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Mary B. Barrett

April 16, 1914 September 19, 2014
Mary B. Barrett
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Obituary for Mary B. Barrett

Mary B. Barrett, 100, Professor Emerita of English at SUNY Orange, passed away on September 19, 2014.

She was born on April 16, 1914, in Paterson, NJ, the daughter of Esther Silberstein Bell and Pasquale “Scully” Bell. Mary grew up in Paterson, attending Eastside High School and graduating from Montclair State College. In 1934, she began teaching English at Eastside High.

During World War II, Mary volunteered to serve in the Women’s Army Corps (WACs), rising to the rank of second lieutenant. She attended Harvard University on the GI Bill, receiving a masters degree in 1947 and completing much of the work toward a doctorate.

Mary also met her husband, the late Arthur L. Barrett, at Harvard, where they were married on June 19, 1948. Together, they taught English at Altoona Center of Penn State University and moved to Newark Valley, NY, before coming to Middletown in 1954.

Mary began teaching Freshman English and Modern Drama at then-Orange County Community College. Over the next three decades, she became one of the college’s most admired teachers, sharing her wisdom and love of writing and literature. Years later students recalled her fondly when they met. Through the college, Mary organized bus trips for adults to the latest Broadway shows and led discussion groups about the plays.

After Mary retired, she served on the board of Horton Memorial Hospital and devoted herself to health-related causes, writing a pamphlet on caring for aging parents. Retirement also gave her more time to pursue the passion that she and Arthur shared for all things English. Mary had made her first trip to Britain in 1937; spent a sabbatical in London in the early ‘70s; her rubbings of brass gravestones from English churches were exhibited at OCCC. Their travels extended to most of Europe and beyond.

In 1996, Mary and Arthur were among the first residents of Glen Arden community in Goshen, where they were joined over the years by friends from Middletown and OCCC. Mary organized a quilting group, expanding on another interest she had pursued in retirement. The group’s creative work graces Glen Arden’s walls. After Arthur’s death in 2006, Mary joined a poetry group and wrote two volumes of poems, some poignant and inspirational, others simply humorous. Sharing her creations with family, friends and neighbors was a great joy for her, while they were delighted and moved by her work. She was recognized with a prize by the Canadian Poetry Society Institute in its published anthology.

Mary is survived by her son David, a lawyer, her daughter-in-law Didi, a member of the New York Assembly representing parts of Dutchess and Columbia Counties, and grandchildren Alec and Annabel.

Mary was a doting mother and grandmother, delighting in her family and happily describing their accomplishments. She will be deeply missed by all who knew and loved her warmth, charm and sharp intelligence. A Memorial Service will be held at Glen Arden in the coming weeks. Burial will be private at Hillside Cemetery, Middletown.

Memorial contributions in Mary’s honor may be made to Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley, 178 Church Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601; or Safe Homes of Orange County, PO Box 649, Newburgh, NY 12551.

Memorial contributions in Mary’s honor may be made to Planned Parenthood Mid-Hudson Valley, 178 Church Street, Poughkeepsie, NY 12601; or Safe Homes of Orange County, PO Box 649, Newburgh, NY 12551.

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