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Barbara (Chard) Johnson March 11, 1929 - March 20, 2010

August 02, 2010

Barbara Johnson, AKA Rat Barbara, AKA the Mad Cat Lady of Lower Clay Street, had her final wish granted as she passed away quietly at home on March 20, 2010, with her husband, Terry, at her side.
Barbara Franklin was born in Glen Cove, Long Island, to James Willard Franklin and Ruth Retallack. She used to kid, “1929 was a bad year all around.” Actually, anyone who met her would disagree. Strongly. She was unfailingly kind, pleasant, considerate and industrious, even as she endured almost three years of cancer and its side effects.

For as long as Barbara could remember, she loved nature. Her father took her for walks in the woods on Long Island, teaching her about the wildlife. It was a dream of hers to be able to live in the woods and provide a wildlife refuge. She always had at least one dog and cat and was fiercely protective of them. Barbara told of a time when her mother was angrily beating on Barbara’s dog, who had committed some mischief. Barbara turned the garden hose on her mother, putting an end to that! Her father’s only comment was how much he would have liked to see it!

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Barbara could be mischievous. One of her grade school teachers gave her an autograph book, which she used to record the birthdays of her friends. A schoolmate addressed his note to “Rat Barbara.” The name was prescient. In boarding school, an older girl would room with the younger girls. The one who roomed with Barbara’s group was very proud of her flashlight. One day, the girls played a trick on her. They were always catching mice. Barbara was the only one who wasn’t squeamish about handling the mice, so she was elected to replace the batteries in the flashlight with dead mice. All the girls pretended to be asleep when the older girl came in. She turned on her flashlight, which didn’t light. In the dim light, she emptied the “batteries” out onto her skirt…Rat Barbara. Yup.

After finishing high school and a year of secretarial school, Barbara attended Principia College in Elsah, Ill., where she met Miles Chard. They married and moved to Newport Beach, Calif., where they raised sons Robin and Douglas. During this time, of course, she continued to make dogs and especially cats part of the family, adopting strays whenever they presented themselves. A neighbor jokingly referred to her as the mad cat-lady of lower Clay Street. She relished the title.

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