BARBARA KING CALDWELL
August 23, 1939 — April 7, 2015
Theirs was a genuine love story
Barbara King Caldwell, whose fairytale marriage became something of a family legend, passed away on Tuesday, April 7, one week after a fall at her home in Boerne, TX. Her husband of 57 years, Lynn Caldwell, their three children and their spouses were at Barbara’s side at a San Antonio hospital during her last days, granting them precious time to say goodbye. She was 75.
Theirs was a genuine love story, beginning in kindergarten in St. Petersburg, FL. When Barbara and Lynn misbehaved in class, the teacher would send them to sit under the piano for punishment. It was a punishment made in heaven, as it turned out, the start of an almost 70-year romance.
They married right out of St. Petersburg High School, on July 5th, 1958. That these two youngsters could defy the odds, never lose their respect and admiration for each other, revel in each other’s company for seven decades, seems almost unheard of today. Unlike many who flounder in retirement, the couple grew even closer after Lynn retired at age 55 from traveling the South U.S. as a Titleist golf representative.
The Caldwells spent the last 20 years—living first in Hot Springs, AR, then in Boerne, TX—regularly visiting their children and grandchildren, not to mention frequent jaunts to casinos in Shreveport, LA and Las Vegas, their Cadillac packed with Barbara’s books, magazines, newspapers and characteristic nonessentials.
Destined to love
The only child of Harry and Ann King, Barbara was born in Miami, FL on August 23, 1939. She was tiny, only 5-feet tall, a cherubic-faced, dark-blonde beauty, whose diminutive size and soft-spoken manner were never the measure of her huge heart and rock-solid Christian faith.
Lynn, the man she felt destine to love, was outgoing, genuine, attentive, often a jokester—a made-to-order salesman whose love for his wife shown in his laughing eyes and ever-present thoughtfulness. She liked chardonnay; he liked martinis and red wine. Both borrowed each other’s glasses to read the menus.
In the early days in St. Petersburg, living paycheck to paycheck, Lynn held an assortment of sales jobs. Sharon Fisher, one of the Caldwells’ oldest friends, recalls how Barbara would ride shotgun with Lynn when he covered his territory as a young sales rep.
“She would dispense words of inspiration and wait in the car while he did what he did best, sell,” Fisher said. “One of Barbara’s strongest attributes in life was that she could, with the utmost sincerity, make you feel ten feet tall.”
Barbara’s entire focus in life was to be a devoted wife and mother. She would work part-time, however, selling Hallmark cards and such; better yet, volunteering at Texas Children’s hospital in the infant wards.
The “Dallas Surprise”
She adored children and couldn’t wait to be a mom. The kids started to arrive in her early 20s, son Craig first, and then daughter Lori. Susie, born 11 years after Lori, was termed the “Dallas Surprise,” an unplanned baby who almost bore that name. Although the couple had conceived on a trip to Dallas, they had moved to Houston when the children were in elementary, junior high and high school.
Barbara not only lavished her kids and grandkids with love “to the moon and back,” she lavished everyone else’s as well. Whether at Macy’s, Walmart or simply strolling down the boulevard, any stranger pushing a carriage garnered her undivided attention. She would rave over a baby’s adorableness, a particular feature, an outfit, a smile—marveling at length.
It got to the point where daughter Susie Matthias, whose own twins once captured the endless attention of strangers, cautioned her mother against the practice. “Mom, you’ve got to calm down,” Susie told her. Turned out Susie and husband Jared’s twins, seen as a sign of good fortune in Asia, had been the objects of awe as babies when Jared was stationed in Singapore for two years.
But Barbara was hopeless on the subject. She once traveled to China with Helene Baske, a dear friend, and spent weeks helping her sort through all the paperwork and bureaucracy involved in adopting a baby. That same child, Aly Baske, now grown, recently commented on her Facebook page about Barbara’s invaluable assistance to her mother at the time.
A model couple
But make no mistake. From day one of meeting Lynn, Barbara’s major objective was to insure his happiness and wellbeing. She catered to her husband to such an extent that—after she passed away—his children had to teach him the basics of operating the washer, dryer and microwave.
Barbara and Lynn were a model couple, said son-in-law Jared Matthias, who has known the Caldwells since he was 13. “They set a worldly example of what love and devotion is. Inseparable, always a team, beautiful together, they consciously and unconsciously depended on each other. A role-model couple for sure.”
If Lynn spared no effort in caring for “Barb,” as he called her, Barbara went to the extreme in caring for him, especially in terms of nutrition. Even when he was away on business, she made sure he was eating healthy 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
But, boy, did they ever have fun together. Lynn’s love of gambling, in a healthy way, mind you, rubbed off on his wife soon after they were married. Barbara’s favorite recreational spot on earth was a casino. Where Lynn preferred to roll the dice, he often joined Barbara at the slot machines.
Picture her, a glass of chardonnay in one hand, slipping endless pennies, nickels or dimes into the slots, her adorable, round face beaming as coins rained down after a win. She considered the Cross she carried in her wallet her lucky charm.
No matter where they lived, the two never ceased taking off for a weekend to gamble, driving clear from San Antonio to Louisiana or Vegas, always staying at some insignificant hotel far from the strip, usually because Lynn was honoring some business relationship with the owner. The kids, when older, would go along, often complaining about being bored because they were lodged so far from the action.
Fox News and self-deprecating humor
If Barbara had a not-so-silent partner, it was Fox News. It played like a voice-over in the background of her existence.
An articulate conversationalist when it came to her conservative politics, she could discuss upping the minimum wage, or the reverse, who were the likely Republican nominees for President in 2016, and what measures should be taken against ISIS or Iran.
Her political savvy sometimes seemed at odds with what can only be called her frequent forgetfulness. To say Barbara was always losing things is an understatement. She once lost her daughter’s remote garage-door-opener when she mistakenly took it along on a shopping trip. It never turned up; neither did Barbara and Lynn’s extra set of Cadillac keys.
On the other hand, Barbara was a vociferous reader—novels, magazines, newspapers—so thorough, in fact, she couldn’t let a newspaper go without reading it cover to cover. Or so it seemed.
Her kids would give her a hard time when she arrived for a short visit, toting a couple of suitcases of stylish clothes, several outdated newspapers, three or four books, even her own laundry detergent and toilet paper!
Her sense of humor would quickly click in with a burst of laughter and self-deprecating remark. She was as quick to tease others in like fashion. When perturbed with her husband, however, Barbara had a habit of saying his name in a long, drawn-out way. “Lynnnnn!”
Sweet-voiced, a classy dresser who knew which styles flattered her petite frame, apt to profess her Christian values, incredibly street-smart, she was also a chronic worrywart, worried for her children and grandchildren. When her son-in-law traveled to Africa as part of his job with an oil company, she confessed her fears for his safety to all who would listen.
“Not one mean bone in her body”
In the early days, when Lynn was away selling golf equipment, Barbara ran the show. Tinier than anyone in the family, she was
firm yet compassionate, a person her children could confide in. She was also an enthusiastic fan of Lori and Susie’s dance-team performances, as well as a prominent participant at Craig’s many baseball games, even those of her children’s friends, cheering them on like family.
Her children adored her, as did their eventual spouses and her grandchildren. Barbara was very vocal in expressing her love for those she cared about. Known as “Nana” to her grandkids, she was a joy to be around, according to granddaughter Caitlin Caldwell, now a nursing student at Texas Tech University.
“Nana had the kindest soul and not one mean bone in her body,” said Caitlin, the daughter of Craig Caldwell and his wife Mindy.
She exuded warmth, not only in her personality, but in her homes, a succession of welcoming spaces outfitted in colorful French Country fabrics, plump pillows and distinctive furniture.
Her daughters inherited Barbara’s love of decorating, always calling her for advice, her tastes often reflected in their own homes. Christmas and Easter, her favorite holidays, allowed her to decorate to the nines, wrap presents and entertain. Cooking not so much!
At the end, when taken off life support the day after she fell, Barbara lingered for almost a week. Some surmise that their tough little angel was waiting for Easter, a festive occasion she never failed to enjoy to the fullest.
Barbara is survived by her husband, Lynn; her son Craig Caldwell, his wife Mindy of Boerne, TX, and their daughters Caitlin Caldwell, Brittany Taylor and Shannon Thiery; daughter Lori Matthews and her son Coleman of Lafayette, LA; daughter Susie Matthias, her husband Jared, and their 6-year-old twin sons, Jace and Cole, of Houston, TX.
A funeral service will be held on Saturday, April 11, at 2 p.m., at Vaughn’s Funeral Home, 319 East San Antonio St, Boerne, TX 78006 (830-249-9128).
Celebration of Life will follow at the home of Craig Caldwell, 7917 Colonial Woods, Boerne, TX 78015.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donation be made to Sky High for St. Jude (Ronald McDonald House). Proceeds will be donated to the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House of Memphis, Tennessee. Details at http://www.skyhighshoot.org/Donate/memorial-donation-for-barbara-king-caldwell.