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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Barbara Sandford dies; Plainfield loses stalwart friend

Barbara Sandford (right), with friend and fellow
Plainfield Garden Club member Bernice Swain.
Plainfield has lost a devoted and stalwart friend in the passing of Barbara Sandford at her New Hampshire summer home on Labor Day.

Word came last night that Barbara passed peacefully after a glorious final summer at the Lake Wentworth home she loved.

I met her soon after moving to Plainfield in 1983 and felt immediately at home with her direct and no-nonsense approach to public issues -- especially the sense of pride she expected Plainfielders to take in their community and its appearance.

Nor was she concerned with the appearance of the business district and City Hall only. She introduced me to the Shakespeare Garden (one of a few worldwide) and the work of the ladies of the Plainfield Garden Club, who have tended it on the public's behalf for more than three-quarters of a century.

She was also a devout person of faith who lived out her Presbyterian convictions in as firm and generous way as she did her civic activities. In fact, her civic activities were just another way of expressing her faithfulness.

But she did much more and much of it discreetly, without fanfare or publicity.

When I was working in real estate, I was surprised one day to receive a call from Barbara asking if I could drop by her house to discuss an urgent but unspecified matter.

Puzzled, I met with her to learn that she wanted me to help her secretly pay off the mortgage of someone who had been something of a handyperson once and was now in danger of losing their home.

Though the amount was substantial, it was not huge. Her main worry was in offending the pride of the family she wished to help. After some finagling, and with the help of a friendly lawyer, we put together a transaction which saved the day. I never knew the family being helped and Barbara was adamant that she did not want anyone to know how it all had come about.

I thought of it as the sort of good work that John Calvin at his best encouraged, worthy yet self-effacing, characteristic of her deep faith (and of that of my own Puritan forebears).

When I had the temerity to try and compare her care for Plainfield to that of Eleanor Roosevelt, another woman of culture and means who devoted her life to others, Barbara said sharply, 'Dan, don't you ever compare me to that buck-toothed woman!'.

Even so, I think she was secretly pleased to be compared to such a respected figure -- even if she was the wife of a Democratic president, and Barbara was a staunch, lifelong Republican of a sort that is now dying out.

Barbara, we thank you for all you have done and for the inspiration you were to us all. We shall miss you, but you have set a standard for us to aspire to.

Barbara Sandford
Saturday, November 9,
Note change to: November 16
1:00 PM
Crescent Avenue Presbyterian Church

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Anonymous said...

So sad She will be missed

Anonymous said...

Hi Dan,
Thank you for your post honoring the life of my Grandmother, Barbara. The stories you shared here are touching, and it came as a great relief in my grief to realize that there will always be new things to learn about her life. I know that your comments would have touched her deeply. She was very proud of her community, and it would mean a lot to her to see her life celebrated.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for delivering this sad news. I don't know where Mrs. Sandford grew up, but she certainly made herself a vital part of her community at least from the time she married Webster Sandford, he of an established Plainfield family, about 70 years ago.

Rob said...

mmmmmmmmm... A Republican..and not a demon, the devil or evil... Why, how human of you to speak so unlike yourself of another person who doesn't hug the same party ideology.. grow a set and print this.
Pull some local Democrats out of your ass who are as committed to the welfare of this city and it's people... Yeah, don't worry Dan. Your party isn't sporting a full set either.
You and Jerry.. No comments allowed.. how.. DEMOCRAT of you.