SNOW AND ICE – Dancers throw paper snow into the air in the Land of Snow and Ice during Saturday's performance of "Sitka Nutcracker – Land of Sweets." Dancers from the Fireweed Dance Guild, directed by Melinda McAdams, performed in front of several full houses at the Performing Arts Center over the weekend. Some 65 dancers took part in this year's ballet, which is produced biennially. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Former Sitka Teacher Barbara Lessard Dies

Barbara Lessard

Barbara Ash (Tatum) Lessard passed away peacefully on October 6 from complications following hip surgery and Alzheimer’s disease.  She was surrounded by family at her sister’s home in La Jara, Colorado.  She would have turned 70 on October 8.
    Barbara had a rich, life beginning with her birth on October 8, 1948, in Anchorage, to Ken and Wilma Ash. The oldest of six siblings in an Air Force family, Barbara lived in many different states, as well as in Canada and the Philippines. 
    After graduating from the University of Northern Colorado in 1970, she was offered teaching jobs in both Wyoming and Sitka.  Inspired by her mother, who had come to teach at Sheldon Jackson in 1943, she adventurously chose Sitka. Barbara had planned to stay for only a couple of years, but she fell in love with the community, making it her permanent home.
    In July 1971, Barbara married fellow teacher, Jon Tatum.  They welcomed their only child, daughter Jennifer, in 1975. Both continued teaching into retirement; they divorced in 1982. Barbara was always so proud of her daughter, and was dedicated to navigating the world of single parenting. Barbara and Jennifer enjoyed many mother-daughter adventures, including road trips through Canada and much of the U.S. They even purchased a boat, and explored the islands near Sitka!
In April 1993, Barbara started a new chapter of her life when she married Ron Lessard. They were joined by Ron’s 14-year-old daughter, Tera, who became an important person to Barbara.
In 1997, Barbara retired from teaching to open Finn Alley Bed & Breakfast with Ron. Their home was a beautiful setting with gardens admired by thousands walking down Lincoln Street. Barbara took great pride in her gardens.
Aside from their B&B, Ron and Barb also made many memories together traveling in Mexico, Hawaii, Europe, and taking RV trips though the United States. They loved this time together.
    Without doubt, Barbara’s greatest joy was becoming a grandmother.  When Jennifer, following in her mother’s and grandmother’s footsteps, started teaching fulltime, Barbara happily agreed to care for her grandchildren. There were also many sleep-overs, boat rides, camping trips to the family float house, and vacations that revolved around her grandchildren.  Together they would bake and garden, create art projects, read stories, build blanket forts, and take walks to the playground, beach, and Totem Park.
After her family, Barbara’s greatest joy in life was teaching—especially teaching children how to read. She could hardly go anywhere in town without running into a former student. Her dedication to teaching instilled a love of reading and learning in so many.  She had a quiet way of making people feel special and loved.
Barbara will be lovingly remembered and missed by many. “We will think of her with a smile when we see a purple iris, a bright blue Himalayan poppy, a great blue heron, or a playful dragonfly,” family said.
She was preceded in death by her husband Ron; mother, Wilma Warther Ash; brother-in-law Tom Hamilton; and great-niece Renee Phelps.
Barbara is survived by her father, Ken Ash, daughter Jennifer and son-in-law Bill Grant; grandchildren, Camryn, Carson, and Evan Grant;  and sister Pamela Ash, all of Sitka; sisters Diana Hamilton and Susan Manz, and brother Larry Ash of Colorado, and brother Steve Ash and sister-in-law Peggy Reeve of Hawaii; stepdaughter Tera Lessard and her husband Roger, of Washington; nephews Jasson Dellacroce,  of Arizona, Clayton Hamilton (Shannon), Blake McCarty (Becca) of Colorado, and Tristan Twohig of Oregon; nieces Erica Ash of Texas, Leah Phelps and Lara Ash of Colorado; great-nieces Hannah Dellacroce of California, and Bennett Hamilton of Colorado; and great-nephew Connor McCarty of Colorado.
    A memorial service is planned for 2 p.m. Dec. 16, at Sweetland Hall on the Fine Arts Campus.  Former students, colleagues, neighbors, and friends are invited to come and celebrate her life.
    In lieu of flowers, the family appreciates a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association or Brave Heart Volunteers of Sitka.

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