Cover photo for Barbara L. Gassman's Obituary
Barbara L. Gassman Profile Photo

Barbara L. Gassman

March 15, 1940 — April 2, 2024


Barb's service will be live streamed. Please click on the following link:

Barbara Leta (Frank) Gassman, 84, passed away on April 2, 2024. She died peacefully, surrounded by her loving family, in Madison, WI, where she resided for many years Barb was diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis 5 years ago, which recently resulted in severe pulmonary hypertension. Her family is grateful she was able to live her life to the fullest until just a short time ago. 

Barb chose to write her own obituary. Starting in 2009, she was part of a writing group that began during a memoir writing class at the Oregon Senior Center (Oregon, WI). The group became known as the Oregon Writing Group (OWG). One assignment was to write your own obituary, which is what Barb wanted posted following her passing. Thank you to the OWG for many creative and fun years. It’s also where she met her close friend Chris Johnson (and her husband Bob). Barb and Chris had many adventures (both in travel and conversation) over the years. 

Barb’s earthly journey began on March 15, 1940 in Beloit, Wisconsin. She was the third daughter to be born to Raymond W. and Virginia (Young) Frank…and what a wonderful journey it was! Her love of travel began early in her life, as her family moved often. Through these early moves she learned that, with the love and support of family, home was not one particular place, but was where those you loved resided. This lesson served her well throughout her life.

Even as a young child, Barb always knew what she wanted to be - that was to be a mother and a nurse, although there was a time when she considered being a nun. Even then she wanted to be a medical missionary.

Barb, facetiously, but lovingly said she was the victim of 15 years of Catholic school, but those years gave her the moral integrity she would count on throughout her life. They were happy years.

She graduated grade school from St. Andrew’s grade school, Delavan, Wisconsin in 1954 and from St. Columbkille’s High School, Dubuque, Iowa in 1958.

She entered Mercy School of Nursing in Dubuque, IA and graduated in 1961 with a nursing diploma. She always felt that, although a nursing degree is important today, the three-year program gave both the book learning and the practical experience that a nurse truly requires.  Graduating from nursing school fulfilled one of her dreams. She began her nursing career in the labor/delivery area of Mercy Hospital, becoming the head nurse of that department. That began 27 years of bringing life into the world. She never got over the awe of seeing a miraculous new life emerge into this world.

On May 5, 1962 she married Rick Gassman, her high school sweetheart. Although the marriage ended in 1979, she thanks him for fulfilling her second dream, that of becoming a mother to Richard, Stephen, Jolene, and Michele. Her four children were the loves of her life. They in turn gave her the extension of that love, with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. With her family, her life was complete.

Although, when her marriage ended, she thought her life had too...God had other plans. Little did she know that a whole new life was beginning, and what an adventure it was!

She moved to Janesville, Wisconsin to start anew. She began working in the labor/delivery department at Mercy Hospital in Janesville. She worked there for 8 years. During that time a dear man entered her life, Don Moore. Although they never married, they were lifelong friends. 

The free spirit and nomadic life began to emerge toward the end of those eight years. She was never sure if it was mid-life crisis or something else but after a trip to visit Don’s sister in Naples, Florida, she and Don decided to move there. In three months, they and the girls were Floridians. Those five years were full of fun and true adventures. It was also the beginning of a spiritual journey that lasted a lifetime. 

Returning to Wisconsin was another huge turning point. Before she left Florida, she was told that her new life would include “helping people cross over”. She had no idea what that meant until, having no idea where it would take her, she started a job as a hospice coordinator at Richland Hospital, Richland Center, WI.

Her life with hospice was the most fulfilling work she ever did. It took her from Richland Center, to Dubuque, IA, to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, back to Dubuque and then to Madison, WI. What an adventure that was! She definitely found out what “helping people to cross over” truly meant.

Throughout her life, even after she retired, her travels gave her what she loved to call her “rainbow of friends.” What she learned, and wants folks to know, is that, regardless of color, gender identity, geographic location, religion or anything else, we’re all the same and we should love one another.

Barb’s passing will be deeply felt but she believed the purpose of life is to live with joy. She will be greatly missed but her memory, spirit, and ever-present smile will live on. 

Barb is survived by her four children: Richard (Tina) Gassman, Stephen Gassman (Tami Fox), Jolene (Stefan) Thoenes, and Michele Gassman (Tom Pellino); grandchildren, Richie Gassman, Caitlin (Dillon) Stark, and Nicholas Gassman (Julie Wamsley), Kira and Ayva Thoenes, Brook (Trevor Rawson) and Cooper Gassman, and Nora Allen. In the past three years she was also blessed with great-grandchildren, Emmie and Jessee Stark. When her daughter, Michele, married her husband, Tom, Barb was gifted with additional grandchildren, Katie (Matty) Patton and Mike Pellino, and great-grandson Wes Patton. She is also survived by her sister and brother-in-law, Char and Barney Boland, and many nieces and nephews. She loved them all dearly! Barb was preceded in death by her daughter-in-law (Suzanne Gassman), her parents (Ray and Virginia Frank), and two sisters (Virginia “Babe” Meyer and Margaret “Peg” Davis).     

Barb’s family would like to thank Agrace Hospice, especially her nurses Theresa and Karen, and the CNAs for their loving care. They would also like to thank her pulmonologist, Dr. Charlie Weber, and her primary care physician, Dr. Anne Kolan, for their incredible and compassionate care over the years. Her family also thanks Barb’s good friend, Fay, for her friendship (Barb is still “superior”) and for the many delicious meals and treats. Thank you also to the residents of Greentree Glen and her extended family and friends for all the cards, flowers, gifts, and kind words (we hope they enjoyed the many smiles of Barb photos). Her family was amazed at the outpouring of love and support.

Barb never wanted a traditional wake and funeral. She chose to be cremated and requested her family have a celebration – they were given strict instructions to laugh and have fun. Given her love of South Dakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation, she requested her ashes be scattered there. She always felt that she was “home” when she was there.  

A Celebration of Barb’s Life will be held at 2 p.m. at the Cress Center, 6021 University Ave., Madison on Saturday, April 13, 2024. A gathering with hors d’oeuvres will begin at 12 Noon until the time of service. Please share your memories here on Barb's Tribute Wall.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests you make a donation to PBS Wisconsin, or Agrace Hospice (Fitchburg, WI)

True to her beliefs, her spirit will fly to anywhere and anyone who needs her…until next time. 

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Barbara L. Gassman, please visit our flower store.

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