Minute for Barbara J. Jordan 1942-2011

Barbara (Bobbie) Jordan, a member of Durham Friends Meeting, Durham, Maine, died January 16, 2011,
after a two-year journey with ovarian cancer. Prior to transferring her membership to Durham Meeting
in 1996, she was a member of Mt.Toby Meeting in Leverett, Massachusetts, since about 1987. Bobbie was
born in Bakersfield, California, on September 28, 1942, but grew up in Denver, Colorado, the eldest
daughter of Lorne and Helen Jordan. Family life in the Jordan household consisted of regular camping
trips to fish the mountain streams of the Colorado and its neighboring states. Bobbie visited and
knew all of the best fly-fishing locations, thanks to her father’s avid interest in this sport. Her young life was
filled with outdoor activity, from helping her grandfather on his farm to taking the ski train into the Rockies for
lessons and eventual work on the Ski Patrol. She worked on a dude ranch in her early years, cooking for the
cowboys, and loved entertaining her family with many stories of the cowboys’ pranks. Sports were an early
interest for Bobbie, and she was drawn to a career in Health and Physical Education, graduating from Colorado
State University at Fort Collins in 1964. Her first year of teaching was in rural Wyoming and included teaching
classes at the Wind River Indian Reservation.
Throughout her life, Bobbie seemed to know her path forward, making decisions and taking on tasks and
responsibilities that served to steadily expand her experiences, skills and interest in education. Early in her
teaching career she accepted a summer job as the waterfront director at a Camp Tappawingo, a girl’s camp in
Harrison, Maine. While in Maine, she applied to a Master’s Program at University of Maine at Orono, where
she both studied and taught, and from which she graduated in 1967. Upon graduation she continued teaching at
the college level, working at the State University of New York in Albany teaching and coaching, then moved to
Wellesley College from 1969-1977. At Wellesley she coached the college crew team, staying one lesson ahead
of the team by reading the manual as the season progressed. She had never taught the sport previously, but
Bobbie was always game for a challenge, and failure was never an option. Needless to say, the crew team was a
During her years at Wellesley College, Bobbie continued to work summers directing activities at a girl’s
camp in Hanover Mass., where she made many life-long friends. With no tenure track at Wellesley, Bobbie
found employment directing an alternative high school in Plymouth, Mass., for two years. The work was
challenging, with many troubled students, but once again Bobbie met the challenge head on. Once again,
failure was not an option, and she created many real-life situations to assist the students with developing skills
they could relate to. It was with some relief, however, that she returned to more traditional education at
Brookline High School, serving as Curriculum Coordinator and Teacher of Health and Physical Education from
1977 to 1982.
Bobbie’s love of education kept her advancing in her career, enrolling in advanced studies at University of
Massachusetts in Amherst in 1982, and serving as principal for the Leverett Elementary School from 1985 to
1990. Her continuing commitment to the education of children led her to a job in Maine, as principal of
Williams-Cone School in Topsham where she worked from 1990 to 2001, and later to Augusta where she
worked until her retirement in 2008 as the Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Augusta Public
Schools. During this time, Bobbie also enrolled and graduated in 2001 from Nova Southeastern University,
Fort Lauderdale, Fla., with a Doctorate in Education.
Bobbie was a leader and an educator in all facets of her life. She served in leadership positions in many
professional organizations, and worked to support peer review among teachers and mentorship programs for
teachers and principals. Bobbie traveled to Eastern Europe, Sweden and Japan to learn and observe teaching
methods of other cultures. Rather than truly retire, Bobbie took on the task of developing an after-school
program for at-risk children in the Augusta area, through the Boys and Girls Club. She traveled to Kenya to
visit and help with a summer camp for AIDS orphans run by the Quaker group Friends of Kakamega. Indeed,
even through the last months of her life Bobbie eagerly took on the supervision of six student teachers, fulfilling
one of her long-time career goals.
Along with a growing career, Bobbie also deeply valued her friends and family. Over the years of job
changes and professional growth, Bobbie developed a wide family of friends, and regularly stayed in touch with
them. Trusted colleagues often became life-long friends. In 1982 Bobbie met her life-partner, Sarah Sprogell,
and together they raised Sarah’s two sons. Their life together was filled with trips to Colorado, camping and
canoeing, a string of family pets, and the joy of seeing both boys grow into fine young men with beautiful
families of their own.
Durham Friends Meeting was Bobbie’s spiritual home, and a place where her leadership and strong work
ethic also found tasks to accomplish. She served on Ministry and Council for six years, and also on Finance
Committee, serving as clerk for both committees. She also served as Meeting Treasurer at a time of transition
for the Meeting. Bobbie was often sought out to serve on Pastoral Support Committees, Pastoral Search
Committees, and Pastoral Evaluation Committees. She served on the Christian Education Committee and
taught Sunday School classes, where she shared with Durham youth her gifts for relating to and understanding
young people; Bobbie served Durham Meeting’s young friends well. While Bobbie’s natural inclination to be
of use to the Meeting kept her actively involved and admired for her leadership, she felt at her core that the
Meeting was most importantly a place of refuge from the busy outside world, and a place of worship that
resonated deeply within her.
Beyond pursuing her career in education and finding her spiritual home with Quakers, Bobbie also sang in a
local women’s chorus, Women in Harmony, for more than 10 years. True to her participation in any group,
Bobbie was involved in the board of directors, serving as chairperson, as well as on the production of
committee, search committee, and as administrative assistant to the director. As with all her endeavors, she
made important and lasting friendships through her involvement with this singing group.
The last two years of Bobbie’s life were years of spiritual deepening and strengthening, as she developed
her own style of living with cancer. As with so many of her personal and professional challenges over the
years, giving up was never an option. There were still things to do, trips to take and people to see. There was
still life to live and work to be done. She continued to face life and its challenges head on, maintaining her
grace and courage until her last days. Many of the nurses and aides at the Gosnell House, where Bobbie spent
the last week of her life, marveled at her spiritual equanimity and lack of agitation as she drew closer to death.
The strength of Bobbie’s spirit was evident at her memorial service, when over 200 people gathered to profess
their love and admiration for a woman who touched them deeply and from whom they had learned much. Her
generosity of spirit was clearly evident in the many testimonials heard on that day.
Our dear Bobbie is survived by Sarah Sprogell, her loving partner of 29 years, their son, Agostino Petrillo,
and his wife, Allegra, and daughters Ariel and Thalia of Northampton Mass., as well as his two daughters
Chelsea and Emily Craine of Blacksburg Va., their son, Dominic Petrillo, and his son, Lincoln, of Freeport,
Maine, her sister Pamela (Jordan) Costa, of Littleton Colo., her niece Angela (Costa) Hawes and her husband
Jason of Littleton, Colo., and her nephew Frank Costa and his wife Sarah of Pensacola Fla. Bobbie is
predeceased by her father Lorne Jordan. Her mother, Helen Irene (Hall) Jordan, passed away six months
following Bobbie’s death, on July 17, 2011, at the age of 100.