Barbara Wells

Obituary of Barbara Foss Wells

Barbara Foss Wells February 4, 1933 – February 25, 2022 Barbara lived a life full of longtime friends, creative pursuits, and advocacy that made the world a better place. Barbara Ann was the second of three children born to Ethelyn Close Foss and Walter Dudley Foss in Stamford, CT. As a child, she could often be found on neighbors’ porches begging for cookies and sometimes helping herself to dog biscuits! She helped tend the family garden and chickens and admittedly did not care much for exercise. She attended Northfield School for Girls, graduating in 1951. She graduated from Penn State University in 1955, where she was one of only a few women in the College of Chemistry and Physics and served as President of their Student Council. She maintained lifelong friends from both of these schools and met her husband, Hal Wells, at Penn State. Barbara put her many skills and hard work ethic to use in her various jobs. She taught science at a private girls’ school in Palo Alto before having children. As a mother to Bruce and Elisa in the 1960s and 70s, she provided many opportunities for creative free-form play, always had art materials at the ready, and taught them practical skills like cooking, sewing, and gardening. She also found time to run a catering business, maintain a large organic garden, manage an art class, and serve as a Wellesley Town Meeting member, a position she won over a longtime incumbent by doorbelling almost every house in her district. In the 1980s, she became a successful real estate broker, eventually opening Suburban Property Center in Wellesley Hills with four other women using a novel cooperative business model. Never short of opinions about how things should be done and often visionary in her thinking, Barbara was an advocate and avid letter writer about a wide range of topics: environmental protection, reproductive rights, good nutrition and healthy school lunches, anti-war, anti-smoking, Native American rights and education, care for disabled veterans, and more. She showed up to voice her opinions at town and school committee meetings and once called the town to inform them that she would sue them if they installed the granite curbs they had already laid out at the intersections they were repairing instead of installing ramps for accessibility. To draw attention to the human toll of the Iraq war, Barbara created a large banner that hung on her front porch. She updated it daily with hand painted panels showing the growing casualties among both US troops and Iraqi civilians. Her correspondence files contained responses from numerous US Presidents and First Ladies and Queen Elizabeth. Barbara enjoyed creative pursuits throughout her life, including making her own clothes, making costumes for family members and musical productions, and creating visual art using watercolors, acrylics, and pastels. Some of her work won awards in local art shows. A superb cook, Barbara loved to host luncheons, dinner parties, and her annual Front Porch BLT Party when her garden tomatoes were ripe. She also helped organize neighborhood events and for many years maintained a map of all the neighborhood contact information, welcoming newcomers and helping them meet their neighbors. She delivered delicious homemade soups to sick friends and generously shared flowers from her garden, including secretly delivering annual May Baskets. Barbara was predeceased by her husband of 36 years, Harold (Hal) Neal Wells, and brother, Dr. Alan Foss. She is survived by her sister, Marjorie Dente (Fred) of Langley, WA; children Bruce Wells (Anne Hintermeister) of Scarsdale, NY, and Elisa Wells (Seth Moran) of Camas, WA; grandchildren, Julia Wells, Shannon Wells-Moran, and Sarah Wells-Moran; and nieces and a nephew. To honor her memory, Barbara would want you to send a card to a friend or relative, host a dinner party with friends, deliver a May Basket, write your legislators about issues that are important to you and your community, support causes that help others, compost and recycle (everything!), and educate yourself about election issues, casting your vote based on facts and for the betterment of the community. Those wishing to make a contribution in Barbara’s memory could consider Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When she was newly married in 1955, Barbara learned that Connecticut law made it illegal for her to access birth control. Fortunately, she was able to get care at Planned Parenthood in New York City. As a result of that experience, Barbara became a lifelong supporter of PPFA and an advocate for women’s rights, including access to reproductive health care. Friends and family are invited to share memories about Barbara during an informal Zoom gathering, Saturday April 30 at 10 AM Pacific Time. To receive the link, please email Barbara’s daughter, Elisa, at ElisaSWells@gmail.com
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