Barbara Johnson, AKA Rat Barbara, AKA the Mad Cat Lady of Lower Clay Street, had her final wish granted as she passed away quietly at home on March 20, 2010, with her husband, Terry, at her side.
Barbara Franklin was born in Glen Cove, Long Island, to James Willard Franklin and Ruth Retallack. She used to kid, “1929 was a bad year all around.” Actually, anyone who met her would disagree. Strongly. She was unfailingly kind, pleasant, considerate and industrious, even as she endured almost three years of cancer and its side effects.
For as long as Barbara could remember, she loved nature. Her father took her for walks in the woods on Long Island, teaching her about the wildlife. It was a dream of hers to be able to live in the woods and provide a wildlife refuge. She always had at least one dog and cat and was fiercely protective of them. Barbara told of a time when her mother was angrily beating on Barbara’s dog, who had committed some mischief. Barbara turned the garden hose on her mother, putting an end to that! Her father’s only comment was how much he would have liked to see it!
Barbara could be mischievous. One of her grade school teachers gave her an autograph book, which she used to record the birthdays of her friends. A schoolmate addressed his note to “Rat Barbara.” The name was prescient. In boarding school, an older girl would room with the younger girls. The one who roomed with Barbara’s group was very proud of her flashlight. One day, the girls played a trick on her. They were always catching mice. Barbara was the only one who wasn’t squeamish about handling the mice, so she was elected to replace the batteries in the flashlight with dead mice. All the girls pretended to be asleep when the older girl came in. She turned on her flashlight, which didn’t light. In the dim light, she emptied the “batteries” out onto her skirt…Rat Barbara. Yup.
After finishing high school and a year of secretarial school, Barbara attended Principia College in Elsah, Ill., where she met Miles Chard. They married and moved to Newport Beach, Calif., where they raised sons Robin and Douglas. During this time, of course, she continued to make dogs and especially cats part of the family, adopting strays whenever they presented themselves. A neighbor jokingly referred to her as the mad cat-lady of lower Clay Street. She relished the title.
With their sons off to college, Barbara and Miles found their marriage ending. Terry Johnson had been Robin’s best friend in junior high school, so he had known Barbara as “Robin’s mother” for years and stayed in touch all that time, even working for Miles after graduating from college. While bowling on the same team, Terry and Barbara had time to talk, discovered how closely they thought about things, and just happened to fall in love. Of that Barbara said, “I feel so lucky that I got a second chance.”
Barbara and Terry moved to Oceanside, Calif., where they had a large garden. Friends could count on a jar of boysenberry jam and a jar of grape jelly every Christmas. Barbara’s greatest joy was in taking care of the garden and her pets.
“A blessing in disguise,” is a trite phrase, but it perfectly describes Terry being laid off work in 1992. That prompted a move to Oregon, where Barbara found the dream environment of her childhood: five acres of woods in Scholls. For the last 15 years Barbara has loved living among the giant trees, the deer, the birds, the raccoons, and, yes, even the skunks!
Barbara wanted Dr. Paul Tseng and the staff at Northwest Cancer Specialists and especially Dr. Kim Swartz and his staff at the Oregon Clinic to know how much she appreciated their care and caring attitude over the past years.
Surviving Barbara are her husband, Terry, of the family home in Scholls, Oregon; sons and daughter in law, Robin and Elizabeth Chard of Tigard, Ore., and Douglas Chard of Telluride, Colo.; and grandchildren, Griffin and Cooper Chard of Tigard, Ore.
The family suggests remembrances as contributions in Barbara’s memory to the Portland Rescue Mission, P.O. Box 3713, Portland, OR 97208, or D.E.L.T.A. Rescue, P.O. Box 9, Glendale, CA 91209.
Please view and sign Barbara’s guest book under the Oregonian at www.oregonlive.com/obits.