community musicals. After moving to Essex Junction, she became an active member of the First Congregational Church and sang in the choir. She helped to form and conducted the youth and cherub choir for many years. Barb gave piano lessons to the neighborhood children and played piano at area nursing homes. Some of the best memories are sitting around her piano and singing Christmas Carols with our friends and families. Even as her memory for people and conversation faded, she always could sing and play the keyboard. Many thanks to Marcie, her music therapist, for keeping that musical talent alive .
Barbara was a baker. She loved to bake cookies and candies, especially chocolate ones. At Christmas, she loved making up tins of 10 different variety of cookies and delivering them to those she care for and loved. She baked many unique birthday cakes for her children and many grandchildren. It was a beloved pastime to spend time in the kitchen baking with her.
Barbara had the gift for words. She would write notes and letters of inspiration and encouragement to those she thought needed an extra boost in life as well as for just keeping in touch with loved ones. She was a self-taught calligrapher and artist and used these talents to make numerous personalized birthday and anniversary cards for friends. She was also the sign and poster maker for the community. She kept daily journals of her days and travels, always beginning every entry with “Today is another beautiful day”.
Barbara was an adventurer. She loved to experience life to the fullest!! She loved the outdoors, hunting, fishing and skiing in her early years and then traveling the world after retirement. Her moto was “use it or lose it” and she forever kept active.
Barbara was a person of faith. She lived her faith and gave of herself freely and selflessly. She and Bob taught Sunday school together for many years. She took care of her sister for years and extended that caretaking role to her church family as a home visitor. She always felt better and worthwhile when she was doing for others.
Barbara was a quiet leader and organizer. For years she organized the church rummage sales and when it became apparent to her that this should be a fulltime mission for the church, she convinced the deacons to open a thrift shop (Heavenly Cents). She spent many hours and years working there and creating a special church community. She was a valued community volunteer. She was a census taker, a justice of the peace, an elementary school secretary, member of the civil board of authority, and a political campaigner. She helped start a dance club for the area so she and Hank could find the best bands to dance with. When she felt strongly about an issue or cause, Barbara did not hesitate to go where she was needed.
Barbara was a great mom and grandmother to us all. She was a beacon of bright light and optimism encouraging those around her be our best selves and to use our gifts to make the world a better place. She loved both of her husbands and felt blessed to have them in her life. She was there for everyone and loved being part of a large family. Her smile was infectious and you would feel good just being near her. We will miss her.
Those who wish, may donate in Barbara’s memory to: The First Congregational Church, 37 Main Street, Essex Jct., VT 05452 or Humane Society of Chittenden County, 142 Kindness Court, South Burlington, VT 05403. The family wishes to thank Dr. Tania Bersch, Mansfield Place and Gazebo and her many caregivers.
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