Barbara Jean Bradley took her family on an incredible journey to the end of her life on February 15, 2023. Barbara passed away peacefully in her home with many loved ones by her side. For most of her adult life, Barbara’s hometown was Sandy Hook, Connecticut. Because of her Alzheimer’s diagnosis, she moved to Meriden in 2020 to live with her daughter. Although she experienced memory loss and other challenging symptoms from the disease, she still knew and remembered her closest and dearest family members in her final days. We are all grateful for that.
Barbara Jean was born on December 28, 1947 in Norwalk, Connecticut, lovingly brought into this world by her late parents Marjorie Anderson and Louis Bradley. Barbara, aka Barb, had six beloved sisters and two beloved brothers. Barbara was the third of nine children. She is survived by all her siblings: Betty Lou Reynolds, Mary O’Rourke, Linda Gillette, Susan Finney, James Bradley, Laurie Ward, David Bradley, and Donna Lowndes. Most of them were there with Barbara in the final days and hours of her life. Those who could not be present were there in spirit and called to say their final goodbyes.
Barbara’s sisters describe their childhood as “simple and happy.” The family didn’t have much money, but they had each other and made the best of what they had. The sisters and brothers were all close growing up and stayed close their whole lives. Young Barbara and her siblings spent a lot of time playing outdoors, playing hide-and-seek indoors, and having clean and simple fun. When Barbara wasn’t spending time with her siblings, she used to get into mischief with her best friend Shorty. Barbara used to love ice skating at Riverside Park in Norwalk and befriended Jackie who had cerebral palsy. Jackie enjoyed watching Barbara ice skate. As one sister recalls, Barb made friends with everyone, and she did that her whole life, always wanting to connect with others.
Barbara and her siblings grew up and had families of their own. They all enjoyed big family gatherings and summer picnics with their children at parks all around Connecticut: Putnam Park, Sherwood Island, Squantz Pond State Park, and Newtown Town park. Barb played card games with her competitive brothers and sisters, all of them laughing and bickering, as the many cousins swam, climbed trees and rocks, played tag and caused mischief. At all family weddings and celebrations, Barb would shake her booty with her sisters and brothers, dancing to the song “We are a Family,” a must on any DJ’s playlist for the family gatherings. The sisters wouldn’t have it any other way.
Besides her siblings, Babara leaves behind many loved ones: her daughter Shari O’Reilly and her husband Michael O’Reilly who opened up their home to Barbara so she could live her remaining years in a loving and comfortable place. Shari was Barbara’s primary caregiver, protector, and fierce health care advocate. Barbara, in her own special way, often conveyed gratitude to her daughter and others who cared for her. Shari became like a mom to her own mother and gave her endless comfort and dignity as her disease progressed.
From the day Shari’s two children were born, Barb was a constant and loving presence in their lives. Kelly Wise and Michael Burton, Jr. (Mikey) adored their sweet, sweet “Meme”. Mikey said that Meme “remained pure hearted, regardless of how many hardships life threw at [her].” One of those hardships was losing her beloved John Mesaric way too soon after 12 years together. Barbara and John “Papa” had many travel adventures, including one to Alaska which was one of Barbara’s most precious memories. Barbara also leaves behind Kelly’s husband Cole and their beautiful baby Lucy Jean - Barbara’s great granddaughter. Shari and Barb drove to Kentucky when Lucy was born in February 2022 so they could meet and hold the little angel.
Barbara sadly also lost her son John Smolinski in 2005 and leaves behind her other son Eddie Smolinski and his wife Angie, their children Jesse, Aaryn, Alixandra, Molli, Lucas, Colby and their granddaughter Lilly who is Jesse’s daughter. Many years ago, Barb created a glorious garden at the home where Eddie and his family now live, a garden which she spent countless hours digging, planting, weeding, and watering, all a labor of love.
Barbara’s second daughter Christine “Chrissy” Bailey and her husband Verdi Vejseli will miss their beautiful Barbie. Chrissy and her “mama” played countless Scrabble games over the years. Barb was a fierce opponent, always determined to make a 7-letter word. Chrissy and her mama continued playing Scrabble well into 2022. Although Barb struggled to play as the disease advanced, she still created many wonderful words (and sometimes naughty words) and continued to win many games. Barb was also a fun travel companion joining Chrissy on many beach trips and other spontaneous adventures. They enjoyed many Rhode Island and Block Island trips together and with other family members and friends, days filled with sunshine, laughter, walks on the beach, and long soulful talks.
Barbara was also a loving “Meme” to her step-grandchildren Aiden and Caira O’Reilly and Chelsea Piccirillo. She had countless nieces, nephews, grand-nieces and grand-nephews, cousins, in-laws and friends who loved her dearly. Her caregiver Zaris shared a special relationship with Barb, giving her great care and comfort in the final year of her life. Barb’s step-daughter Jennifer Maseric and Barb’s “best Beeaaches” Karin, Kimmie, Laurie, and Krista will miss their Queen “B” who shared many good times, laughs and soulful moments, most notably the South Carolina trip where Barb tore up the dance floor.
Barbara was a loving mother and grandmother, a beloved sister and aunt, and a good friend to many who crossed her path. In her young adulthood, Barbara worked as a caterer and then became a deli owner in Roxbury and Sandy Hook, feeding the hungry townspeople and fire department members while chatting and joking with them. A bubbly, kind, generous and compassionate soul, she later worked as a caregiver and housekeeper in an assisted living facility, offering comfort and care to countless patients. After retiring from The Homesteads in Newtown, she worked at PJ’s Laundromat in Sandy Hook where she made even more friends and helped many people resolve their laundry drama.
Barbara was an avid reader of almost any book she could get her hands on. Later, she became a crossword wizard. She also loved the beach, heartwarming Hallmark movies and game shows. Her greatest legacy is the beautiful gardens she created all around Sandy Hook. Gardening was her therapy. She gave many of her family members and friends plants from her garden on Washington Avenue before she moved to Meriden, so those flowers that Barbara planted with her own hands live on in others’ gardens, just as Barbara’s memories will live on in the hearts of all who knew and loved her. The gardens were Barbara’s gifts to the world, making it a more beautiful place.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to SHOP for the continuing beautification of Sandy Hook Village. Please mail donations to SHOP, 110 Church Hill Road, Sandy Hook, CT 06482.
The family would like to welcome you to a celebration of Barbara Jean’s life at the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company on Saturday, March 11, 2023 11:00 a.m. Blue was Barbara’s favorite color, so the family would love to see attendees wearing something blue!