Barbara L. Riel, 91, formerly of Grafton

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Barbara L. RielCharlton – We are sad to announce the passing of our beloved mother and matriarch, Barbara Lynn Riel of Auburn, Massachusetts, who passed away on April 9, 2024 two weeks shy of her 92nd birthday.

She grew up as Barbara Bigwood in Grafton, Massachusetts and married George Riel from Worcester, in 1950. After short stints on a farm in Milford and a home in Grafton, they landed in Millbury, where they raised their family. Their final years together were on a small idyllic farm in Charlton, which they called, “Taproot.”

After her beloved husband died of ALS in 1989, she found herself a widow at 58 years old. She had been a caring mom and homemaker extraordinaire for years and a farmer’s wife for over a decade, and, more recently, a devoted caregiver to the love of her life. She was suddenly in the place of needing to redefine her life.

Wow, did she!

She lived with such spirit and vigor, and so much enthusiasm. Her colorful way of dress, her flowering gardens, her love of cooking for others, her day trips with friends, her extensive travels, her love of the outdoors, and her quiet kindness to people in need were all a reflection of her belief in hard work, her humble faith, and her capacity to love others.

She loved to travel, whether daily or weekend excursions, or broader trips to different parts of the country or the world. There were times when she was traveling so much, it was difficult for her children to keep up with where she was and who she was with.

Barbara lived her life as an expression of unconditional love towards her children, family, and friends. Nothing made her happier than being with her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. Holiday gatherings at her small home were most often crowded and boisterous affairs, brimming with food, laughter, and love. She was always up for a party, small gathering or large, and when that party was a family affair, she simply glowed.

She was not perfect. She was better than that. She was Barbara – confident, focused, kind, independent, and sometimes a bit sassy. She loved a good laugh.

She got older, then she got old. She did so with grace and style. Dementia set in. Her body didn’t want to do what she wanted it to do anymore. As daily living became more challenging, and even in her darkest days, she would have smiles for people. She would take anyone’s hand in her own and greet them with sincere kindness and love. “Never give up,” she said near the very end. She never, ever did.

She leaves her five children and their families, each heartbroken over her loss and proud to be a part of her life: daughter Michelle and her husband John; her sons Michael and his wife Sue; David and wife Wendy; Jamie and wife Caren; and Thomas and husband Richard; as well as seven grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren, and so many nieces and nephews and their families, each of whom she cherished as part of her loving family. She is predeceased by her brother Richard Bigwood, whom she loved and admired, and leaves her sister Rita Gorman, who was always a blast of sunlight in her life.

Relatives and friends are invited to visit with Barbara’s family between 5 – 7 PM on Tuesday, April 16, 2024 at the BRITTON-WALLACE FUNERAL HOME, 91 Central Street, Auburn. Her funeral Mass will be celebrated at 11 AM on Wednesday, April 17th at North American Martyrs Church, 8 Wyoma Drive, Auburn. Burial will follow at St. Philip’s Cemetery, Grafton.

We want to especially thank the caring and loving staff at Shrewsbury Crossing Assisted Living and Memory Care, Salmon Hospice Services, and Worcester Palliative Home Care for their dedication and love to ensure Barbara’s comfort and safety through her final days.

Barbara asked that memorial donations be made to one of the following causes, which she so deeply believed in: The ALS Association (Donate Online Here), St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital (Donate Online Here), Special Olympics of Massachusetts (Donate Online Here), or the Alzheimer’s Association (Donate Online Here).

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