Barbara E. Widdecombe

Nov 13, 2017
Barbara Widdecombe

Rockland — Barbara E. Widdecombe, 87, died peacefully, surrounded by her loving family, Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2017, at Sussman House in Rockport, following a brave battle with pulmonary fibrosis and ovarian cancer.

Born in West Rockport Jan. 24, 1930, she was one of 13 children born to Donald and Esther Watts Tolman.

Educated in Rockport schools, Barbara married Robert A. Widdecombe March 29, 1947, after being introduced by mutual friends.

Inseparable their entire married life, Barbara and Robert were often seen walking hand in hand each evening when Mr. Widdecombe returned home from work, walking five miles before dinner. And, like teenage sweethearts, if traveling together in the truck, Barb would be seated in the middle, right alongside Mr. Widdecombe.

In earlier years, Barb walked from her South Street home to Glen Cove, where she rode the trollies to her job at F.W. Woolworth Co. in Rockland. She later worked at the Copper Kettle Restaurant and for many years worked as a domestic housekeeper for many area families. An accomplished seamstress, Barb made a lot of her girls’ clothing and at one time worked with Harriett Beaton making the velvet drapes that hung at the Knox County Courthouse.

A hard worker and consummate homemaker, Barb spent one summer doing the laundry for Alford Lake Girls Camp at her home. Her daughter remembers that anyone who came to the house was put to work, washing, drying, folding, hanging out to dry or ironing. The family backyard was filled with clotheslines, all laden with sheets, towels and clothing that had been labeled with counselors' and campers' names alike. The laundry was folded, placed into bins made by Mr. Widdecombe and the bins were placed into laundry bags to be distributed to the different tents at camp. That summer more than 120 campers attended camp, and needless to say, this was the only summer Barb took on this task.

Barb was never one to sit still. She loved traveling and taking in new sights. Together with her husband she enjoyed trips to Alaska, California, Hawaii, the Amish country in Pennsylvania, and the Canadian Rockies, which she remembered as her favorite trip. She also enjoyed a five-week road trip with her sister, Leola, from Maine to Kentucky to visit her granddaughter, Betsey.

Leaving Kentucky, they drove to Florida and back again before deciding to drive to Detroit Lakes, Minn., to visit another sister, Gerry. After leaving Minnesota, the sisters realized neither of them had ever visited Mt. Rushmore, so clearly, a stop in South Dakota was in order. Returning once more to Kentucky, they next headed Northeast, stopping in Vermont before crossing into Maine.

Deciding they really weren’t in any hurry to return home, they made one more journey to Herman, where they visited their sister Maxine. Barb would never want anyone to think her traveling only involved "riding in the car." She loved camping, especially at Sebago and Mount Blue state parks, traveling the coast of Maine to visit as many lighthouses as possible, and many trips throughout New England, often with biking, cross-country skiing and hiking involved.

She had a cunning mind, and reveled in Sunday morning Yahtzee games with her sister Maxine and brother Lloyd. Together they could rack up four and five score cards each. She also took great joy in playing cards with her friends Ruth and Ginny where the game "Spite and Malaise" was taken very seriously.

Community spirit and volunteerism were very important to Barb. In the 1950s and 1960s, she spent many hours serving on the Rockland Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary, once as their president. She was active with the PTA when her daughters were in school, and most recently has been an active member of both the Rockland and Union Senior Citizens. One of Barb’s most productive endeavors was with the Rockland Knit-Wits. From 2000 to 2016 she used her talent and time knitting countless blankets, hats, mittens and scarves that were donated to the Pen Bay Medical Center Nursery, Head Start and Special Olympics.

Even in her last days and with failing health, she was thinking of others, making nine quilts from fabric her own mother had saved. These quilts were donated to CareNet Pregnancy Center in Rockland. Family and friends alike were blessed with her beautiful handmade items at birthdays, baby showers and many of life’s other special milestones.

Her smile, caring nature and zest for life will be missed by all who loved her.

She was predeceased by her husband, Robert, in 1991; brother Harold Tolman and his wife, Rolandé; sister Gloria Keadle; sisters-in-law Janet Tolman and Gladys W. Robbins; brothers-in-law John Wiley, William Vinal, Ronald Barker, William Widdecombe; step-grandson Adam Ober; and best friend Barbara Turner Johnson.

Barbara is survived by her daughters, Diane Simmons and her husband, Richard, of Florida and Maine, Janice Ober and her husband, David, of Appleton; grandchildren Lynn Simmons Wolford and her husband, Jason, of Bardstown, Ky., Matthew Simmons and his wife, Jennifer, of Cushing, Aaron Simmons and his wife, Amy, of Chatham, Mass., Betsey Harvey York and her husband, Adam, of Dawsonville, Ga., Carrie Harvey Merchant and her husband, Jestin, of Camden; step-granddaughter Tina Ober Murray and her husband, Christopher, of Rockland; great-grandchildren Ashley Simmons, Aidan Simmons both of Chatham, Mass., Jacob York, Lauren York of Dawsonville, Ga., Mason Merchant, Hadley Merchant of Camden; step-great-grandchildren Grayson Murray and Oriana Murray of Rockland; former son-in-law Walter Harvey of Rockland; sisters and brothers Mildred Wiley of Owls Head, Betty Paulson and her husband, Donald, of South Thomaston, Leola Vinal, Maxine King, both of Union, Geraldine Barker of Detroit Lakes, Minn., Lloyd Tolman of Gulfport, Miss., Alfred Tolman of Hope, Ernest Tolman and his wife, Pat, of California, Paul Tolman and his wife, Florence, of Warren, Richard Tolman and his wife, Sandra, of Thomaston; foster sister Nancy Anderson of Portland; more than 30 nieces and nephews; as well as her special friends, Ruth Low, Barbara Colson, Ginny Robinson, Fayleen Collamore and Sylvia Colson.

Barb’s family wishes to send a special  thank-you to all of her caregivers over the past year. She received excellent and compassionate care from Hospice nurse Dena Coughlin and CNA Melissa Crowley-Foss, as well as the Rev. Ken Dale. Her friends Lorna Hills and Fayleen Turner Collamore, as well as her sisters Mildred, Betty, and Maxine, were her constant companions. Her grandchildren Matt, Jen and Carrie provided countless meals. Your love, kindness and generosity made Barb’s last days comfortable and filled with love.

All those who loved Barb are invited to a celebration of her life at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 18, at Burpee, Carpenter & Hutchins Funeral Home, 110 Limerock St., Rockland. The Rev. Ken Dale will officiate. A reception will follow at 104 Limerock, adjacent to the funeral home.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to either Sussman Hospice House, c/o Pen Bay Healthcare, 21 White St., Rockland, ME 04841, or St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, P.O. Box 1000, Dept. 300, Memphis, TN 38148-0552.

To share a memory or condolence with Barbara’s family, visit their Book of Memories at

Comments (2)
Posted by: Deborah A McKenney | Nov 13, 2017 16:27

Barbara was a wonderful, caring woman. In my mother's final years , Barbara would pick her up weekly to go to Knit Wits, Dr. appointments Or anything else she needed while I was working. She was a wonderful friend to her, for which I will be forever grateful. RIP Barbara.

Posted by: Mary A McKeever | Nov 13, 2017 14:52

Bon Voyage Barbara,! WE enjoyed knit wits together with others. I have memories of a quiet fun-loving and generous woman.

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