She was a brave woman and a kind one. She suffered from a disfiguring disease called Wegener's Granulomatosis, and from 2002 until her death on June 4th 2014, she was not only in terrible pain, but was forced to undergo the most humiliating and terrible punishment, together with at least thirty major operations. These were either paid by the insurance we had, or later, when money was tight, by the Spanish National Health (which is very good, and our thanks to them).
Barbara was born in San José, California on July 7 1953 (she wrote about her early life - and her poisonous siblings - on her blog here) and she arrived in Spain in around 1980, staying originally with her parents who were living in Mojácar, but soon, in her own house on land next to the family estate.
She must have been amazing when she was young. Here's what a friend of Barbara called Sharon wrote:
'I just wanted to share a special memory I have of Barbara with you. My parents lived on Trinity Ct. near Foothill Elementary School and Barbara lived miles away from me in another part of Saratoga. One Saturday she called and said she was going to come see me. About an hour later the doorbell rings and Barbara is at the front door and her horse was out on the street. It must have been Jiggs. She got back on him and we stood out there and chit-chatted for a while until she decided it was time to ride him home. Of course for her to ride to my house and back home she had to ride on Highway 9 for several miles. I always wished I could have seen the expressions on the faces of drivers as she rode her horse home on a major highway. She was one of a kind and fearless. I feel honored to have known her'.
Barbara soon learned Spanish, by mixing with the local farmers and showing her interest in animals. She would go out riding with Don Diego, the doctor, as he did his 'rounds' of the far-off isolated cortijos up in the hills. One old lady complemented her on her idioma - 'you ain't from around here', she said, 'not sounding like that... you're probably from Los Gallardos!'. Barbara was immensely pleased.
Barbara ran a donkey-taxi on Mojácar beach her first year here to make ends meet (it was really a mule) and had a job working as secretary for the mayor - Paco Marullo. Later, after we met and married, she started a charity here called 'Animo' to help disabled kids using equine assisted therapy. Put 'em on a horse and let 'em go, in my (very ignorant) words. Many children came through our stables, and many more volunteers helped, until the money ran dry thanks to a newspaper I ran (rather badly). Barbara traveled to various meetings, in Germany, Austria, France and England, and held a congress here with guest-speakers from the various world bodies, including the FRDA and other major players in the field. The head of the ONCE told us once that he heard about Barbara's work while in Australia. Spain being Spain, Barbara's efforts were totally ignored in this country, but 'hey'.
You can read about her charity and her love of animals on her blog Animo.
Later, she tried to set this dream up a second time, if on a smaller scale, but with not much enthusiasm from the Spanish once again, apart from the brilliant support of Loli Berenguer from the Centro Ecuestre Albero in Almería, and a luke-warm support from the University. The Mojácar Town Hall, of course, never took the slightest interest in any of this, not even when Barbara organised competitions of donkey baseball during several years.
|Portrait of me, Barbara and Daniel at my art gallery in Bédar. Photo by Michael Sucker.|
|Barbara with Padre Ángel from Mensajeros de la Paz. On the right is Dra. María Rose.|
We have three children of our own, Jessica, Amber and Daniel and four grand-children. They all live in the USA (jobs for foreigners - even bilingual ones - are scarce in Spain).
Barbara was my soul mate, and now she's gone.