Barbara Vennerbeck – North Scituate

Barbara Vennerbeck – North Scituate

Barbara Harlan Smith Vennerbeck, 91, died Wednesday, November 20, 2019, at Crystal Lake Care Center in Pascoag under hospice care. Family, friends and caregivers were never far from her side.

She is survived by three children, Richard Burton Vennerbeck and his wife, Karen Scholer; Robert Fahlquist Vennerbeck and his wife, Deb Bruce Vennerbeck; and Ann Hart Vennerbeck and her partner, Michael Driscoll. She also leaves behind grandchildren Peter Vennerbeck and Katherine Vennerbeck, and many nieces, nephews and friends.

Originally from Kennett Square, Pa., she was the daughter of the flower grower Burton O. Smith and Marie Anna Hart, both of whom have passed.

She is also predeceased by siblings Richard Smith (her twin), Elizabeth Ilsemann, Thomas Smith and Peggy Smith, as well as her son Thomas Hart Vennerbeck and former husband, Thomas Richardson Vennerbeck.

She was a graduate of Unionville High School in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania, attended the Rhode Island School of Design at age 18, went on to marry Thomas Vennerbeck and settle in Foster to raise a family of four.

Barbara was an active community member and one of the founders of STOP I-84, a grassroots ciitizens’ action group that successfully prevented I-84 from going through the Scituate Reservoir and other of Rhode Island and Connecticut’s most fragile ecosystems.

She was also a contract staffer at Brown University, contributing to the population lab study conducted at the University in the 1970s, and a tireless fundraiser for the American Cancer Society.

Most recently of North Scituate, Barbara was a regular caller on talk radio. Her son, Bob, wrote this brilliantly fitting tribute on the day she died:

“Family, friends, foes, and fellow listeners - we regret to inform you that 'Barbara from Scituate' has gone off the air. In her memory, have another cup of coffee, go rabble-rouse, and whatever you do - paint flowers on it, or foxes. No frogs please.”

It is for her larger than life personality, her wit and wisdom, that Barbara will best be remembered. She transferred her bold creativity into everything she did: she could hand-letter a large sign or sew a fine tailored shirt with ease and aplomb. She could cook and sew and draw and write light verse.

She had a marvelous sense of humor and once painted 8-foot daisies on the dock in front of Watson Greene’s home on Harbor Island at 1:30 in the morning.

She presided over two decades of memorable Halloweens when Lazy Brook Farm in Foster was the most ghastly – and her transformation into the resident witch, the most deliciously frightening.

She could talk on the phone, and the radio, like nobody’s business. She welcomed all and sundry into her home, family and friends, and strays and misfits, two and four legged.

She made the phrase “easy as pie” a truism – turning out pie after pie in her Foster kitchen, or cobbling together a feast for 12 when only four were expected.

She was unfailingly generous with her talents and whatever else she may have to give, full of (mostly good!) advice and was a self proclaimed “cockeyed” optimist.

She was one in a million and she will be sorely missed.

Plans are being discussed for an outdoor celebration of life in finer weather.