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Obituary—Barbara Ann Tracey

Norfolk Bids Farewell to a Leader and Friend


By Colleen Gundlach

She was the consummate volunteer, a loving and devoted mother and grandmother and a lifelong problem solver. She was a woman whose friendly smile and cheerful demeanor welcomed everyone—stranger or friend. In July, with the passing of Barbara Ann Tracey, Norfolk bid farewell to a woman with a heart for others and penchant for sharing.

Norfolkians will recall Barbara as always being the first to volunteer and the last to leave. Trustworthy and dedicated, she served as treasurer for several organizations, including the Lions Club, the Norfolk Library Associates and the Republican Town Committee. She was an active member of the Isabella Eldridge Club and the Catholic Women’s Club at Immaculate Conception Church. When her children were young, she was devoted to the Botelle School PTO and served on the Regional 7 Board of Education for many years. She pioneered a parent-based science program for the elementary school, and she was a Girl Scout leader and a softball coach.

In 2003, she and daughter Ann DeCerbo jointly received the Norfolk Volunteer of the Year Award, as the pair was inseparable as a volunteer unit. A fixture in Norfolk’s volunteer organizations herself, Ann inherited a dedication to service from her mother. “As children, hardly a night or weekend passed when we weren’t stuffing envelopes, baking or selling tickets,” she says.

Barbara grew up on Staten Island in New York, where she developed a love of reading and a hunger to learn. As a child her goal was to read every book in the library. Barbara was the valedictorian of her high school class and received a prestigious scholarship to the Sorbonne in Paris, at a time when such opportunities weren’t often available to women. She turned down the scholarship because, after the death of her parents, she decided to remain close to her family. She stayed in New York, where she graduated from Wagner College and later attended the New School for Social Research.

While in New York, Barbara worked as a stage manager for off-Broadway theater productions. At a cast party she met Martin Tracey III, a young army attorney. They fell in love and married in 1965. The pair raised three children, Marty, David and Ann.

After his discharge from the army, Martin worked for the Cravath, Swaine and Moore law firm in New York City until 1979, when he joined Lakeville attorney Hugh Robinson and brought his family to live in Norfolk. After Martin’s death in 2003, Barbara sold the family house and moved to an apartment in her daughter’s home.

Barbara was a stay-at-home mom until her youngest child, Ann, was a teenager. She then joined the staff of the National Iron Bank, where she worked for 15 years. After her retirement, she continued her volunteer work, helped to raise her grandchildren and enjoyed playing mah-jongg with friends.

Barbara passed away on July 8, surrounded by her family, after nearly 18 years on oxygen. Her daughter says, “Even when Alzheimer’s tried to strip my mom of her intellect and dignity, she stayed strong. She was brave. She was kind and loving, and she participated as long as she could.”

Barbara was preceded in death by her son David Tracey, and her husband Martin J. Tracey III. She is survived by children Martin Tracey and Ann DeCerbo, son-in-law Joshua DeCerbo and grandchildren Ginevra, David and Lorelai DeCerbo, and Marina Barbara Tracey.

The town of Norfolk, her friends and neighbors, will miss Barbara Tracey.

One Response to “Obituary—Barbara Ann Tracey”
  1. Martin Tracey says:

    Thank you very much for this beautiful obituary. Barbara loved Norfolk.

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