By Susan Yates, Bronxville High School Class of 1969
Oct. 4, 2017: Barbara Mayers passed away on Wednesday, September 20, 2017, in Rockport, Maine. For all who knew her well, she was a guiding light, an example of integrity and generosity who saw the best in each of us.
Her mind and spirit remained sharp through Tuesday night, when she told all the Yates family gathered at her bedside, "Follow your dreams and follow your heart and give my gift of love to the world." She was so wonderful right to the end.
Barbara Jean Mayers was born on March 29, 1927, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, to Charles J. Mayers (1889–1969, of Marquette, MI) and Ann Elizabeth Wilkinson Mayers (1894–1972, of Meadville, PA). Her father was an engineer and executive with a company in Cleveland that made crystals for radios and televisions. Her mother was a nurse.
Barb and her older sister, Catharine, grew up in Shaker Heights and spent summers on her grandparents' farm in Meadville, PA, where she learned that city girls don't wear dresses and fancy shoes when they get up at 5:00 am to milk the cows and feed the chickens!
Barbara received her bachelor of arts and teaching degrees from Northwestern University and went on to teach outside Chicago. Her first year of teaching elementary school was spent on the balcony of the school gym, where one had to speak loudly to be heard above basketball games being played below and where buckets were needed each time it rained through the leaking roof.
Fortunately for all of us, Barbara spent the following year in New York City at Columbia University to earn her master's degree in education. In that MA program, she met and befriended Miss Sandy Zimmer, who was a teacher at The Bronxville School. She subsequently was introduced to "Hap" Funk, then superintendent of The Bronxville School, who was so taken by this young teacher that he offered her a teaching job for the following fall. The rest is history.
Barbara taught 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th grades (sixth-grade team-teaching with Mr. Jack Murray) at Bronxville Elementary School from 1952 until her retirement in 1977. Her gift as a teacher was to take all children as they were and provide the tools to allow them to become the best they could be.
In the many birthday cards she received on her 80th and 90th birthdays from former students, there were testimonials to her talents, such as, "Miss Mayers, you were my favorite teacher of all time!" or "Miss Mayers, having you as a teacher changed my life and greatly influenced who I am today."
Barbara always spoke so highly of the amazingly creative and dedicated teachers and administrators at Bronxville, with fondness and respect for their abilities to understand how children learn and the importance of community: administrators Hap Funk, Dr. Lou Braun, Miss Beulah Hagadorn, and teachers Barbara White, Doris Knopf, Ruth Barrell, Jack Murray … to name just a few of the many she spoke frequently about and praised.
Following her retirement, Barbara was active in the Delta Kappa Gamma Society for women educators, she quilted, and she was involved with friends and family in West Chester, PA (1986–1996) and then Rockport, Maine. She resided in Rockport from 1996 as a most valuable member of the Yates family.
Barbara Mayers is survived by nieces Catharine "Katie" Wing of Scottsdale, AZ, and Elizabeth "Liz" Walber of New York City and a multitude of loved ones, friends, and former students. She will be greatly missed.
Barb did not want a funeral service but asked that we have a gathering of family and friends in the spring when her ashes may be buried next to her dear friend, Fran Yates, in Rockport.