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Barbara Eberhart (née Boulton) was born in 1927 and died in 2023, one month short of her 96th birthday. Stories she told about her childhood often would begin, “Mother, father and I were living in the Seattle (fill in the blank) district….” Her parents, Clare and Violet Boulton, had moved often, fixing up and selling houses until settling down in a home with gardens and swimming pool in the Magnolia neighborhood where Barbara attended Queen Anne High School (Class of 1946). The Magnolia house overlooked the bluff and Elliott Bay.
Metal, rubber and paper drives for the war effort were activities she took part in during her teen years. Her parents cultivated a Victory Garden. After December 1941, seeing the United States government incarcerate Japanese-Americans made a strong impression on her. One of her close friends was of Chinese descent. This girl resorted to wearing a large button on her clothes that stated “CHINA” to protect her from anti-Asian racist cruelty. For fear to have led to an unprecedented denial of civil liberties struck Barbara as wrong. Tolerance, acceptance and understanding had become firm bedrock of her beliefs.
Barbara’s uncle, Art Goodwin (married to her father’s sister, Caroline Frances Boulton) was one of the founders of the Seattle Pike Place Market. Her Uncle Art had an office upstairs at the market. Her father, Clare Boulton owned a tavern beneath the stairs. She was always proud of her father but remembered feeling the stigma of judgement when she would answer “Barkeep” when asked, “What’s your daddy do?” As a school girl she would ride the bus downtown and then catch a lift home with her father at the end of his work shift. “Watch your mouth,” someone at the bar would shout out as she entered the establishment, “Boss’s kid!”
Her parents had bought a nice piano and paid for her lessons, insisting that she play only “good music” not low-brow popular tunes. Yet she always loved to play popular music and later in life maintained a repertoire of nostalgic standards which she enjoyed performing for veterans at the reunions she and her husband attended during their retirement. Improvisational piano jazz was her personal Holy Grail. Well marked piano theory and Fake Books galore attest to that.
In 1951 she completed a Bachelor of Arts in Music degree from the University of Washington. Mid-May that year she performed her senior piano recital in the Music Building Recital Hall. Her program included memorized pieces by Couperin, Bach, Beethoven, Schumann and Delius. The final selection was a contemporary composition titled Six Pieces for Piano, On Winter Moods and Patterns written by the Northwest composer, George Frederick McKay. McKay, a UofW professor of music at the time, is said to have composed the work specifically for her to perform.
Barbara spent a great deal of time at the piano. Her teachers were important influences on her. One of these was Mrs. Dorothy Woodcock who fostered a love of music and love of living in her students. Barbara took to heart her advice applicable beyond music study: “Prepare with the utmost care. Carry it out with the utmost resourcefulness.”
Another one of her influential piano teachers in Seattle was Berthe Ponce Jacobson. After Barbara’s graduation, Mrs. Jacobson encouraged her to work with children, setting up an early childhood music education program. Barbara did this prior to accepting a full-time job as a piano instructor at a studio in Anchorage, AK.
Barbara had met Dee Eberhart, a war veteran attending UofW on the GI Bill while they were both undergraduates there. They dated for a while but the relationship stalled. He reconnected with her during her time in Alaska. They were married on May 2, 1953 at her parents’ Magnolia home in Seattle.
The couple’s early married years were spent in Alexandria, VA. This was followed by a return to the northwest and the birth of the couple’s first child in 1955. They lived in West Seattle before moving to a more spacious home on Queen Anne Hill.
Barbara was a full-time mother and homemaker. Her family had grown to six children by 1963. Her husband’s career transplanted the family to the San Francisco Bay area for two years. By 1965 they were back in Washington State, settling into rural life near Ellensburg, WA where the couple’s seventh child was born.
One of her creative outlets during the 1970s was as a puppet maker and producer of puppet shows. Step aside Trapp Family. Barbara organized her children and their friends to perform as part of the Bunny House, an annual spring fundraising event sponsored by the local chapter of the Children’s Home Society of Washington. Staged at the Kittitas County Fairgrounds Commercial Building, these annual puppet show performances required fresh scripts and new casts of characters each year. Because of her efforts, in 1978 a Certificate of Appreciation was presented to the family in recognition of special contributions for the welfare of children.
She was an emotional support to her husband in his involvement with veterans’ organizations, actively serving in National and local chapter Auxiliary groups. A highlight was her election as National Auxiliary President for 1999-2000, and the year spent traveling with Dee, her “Red Cap” to 42nd Infantry Division Veterans’ events. She was a bookkeeper for the family orchard operations. She was an avid reader and a logophile, for which the four years of high school Latin served her well. She loved etymology and subtleties of meaning. A dictionary was always near at hand to consult and ponder. She never pontificated. She was always willing to let others draw their own conclusions. She believed in Universal Truths.
Her husband, Dee, preceded her in death. Barbara is survived by four daughters, three sons and twelve grandchildren.
Barbara’s memorial service will be conducted at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, December 9, 2023 in the Evenson Memorial Chapel at Johnston & Williams Funeral Home in Ellensburg with urn committal to follow at the IOOF Cemetery.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Johnston & Williams of Ellensburg. Online condolences may be left for the family at www.johnston-williams.com