Barbara Birkhimer

Obituary of Barbara C. Birkhimer

Barbara Copeland Birkhimer May 7, 1931 – November 5, 2020 Barbara Birkhimer passed away November 5, 2020, rejoining her husband Ed after 28 years apart. The eldest daughter of Dwight Lothrop Copeland and Evelyn Harriet (Miller) Copeland, Barbara Kay Copeland was born in Los Angeles, California on May 7, 1931. She lived in eleven states and one foreign country, spending her final years in Maine, always gathering life-long friends along the way, maintaining those valued connections with visits, phone calls, notes, cards and through her extensive annual Christmas card list. After a short time in California and in Illinois, where her sister, Janet, was born, she grew up on Cranford, NJ and Lexington, MA, graduating from Cranford High School in 1948. In 1943, she suffered a serious leg injury. She credited her mother for asking for a second opinion when doctors in NJ wanted to amputate her leg, and a doctor at Boston Children’s Hospital for treating it until penicillin was available to civilians in 1945. These treatments allowed her to hike the White Mountains with her girl scout trip, pursue her nursing vocation, hike and ski in Colorado, and lead a full and active life, including her personal favorite, swimming. She attended Cornell University before finding her calling as a nurse, subsequently receiving her RN from Boston Children’s Hospital Nursing School in 1954 and her BSN from the University of Colorado in 1956, where she also played flute in the marching band. She began her career as a public health nurse in Denver, Colorado. In Colorado, she met Edwin Arley Birkhimer, who quickly and permanently became the love of her life. After a short courtship, he asked her if she would travel to Europe with him (married, of course!). They were married on August 16, 1958. Once Ed finished his Master’s degree, they traveled to through Europe and spent their second year of marriage in Copenhagen, Denmark, where he studied under a Fulbright scholarship. During this year, their first son, Karl, was born. Upon returning to the United States, Edwin studied at Cornell University, and they spent summers in New Jersey where both of their parents lived. Their second child, Ellen, was born in New Jersey. After Ed completed his PhD in 1963, the family spent Christmas with family (a common and important occurrence throughout her life); then, Barbara, 7 months pregnant, and Ed drove two sedans, pulling two u-hauls (with Karl and Ellen in the front passenger seat of each car) to Bozeman, Montana. Neil and Nancy were both born in Bozeman. In 1967, the family moved to Midland, MI, where all four children graduated from high school. Barbara loved being a mother and supported her children in their pursuit of sports, church activities and scouts. She was a Cub Scout den mother and Girl Scout leader for several troops of various ages, and a lifetime Girl Scout. Throughout their married life, Barbara and Edwin traveled, mostly within the U.S. Barbara used to say that Edwin wanted to see places, making sure that his children saw all 49 mainland states, but she traveled to see people, as well as building and maintaining strong family ties. Most of their trips were by car, and they joked they would get to Hawaii when a bridge was built from California. Their children decided a plane trip was more practical and sent them there for their 25th wedding anniversary. Once their children were out of elementary school, Barbara returned to public health nursing, working for the Midland County Health Department until her retirement in 1989. She also returned to a childhood interest in family genealogy, sharing it with Ed, and giving them another reason to travel as they visited libraries, courthouses, and graveyards, seeking out their ancestors and meeting new (distant) family members. They traced both sides of the family back to immigration to America, in the 1600’s for Barbara and the 1700’s for Ed. After retiring, Barbara and Edwin moved to Cape Coral, FL, to be near his parents. Just a year later, Edwin was diagnosed with colon cancer and passed away in 1992. In 1995, Barbara moved to Carlisle, PA, to be nearer her sister, and made her last interstate move to Litchfield, ME in 2002, where she lived with her daughter, Nancy, until dementia and physical limitations required first assisted living and then nursing home care. She was residing at Horizons Living and Rehab in Brunswick, ME, at the time of her death. Barbara self-published two books, one relaying the story of a family sampler and the descendants of its creator, and another cataloging a branch of Edwin’s family, which he had mostly finished prior to his death. She was working on a full family history for her children when her first stages of dementia prevented her from finishing it. Barbara was preceded in death by her parents and husband, and is survived by her children, Karl M. Birkhimer and wife Cheryl, Ellen Birkhimer Brenden and husband Jim, Neil S. Birkhimer, Nancy Birkhimer and wife Patricia Mancini; sister Janet Copeland Eschenlauer and husband Arthur; grandchildren Kathleen Birkhimer, Stephanie Birkhimer Ockner and husband Max, Scott Brenden and wife Kate, Sarah Barbara Birkhimer, Julia Birkhimer Lang and husband Max (no that isn’t a typo!), Ashley Kay Birkhimer, Lauren Birkhimer, and James Birkhimer; and eight nieces and nephews. From the time that she got married, her Christian faith sustained her through difficult times and throughout her adult life, and she was always a member of a church wherever she lived. Barbara believed in serving others and giving to her community. Barbara’s family is honoring her life with donations to the Girl Scouts, the March of Dimes, the Salvation Army, and the Alzheimer’s Association, and welcomes others to do so as well.
A Memorial Tree was planted for Barbara
We are deeply sorry for your loss ~ the staff at Direct Cremation of Maine
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