Cover photo for Barbara J. Donovan's Obituary
1939 Barbara 2022

Barbara J. Donovan

August 15, 1939 — July 17, 2022



It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Barbara J. Donovan on Sunday, July 17, 2022 from a brief illness, following several years of declining health. She was 82 years old.

Our dear Barbara was born in Richmond County, Staten Island NY to New York City firefighter, Harold R. Thorsten, Jr. and his wife Joanna.

Full of energy and good humor, a zest for life and a passion for learning, Barbara possessed a special combination of a keen and inquisitive mind and a deeply caring and creative soul.

While still in high school, Barbara was proud to have earned scholarships to attend elite summer classes at the Museum of Natural History in New York City. She graduated with honors from New Dorp High School in Staten Island with the class of 1957. When a back injury prevented her from pursuing a hoped-for career in the nursing profession, Barbara entered a healthcare-related field, taking a civilian clerical job straight out of high school with the Headquarters of the First US Army Medical Corps on Governors Island in New York Harbor. In this capacity, she coordinated the transfer of hundreds of military patients and their records throughout the east coast. She left this position after four years to start a family.

Barbara purchased a home in Peacham, Vermont in the early 1960s, finally moving with her family to live in Peacham full time in 1976.

She loved Vermont and her new community, contributing how ever she could, and was particularly proud to be a founding member of the Peacham Fast Squad emergency service.

Once her children had grown, she resumed her education, earning first a Bachelor of Science in Psychology and then a Masters of Education from Northern Vermont University (Lyndon State College). Each with honors. Barbara put these degrees to good use, embarking on a many-years career as a Therapist-Counselor with agencies in both Vermont and New Hampshire.

Upon her retirement from counseling, Barbara worked at several local Adult Day Services and Health and Rehab Centers, specializing in the care of elderly persons. Afterward, she continued her compassionate work as an in-home caregiver for numerous older people in the Northeast Kingdom.

Barbara was a talented artist, a published poet, and an avid gardener. A deeply compassionate person, she also had a special love for animals, rescuing numerous stray cats and dogs over the years, and providing them with a loving forever home.

She is survived by her daughter, Laura Smith of Cabot, VT; daughter Rhoda Donovan of Pennsylvania; daughter Melody Donovan (who was also Barbara's own caregiver for many years), and Melody's partner, Thomas Harrington of Peacham VT. She is also survived by two sisters, Alma Thorsten and Joanne Andresen of South Carolina. In addition, Barbara leaves behind many, many others who loved her, including her special dear friends, Gracia Berwick of Peacham, VT, and Cedrick and Priscilla Harrington of Charlottesville, Virginia.

She was predeceased by her parents and by the father of her children, John J. Donovan formerly of Sheffield, VT.

No services are planned at this time.

From everyone who cared for you, dear Barbara, we know you are at peace in Heaven now in the loving presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. Until we meet again, we will cherish the memory of your beautiful smile and your radiant soul. Through our tears of grief, we embrace you with everlasting love.

Family would like to thank the Peacham Fast Squad, and the Emergency Department and Palliative Care services at NVRH.

To honor Barbara and her legacy of compassion, please consider making a tax-deductible memorial donation in her name to "Unity Farm Sanctuary" - a place of safety and lifetime care for rescued and surrendered farm animals, where they live out their days in loving peace.

Unity Farm Sanctuary, 17 Unity Lane, Sherborn, MA 01770  -

 Condolences may be shared with the family at

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


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the
Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Service map data © OpenStreetMap contributors

Send Flowers

Send Flowers

Plant A Tree

Plant A Tree