Cover photo for Barbara E. Bernstein's Obituary
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Barbara E. Bernstein

September 27, 1952 — March 15, 2024


Barbara E Bernstein (71) passed away from a respiratory illness on March 15, 2024 at Agrace Hospice in Madison, WI. Barb was well-loved and will be dearly missed by friends near and far. She was joyful, cheerful, and always had another fun story to tell. You couldn't just drop by for a chat with Barb - if you stopped to talk, it would be at least half an hour until you left (as many friends and neighbors can attest). She never met a pastry she couldn't bake or a needle she couldn't work. She read constantly, mysteries and nonfiction, and often lamented that she would never have time to finish all the books in the world.


Barb received her BA in History and her MA in Linguistics from the University of Wisconsin. In 1971, she met a handsome boy in her British history class. They started chatting, and when he asked her out, she canceled the other date she had planned that Friday and went out with him instead. Barb and Howard got married two years, two months, and two weeks later on June 17, 1973, and spent 50 years happily married, raising their family, caring for their cats, and sharing their love of books right here in Madison.


Barb had an affinity for picking up languages. She was a natural mimic, and often surprised people from other countries by being able to correctly pronounce new words they taught her on the first try. In 1999, she planned a 9-week trip to France and England using the internet (long before AirBnB was invented), which included calling long-distance to make arrangements in French. Her accent was so good that she was often mistaken for a native speaker on the phone, and frequently found herself having to ask people to slow down and repeat themselves. "Je suis désolé, je suis stupide," she would say, laughing.


Barb was an excellent cook and a marvelous baker. In recent years, canelés (a French pastry that require a special pan) were a favorite, but even her "standard" biscuits and popovers were extraordinary. No one who has eaten her cheesecake or Viennese ribbon torte has ever forgotten the experience. Her family fondly remembers the summer they ate pie twice a week while she was perfecting her pie crust recipe.


Barb was a quilter, needle worker, knitter... She could really do anything involving fabric or yarn. She made Halloween costumes, scarves, and Barbie clothes. She made pillows, wall hangings, and socks. She made beaded necklaces and wrote stories. She was funny and silly and loved to tell a good joke, though she would often laugh so hard before she finished that she couldn't get the punchline out, and you would just have to patiently wait. Barb was eminently polite, classy, and believed in watching what she said in mixed company. She also laughed at scatological jokes and her favorite cheer-up show was Married with Children. We are, all of us, walking contradictions.


Barb was preceded in death by her parents, Frank and Ellen Loeb, and her son, Thomas. She is survived by her husband, Howard, daughter Laura (Jonathan), granddaughter Mabel, three cats, and many friends. The funeral will be held on Wednesday, March 20, at 12:30 pm at Beit Olamim Jewish Cemetery in Sunset Memory Gardens in Madison, WI. A meal of condolence will follow. In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family asks that you make a donation in her name to the Madison Cat Project,  an organization near and dear to all of our hearts.


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Cress Funeral & Cremation Service

3610 Speedway Road   Madison

(608) 238-3434


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