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The Little Things – “Her Hospitality Knows No Bounds”

Written by Susan Carpenter | Featuring Barbara Ryan

“Live life like it’s the last breath you take, for that breath is the whole essence of living, the little things in life are what connects us all to the big things we live for.” – Robert Frost

“I know all is right in our community when I walk past Hamilton Hall in the morning and Barbara is putting her fitness class participants “through the paces” with her encouraging, inspirational, and challenging routine. Thank you, Barbara, for your dedication to making Essex Meadows such a wonderful place to live life to its fullest! We are grateful for all you do!” – Kathleen Dess, Executive Director

Poet Robert Frost reminds us that the little things in life sometimes have the greatest impact. Barbara Ryan embodies this philosophy in her every word and deed. To say that she is passionate is an understatement. Whether it’s something she’s doing here to enrich the Essex Meadows Community or the many contributions she makes and the lives she touches outside in the greater community, Barbara approaches everything she does with passion, dignity, and humanity.

One of five children growing up in a small town in Massachusetts, Barbara enjoyed a successful career in the corporate arena before becoming a local entrepreneur here in Essex. As a Certified Personal Trainer, she worked with clients in her own downtown Essex location as well as coming to train residents when the brand-new Fitness Center was introduced by the Weitz family shortly after Essex Meadows opened in 1988. While Barbara has only officially been a staff member for the past few years, she has clocked more years and hours than the majority of the staff!

When presented with the opportunity to join the Community Life Services department, Barbara jumped in with both feet and has added immeasurably to the diversity of programs offered including yoga and meditation as well as classes for improving balance and relieving the pangs of arthritis. She approaches everything enthusiastically including introducing a travelogue program, and learning the Hamilton Hall technology, and has recently added Mah Jongg to her resume. Barbara was the calm, reassuring, and optimistic voice on the other end of the phone during the pandemic during daily wellness calls – a practice she continues today.

She genuinely cares about folks and will call to check if they miss a class or may need a kind word. Barbara has a very personal connection to Essex Meadows as her mother was a resident in the Health Center during her final years. Barbara treats every resident and staff person with dignity and respect. Her hospitality and patience know no bounds. This kind and gentle spirit was inherited from her mother Ruth. Her mother volunteered for Meals on Wheels and the local senior center in her hometown of Paxton, MA. Barbara thought so much of her mother’s care in the health center that memorial donations were directed to the Essex Meadows Scholarship Fund.

Barbara wears many hats around town in addition to her work at Essex Meadows. As one of our town’s two Registrars of Voters, she assists with registration, absentee ballots, and other matters. You can find her at Town Hall every Wednesday and she’s a fixture at the polls during elections. Barbara also serves as the Treasurer for FISH (Friends in Service Here) – an organization founded in 1970 that provides complimentary medical transportation to residents of Essex, Deep River, and Chester. Like Sharon DeGroat and Kimberley Parks, Barbara is an animal lover and maintains a thriving business as a pet sitter. While Barbara has this incredible work ethic and devotion to community service, she does reserve time for a special group of close-knit friends. They enjoy food, wine, and travel. Travel was certainly limited during the pandemic, but fortunately, Barbara realized her dream of touring Italy before the pandemic began. Hopefully, 2023 will open that door for travel once again – Europe maybe? Bermuda? Bora Bora? A cruise around the world? Wherever it might be, no one is more deserving of a little R&R given all that she does to enrich our lives every day.