Remembering Barbara Massey

Barbara at the Wood River Wetlands.

Barbara Massey, a remarkable woman of 98 years and friend of many (especially the birds), died on May 7 in Ashland. Her obituary in the Mail Tribune is an informative read on her life before Ashland.

Within a year of Barbara and Eric’s move to Ashland in 1998, and while she continued to engage herself in art, music and literature, she also flew into the world of birds! In 1999, she and others collected data that became her third book, Guide to Birds of the Rogue Valley, co-authored with Dennis Vroman and published in 2003.

Monthly monitoring at North Mountain Park continues today, thanks to Barbara’s inspiration and with the help of Vince Zauskey, Bob Quaccia, Nala Cardillo, and me. The results of data analyses by Barbara and Brandon Breen can be found on the city of Ashland website—Birding At North Mountain Park.

I was introduced to Barbara’s watercolor artwork at the Ashland library’s exhibit, Shifting Patterns: Preparing for Unsettled Days. Here is a link to her contribution, Climate Change and the Birds of the Rogue Valley.

Barbara, always the data collector, began informal monthly Klamath Basin bird surveys in 2013 that provided Terence Philippe, Brandon Breen, and me delightful birding opportunities and friendship as we followed the same route each visit. Barbara enjoyed short stints behind the wheel on some of the unpaved roads within the refuge.

Barbara navigating the Refruge.

Barbara fancied a Summer Lake and Malheur trip and, in 2017, Nick, Becky Snow and I were her wheels and birding buddies. She was clear about not needing help on uneven surfaces, although she didn’t mind help sighting the Bobolink.

Our time together in the ensuing years consisted of visits at her mosaic studio that Terrance helped create from a storage shed. These visits were short and sweet, because her time was limited and she was intent on completing her bird, flower, and Baby Animals of the Sea projects.

Birding Ashland Pond from Gwyneth’s Bench.

We birded and talked as I joined her on several walks around her neighborhood, or making our way around the Ashland Pond and lingering on the bench dedicated to Gwyneth Ragosine (installed thanks to Barbara and RV Audubon).

As our birding outings became less frequent, Barbara and I regularly visited the Tuesday Market to get scones and have coffee together before returning to her residence at Maple Ridge.

My last visit with Barbara was at her bedside months later, and she lamented about not being in control of her life and not knowing what to do about it. I encouraged her not to worry, to let us love her, and to relish the memories of a life well lived. With a determined voice, she said, “I’ll have to think about that,” and dozed off with a a smile on her face. I sat for a spell thinking of the ways she enriched my life, and my parting gift was a kiss on her warm soft cheek.

Barbara’s family is planning a memorial/celebration of life sometime near the end of July and early August.

–Sooney Viani