Barbara Hull Richardson died at home in Keene, NH on March 23, 2019, surrounded by her children, and with the support of family, friends, and caregivers.
Barbara was born on September 30th 1922 to Clara Woodruff and Robert Alonzo Hull, joining her older brothers Robert Alonzo, Jr. and Lewis Woodruff, and later joined by her brother John Laurence. Barbara grew up in Waverly, Pennsylvania, and Hull family reunions continue to this day on her brother Bob’s family’s Spring Hills Farm in neighboring Dalton.
Raised as a Christian Scientist by her father, Barbara was a life-long pacifist, and, inspired by the Peace Pilgrim, became a vegetarian in 1962. In spite of her small stature and quiet manner, Barbara never wavered from her public service and work on behalf of her beliefs and values, and she could be a formidable opponent when the need arose. Barbara inspired family, friends, clients, and coworkers by her example, living purposely and simply to make the world a better place, especially for those in need.
Barbara graduated from Bryn Mawr College in 1944. Her first job after graduation was as a 7th grade substitute teacher. On her 22nd birthday, she was accidentally shot by one of her students shooting at tin cans in a pond when one of the bullets ricocheted off the surface of the pond. The bullet missed her heart by a quarter of an inch, and upon her miraculous recovery and learning of her surgeon’s own personal tragedy, Barbara decided to do something worthwhile with her life.
Barbara then lived in Boston, rooming with her best friend from college, Fran Reiner Lax, attending Boston University (towards a masters degree), and working as a social worker at a settlement house in South Boston. Barbara married Elmer Murray Richardson on September 6th, 1947. They had 4 children, Barbara Ann, Laurence Hull (Larry), Christine (Chris), and Lovel. They lived in Chestnut Hill, PA; Old Greenwich, CN; Norwich, VT; and Fitzwilliam, NH. Elmer died in 1979, and Barbara moved to Richmond, NH in 1991. Barbara had first come to NH in the summer of 1943 as a Hut Girl at Pinkham Notch, spending all her free time hiking in the White Mountains along the Appalachian Trail.
Barbara helped to bring the first Head Start Program to NH (in Keene), securing all the necessary local, state, and federal approvals as well as grant funding. With Eleanor Towns, Barbara started Task Force Share, which later became Project Share, providing donated appliances and home furnishings and volunteer services to people referred by social service agencies.
In 1966, Barbara began her career working for the State of New Hampshire’s Division of Welfare, first as a caseworker. After receiving a Masters of Social Work degree from Smith College School for Social Work in 1973, Barbara became an administrator, commuting each day to Concord. Barbara worked as a Program Manager and wrote child services policy. She traveled all over the state helping to make permanent plans for children in foster care placement. Always ahead of her time, in the 1970s and ’80s, Barbara worked on open adoption policy and policy to allow for adoption and foster care by gay and lesbian individuals and same-sex couples.
Subsequent to her first retirement, Barbara was elected to nine terms in the New Hampshire State Legislature, serving until 2010. At one point she was the only Democrat to be Clerk — with no other Democrats as Chairs, Vice-Chairs, or Clerks — for the Children and Family Law Committee. Barbara’s primary goal in the State Legislature was to establish the most equitable and fair way to fund public education, which is with an income tax as opposed to the property tax. Her seatmates had been instructed that if she were to die on the floor to just prop her body up and keep voting on her behalf for an income tax!
Barbara served on a number of non-profit and educational boards. Barbara was one of the founders of Cheshire Housing Trust, and was a friend and supporter of Doris ‘Granny D’ Haddock, carrying on Granny D’s work through PACE (Promoting Active Civil Engagement) and Open Democracy.
Barbara is survived by her son Larry Hull Richardson of Richmond, NH, daughter Chris Richardson of White River Junction, VT, and daughter Lovel Pratt.
Barbara’s only (and most enjoyable!) vice in life was books. Due to the loss in annual sales that the Toadstool Bookstore will suffer as a result of her death, everyone is encouraged to purchase books there or at their own favorite local independent bookstore. In lieu of flowers, donations are encouraged to Hospice at Home Healthcare (PO Box 564, Keene, NH 03431-0564), CASA of NH (39 Central Square, Keene, NH 03431), or a charity of choice.
A celebration of Barbara’s life will be held on Sunday, September 29, 2019 at 2:00pm at the Keene Unitarian Universalist Church (69 Washington Street, Keene, NH).