Barbara Jean Coleman Richardson

Barbara Jean Coleman Richardson

Barbara Richardson cherishes her two grown children, two grandsons and close friends more deeply because of a tragedy she experienced early in life.

Her carefree childhood growing up in Ortega with mother Pearl Johnson Coleman of Jacksonville and father Leonard Coleman abruptly changed when Pearl died at age 24. Barbara was just six and her younger sister Shirley was four. Their loss was eased by the co-parenting of her grandparents and father, and the later addition of a loving stepmother who greatly influenced Richardson, now 83.

“My maternal grandparents, Henry and Goldie Johnson of Woodmere Drive, helped us; Dad worked long hours for Railway Express. Grandmother became ‘Mama’ and we all grew even closer after Mother passed…I have the best sister anyone could ever have. Shirley lives in Tampa but we talk by phone frequently,” Richardson said.

Richardson has wonderful memories of Fishweir and Lakeshore schools and still keeps in touch with many school friends. She graduated from Robert E. Lee High School where she was a member of the National Honor Society and French Club. In 1947, her junior year, a newspaper reporter photographed students learning to drive at school.

TheWayBarbara2Richardson was the student photographed sitting in the Burwell Motors vehicle as Driver Education Teacher Mr. Mendoza taught.

“I wasn’t nervous at all…just excited to learn to drive. I remember it was a huge car with a big steering wheel. Everyone liked Mr. Mendoza, he was a great teacher,” Richardson remembered.

Burwell Motor Company provided vehicles for the school’s Driver Training Course, which required 20 hours of classroom study and eight hours behind the wheel. Richardson recalled sitting at a driver testing station in class and looking into a viewer that tested responses to driving situations. After passing the course she received her license and enjoyed driving the family car.

“I never drove without permission, that’s for sure! I always asked first and if Mama said ‘No’, well then it was NO and I knew better than to mess with that.” Richardson said. “The only time I disobeyed was when a date invited me to the July 4th beach celebration and Mama said, ‘No, it’s too dangerous, too much traffic, too many people.’ We just wanted to walk around and see the fireworks, so we went anyway. When I got home, Mama was waiting at the door, hands on hips….while we were at the beach my wallet was stolen and thrown away. Someone found it and called Mama!”

TheWayBarbara3After graduation, Barbara Coleman married W. Leville Richardson, who passed away in 2002. Over the years she worked for Blue Cross & Blue Shield, The William Cook Agency and for TRC Staffing Services where she was honored as an outstanding employee. The couple adopted two children, Kevin and Lisa, and bought a new home on Baden Lane in Ortega Forest, where they lived from 1969 until 2002; it was recently sold. Ortega Forest children walked to Stockton School and played in homes and yards under the watchful eyes of parents who were good friends, she recalled.

“We often had neighbors over for dinner parties; many still live in Ortega Forest or nearby. We all tend to stay around Ortega where we grew up and raised our children,” Richardson explained.

Richardson loves tea roses and grew 25 varieties of pinks and reds to greet her with beautiful blooms every morning, right under her kitchen window. Her husband/assistant gardener Leville loved roses too and together they produced abundant bouquets for neighbors and friends.

“I’m a 50-plus year member of the Riverside Garden Club Laurel Circle…I learned so much attending meetings and presentations with my good ‘flower friend’ Jean Harrell of Ortega. I was proud to win some contests with my roses,” she said.

Richardson volunteered with United Way charities, especially the Children’s Home Society Auxiliary where she held several positions, including president. With her friend and fellow volunteer Peggy Johnson of Ortega Forest, she manned fundraisers, collected donations, painted walls and worked to make it more home-like for the children. The women planned summertime swim parties and holiday gift giving, so that the children could learn and experience the joy of giving to each other.

“Having lost my own mother as a child, I wanted to help them any way I could,” Richardson said. “I also learned from my dear stepmother, Vivian, who was so giving. Vivian’s idea of a perfect date with my father was visiting folks in the hospital or taking food to anyone who was ill.”

For years Richardson was volunteer secretary for a community project held at Snyder Memorial United Methodist Church for young single mothers. Volunteers staffed the on-site school which provided free parenting, life skills and academic classes to help the young mothers further their educations.

Richardson attends two Downtown churches with friends, surrounds herself with angels and flowers and throughout her life has found writing poetry to be a perfect expression of her faith. Her poems have been published in community and church publications.

By Julie Kerns Garmendia
Resident Community News

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