Cover photo for Barbara Fechter's Obituary
Barbara Fechter Profile Photo
1933 Barbara 2022

Barbara Fechter

October 11, 1933 — January 16, 2022

With profound sadness, we share the news that our mother, Barbara Fechter, entered into rest on Sunday, January 16, 2022. Born in Durban, South Africa, on October 11, 1933, Barbara Sydney Fechter (neé Willis) grew up in a very loving, adventure-filled family of six. She was the elder sibling of Rodney, Peter, and Brenda, and daughter of Ernest Trevers Willis and Ayme Hayter Willis. As a very young girl, she moved from Durban to Johannesburg and then to Vereeniging. Her story reads as an adventurous tale penned by Mark Twain. Throughout her travels across numerous continents, she positively impacted countless people. She truly cared about others and selflessly sought ways to make the lives of all that she met better.
Barbara talked fondly of her early times in South Africa. In her letters that she filled with colorful details, you can feel the love of her family leap from the pages; “We would just go and do stuff – exciting stuff! We would climb and swim and run and sing. We made fires and cooked out. We trapped rabbits and caught butterflies. We collected rocks and did experiments, swung from ropes into water and had go cart races.” Their farm was called Sundale, a 100-acre field lined by mature eucalyptus trees. Being so isolated from a big city, they did not have electricity or running water and learned to appreciate every small comfort.
In 1952, Barbara moved with her family from South Africa to New York City upon her father accepting a role at the newly founded United Nations, and later to Buffalo, NY. She attended SUNY Buffalo where she earned her teaching degree. Other schooling included: Barnato Park Girls’ High in Johannesburg, South Africa; Baldwin School in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania; and Fairfield University in Connecticut for her Master’s in higher education.
Over the span of forty years, Barbara worked as a teacher in Buffalo, Harrison, and ultimately Chappaqua, New York, where she taught for twenty-seven years. She was a highly sought-after teacher valued for her instructional creativity, intellectual rigor, and high standards of academic quality. She positively enhanced the trajectory of all who had the opportunity to be inspired by her. If you are a former colleague or student reading this, you are thinking about her award-winning economics program, the annual pioneer march, the predawn class trips to the Fulton Fish Market in NYC, class trips to Texas by train each spring break to stay with pen pals, and her joy at being part of the NASA Teachers in Space program. Each day was a blank canvas with Mrs. Fechter, but you knew for certain it was going to be good. Barbara was known as warm, caring, stimulating, perceptive, funny, and absolutely everything a teacher ought to be.
In 1961, Barbara met and married her husband of fifty-seven years, Herbert Peter Fechter Jr. (deceased). Their marriage was one of commitment and upholding the best in each other. Together they raised their children, Herbert Peter III (who inherited his mother’s perseverance and adventurous spirit) and Ayme Mary (who exhibits her mother’s generous warmth and creativity). Barbara dedicated her life to ensuring her children’s success and happiness. She was blessed with a lovingly devoted daughter-in-law (Deanna), seven cherished grandchildren (Chelsea, Sarah, Megan, Peter, Stephanie, Sophie, and Robby), and one treasured great-grandson (Preston). Her grandchildren have fond memories of many adventures and much silliness with their grandmother. They would want you to know what a creative partner in play their Granny B was, from drawing on the walls of the playhouse in her backyard to designing mosaics with salvaged pottery. She was an amazing travel buddy and maître d' of impromptu picnic dinners. Her ability to turn the mundane into a unique experience leaves her family with a trove of precious stories.
The family will hold a private memorial for Barbara, and her children will bring her back to South Africa as her final resting place. Herb and Ayme invite you to share your memories of Barbara in the space provided on this memorial page. In lieu of flowers, Barbara’s family hopes you will do an unexpected and unsolicited act of kindness for someone else to honor the way she lived each day with generosity and openness. They hope you will find, as Barbara did, the joy of inspiring more love and happiness in our world.

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

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