Barbara Kate's Story
A small plaque rests on the window sill of a man's home. Its simple advice: "Call your Mother. She worries."
Barbara was no stranger to heartbreak. On a sweltering July 4, her new husband Richard Rogers swam after an errant ball during a family beach volleyball game on the shore of Lake Erie, NY. The strong current caught him, and Rich struggled.
Barbara's father stripped off his shoes and plunged in the choppy water. Too late. A horrified young wife watched her beloved drown in the arms of her father.
Sixty-five years later, Barbara would pen in her journal, "And then, the blur, the horror. tears, tears, tears. Gone. Nothing anymore. 1951."
Barbara's mother encouraged her to try something new to get some distance on her grievous loss. The USAF was in its infancy when Barbara entered as a Lieutenant in 1952.
A journalist by education and high school English teacher by profession, "Bobbie" as she was known to her long-time friends had edited the Bethany College paper with her dear friend Peachie Roberts.
She earned a Master's Degree by "applying the seat of the pants to the seat of the chair." At Goodfellow AFB in San Angelo, Texas, Barbara was the editorial writer for Research Development, the forerunner of NASA.
Barbara Kate Rose was born October 24, 1924 in her parent's house in the small lumber town of Tonawanda, NY.
Her father, Walter Sumner "Tam" Rose, revered as the coach of the Tonawanda Lumbermen (later the Kardex, one of the first NFL football teams), coached the Syracuse Orangeman football team, was the school's athletic director, and a business owner. Barbara's mother Rosetta Kate Misner, "a smart woman, ahead of her time in many ways," was a dress shop owner.
The youngest of three, Barbara had a happy childhood though her family struggled at times in business. She was close to her father "stalwart and steadfast" and spent hours and days and weeks and months playing and exploring in the small town. She adored her brother Dr. Robert M. Rose and formed a close bond with her sister Nancy.
An Arkansas farm boy who grew up dirt-poor during the Great Depression joined the Army as an Aviation Cadet late in WWII and learned to fly. After the war, John Depew Hedges earned a degree in Animal Husbandry, then returned to the grinding work of the farm while remaining in the Reserve.
The flare-up of the Korean War in 1950 created a need for 200 pilots. Private Hedges volunteered, entered the new USAF as a Lieutenant, and was assigned as an Instructor Pilot in the B-25.
At Goodfellow, Hedges met and became intrigued by Lt Rogers. Women in the Air Force in 1953 were an anomaly. Though he was dating Barbara's friend, Lt Hedges was smitten by the leggy brunette in a WAF uniform. He made several passes, but Barbara was having none of it. "What do you think that will get you?"
John's, "the handsomest man I ever saw," persistence paid off. The local paper described the small base chapel ceremony presided over by a young military chaplain and attended by three fellow officers as, "A lieutenant married a lieutenant and a lieutenant while a lieutenant and a lieutenant looked on."
Barbara was shocked upon her first visit to John's family in Arkansas. The Hedges had relocated from Long Island, NY during the depression and were of limited means, but fiercely independent.
Barbara was independent, too. Still, it was hard for her to believe that people lived without indoor plumbing. This town girl discovered the preferred use for the Sears Roebuck catalog in the outhouse. It's unclear whether this experience had anything to do with her lifelong love of mail order shopping.
Barbara's nascent career ended in 1954 with the expected birth of a son. She went on to rear 4 more children while living the challenging life as the wife of a career military officer in places as far flung as Okinawa island. Though charged with keeping the household together during her husband's year-long remote tours in Japan and Vietnam, she made time to write daily letters.
"I've enjoyed every place I've ever been and everywhere his jobs took him. And found change to be wonderful."
Her union with John lasted 46 years until his death. Barbara missed him every single day. "Laughter we had, and youth, a warmness that lasted all the years. Close we were with the gladness of life and hope."
Barbara was passionate about movies and politics. As a girl she traipsed to the downtown theater frequently to take in the latest productions featuring the leading men and ladies of the day. That simple pleasure continued throughout her life as she imparted her joy of those films to her grandchildren.
Barbara followed current events and the political theatre closely. Though blessed with a naturally low blood pressure, her family observed that one of the candidates in the impending presidential election rendered a corrective effect: "Lies, lies, lies!"
Dogs played a prominent role her entire life. As a child, "Whenever anyone missed me, I could be found with the dogs." She loved them unconditionally and always had one nearby. Barbara did it all --breeding, showing, obedience training, or just having them around close.
"A good dog is a great companion-doesn't matter the breed. Dobermans are really my choice." Her beloved Dobie Josie passed last year as the second-longest living Doberman in recorded Breed history--17 years old.
Barbara read and wrote voraciously and became a bit frustrated that her vision wasn't as sharp as it used to be. Nevertheless, "The Clipping Lady" continued to send newspaper and magazine accounts to loved ones on subjects that she knew interested them. She left behind an impressive body of poetry and prose.
Her children and grandchildren visited and called frequently, and she doted on them. Kind and generous, Barbara always remembered birthdays, anniversaries and other special days. She counted success and satisfaction in her accomplished and independent children and grandchildren and, yes, she worried over them.
Barbara Kate Rose Hedges passed away unexpectedly August 18, 2016 of an abdominal aortic aneurysm. Vibrant and sharp until her passing, Barbara lived independently in the family farmstead outside Malvern, Arkansas where she had made her home with her husband and family.
She is survived by 3 sons, 2 daughters, 8 grandchildren, numerous nieces and nephews, and her last dog Buddy. Interment will be at Arlington National Cemetery. Barbara asked that donations be made in her name to the National Rifle Association.
"So, I think death has no victory. The victory is called memory. And there is always that."
Published on September 1, 2016