Celebration of Life
Please join us for a Celebration of Life for Barbara Ann (Gerhardt) (Merrill) Rawnsley, 87, of Litchfield, NH, on Monday, March 21, 2022, from 3:00 – 7:00 PM, at Lenzi’s, 810 Merrimack Ave, Dracut MA.
Barbara was born in Lynn, MA, on January 9, 1935, the daughter of the late Ivan & Leona Gerhardt. She graduated from Lowell High school in 1953 and married Donald Merrill in 1959, settling in Dracut to raise their family.
For many years Barbara was a homemaker, taking care of and raising her three, often challenging, boys. At home she always seemed to be baking something, making butterscotch candy, or cooking meals on the antique Glenwood gas stove with the chipped enamel, broken door and only 2 burners working. She was a whiz on the sewing machine, making matching pants and reversible vests for her young boys to wear to school. They were definitely the sharpest dressed kids in their class, although they may not have thought so at the time.
We went to many cookouts at her mother’s house, Nana Gerhardt, on Melrose Ave in Lowell. There we would have hours of laughter & fun with her sister Mary’s family, the Boucher’s. Her brother-in-law Gus always made Moscow Mules, in copper mugs of course, long before most people around her even knew what they were.
At Christmas we would also sometimes stop at her sister Mary’s house, the one-level apartment over the world famous Boucher’s Market on Textile Ave. There we would pack ourselves in with Mary, Gus and their 9 children for a little celebrating. Our home in Dracut always seemed a little more spacious after that visit.
Summers as children were spent almost entirely outside. We enjoyed weeks with her vacationing up in Ocean Park Maine enjoying the water, sun and sand. Even on vacation she still made sure she took care of her family – cleaning, making all the meals and putting sun tan lotion on her very uncooperative children. At home Mom had a big cowbell she would ring, that you could hear throughout the neighborhood, when it was time to come home for lunch or supper. We didn’t dare ignore it. She may have only been 4′ 10″, but you definitely didn’t want to challenge her. There were also too many neighbors that knew the “Merrill boys”, so it was difficult to get away with too much without them calling Mom. But we kept trying anyway.
Tom, Ed & Ray finally drove her back to the working world, where she was employed in the accounting department at Prince Packaging in Lowell. She retired from there after working over 20 years.
Over the years we had many great holiday get together that she loved attending, especially Thanksgiving at Tom’s and Christmas Eve at Ray’s. Lots of loud laughs, spilled wine, childhood stories (that she may not have known about), and Yankee Swaps.
Barbara also spent countless hours volunteering with groups such as the Shriners, Community Teamwork, the Lowell National Historical Parks, and the Lowell Transitional Living Center.
Her last 8 months were spent at her son Tom’s home in Litchfield, NH. There she enjoyed many days having lunch on the deck with her daughter-in-law MaryJane. Sitting in the sun, watching the birds and drinking her “Ju Ju”. We are still not sure how someone her size could go through three bottles of “Ju Ju” (Pinot Grigio) in a week. She loved a roaring fire in the fireplace and watching nature shows & football. It saddens us to know that she was not really a Tom Brady fan, she just told MaryJane that so she could keep getting her wine. Sorry MJ. She enjoyed several trips to get her nails and hair done and would never pass up an opportunity to go out for a seafood diner. During her last months she was comforted by the fact that she was able to spend so much time with her sons and their families.
We would like to thank Tom’s wife, MaryJane, for the amazing and selfless care that she provided over the last 8 months. You were truly her angel here on earth.
Barbara is survived by her three sons and their wives: Tom & MaryJane Merrill of Litchfield, NH; Ed & Gail Merrill of South Berwick, ME and Ray & Colleen Merrill of Dracut, MA. Her five grandchildren: Paige & Spencer Merrill, Alice Merrill, Christopher Merrill & Yuanyu Chen, and Rebeca Merrill; Nine nieces & nephews and their children. She also leaves her estranged husband William Rawnsley Sr. of Lowell, MA and his children: William Jr., Kevin, Patsy, Elizabeth, and Kathy Anne. She was predeceased by her first husband Donald Merrill, her sister Mary and brother-in-law Gus, and her stepchildren Dennis and Kenny Rawnsley.
Published by Lowell Sun on Mar. 19, 2022.