Serving West Michigan Since 1899

Barbara Paxson

September 1, 1945 - January 19, 2024
Douglas, MI


Life Story / Obituary


Barbara King Paxson was a lifelong artist and a lover and maker of lyric beauty. Her life was one of service to human existence. She was a soul most tender and aware, a woman who endured bravely and often alone the shocks and burdens of life in a desensitized, fragmented, uncaring world. She passed away shortly after midnight on January 19, at 78 years of age.

Barbara grew up in a family of artists and builders, and with her native talent devoted herself to creating beauty. She studied arts and cultures at Kalamazoo College in Michigan and went on to excel in graphic arts at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. Her master’s thesis spanned the connections between African art and South American traditions. She gained a second master’s degree in Seattle, with an emphasis on Art History in Native American cultures. She made three extended trips to West Africa, first serving in the Peace Corps in Sierra Leone, and in the Vista program in the Virgin Islands. She then returned as a research assistant to an anthropologist, trekking into the bush to study Mende culture, and then once again in the Peace Corps. She fell in love with Africa and its people. These efforts infused her art with energy, color, and variety for the rest of her life. She was also a passionate advocate for peace and justice.

Many devoted friends and clients aided and supported her along her way. She responded with the beauty of her works, testifying to all the love given her. Nature itself inspired her, from the seashells and leaves to the shaping of the seasons. She did freelance work as an illustrator for botanical and medical journals, as well as Parabola Magazine. Much science informed her work.

Barbara’s art has left its lasting blessing for many of us. Her delicate, detailed illustrations bloom in medical texts, cultural books, children’s magazines, and art studies. Her watercolors, collages, mermaid figurines, decorations, and prints grace galleries and walls across our country. She illustrated works of craft from indigenous American people, and worked with Pottawatomie basket makers, going with them to the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. to demonstrate their art. Such bestowals are the legacy of a determined, industrious, illumined heart enraptured by life’s beauty.

We will miss her terribly.

Cremation will take place and no services are planned at this time.

Arrangements are by Dykstra Funeral Homes – Saugatuck Chapel.