If Barbara L. Gill had lived another two months, she would have been 87.
But she knew—better than most—that lives are not easily tied up into such neat bundles.
The beloved town archivist officially kept track of many, many lives in Sandwich—past and present—for almost 30 years. Even after she retired in 2016, Ms. Gill served as a resource for people tracing their family history.
Ms. Gill died quietly in her home on Saturday, September 28.
“I feel like my sensei is gone,” said Deborah M. Rich, who became the town archivist shortly after Ms. Gill retired. “If I had a question, I would call her and she was always willing to answer. She was the sweetest woman you would ever want to meet.”
Not only could Ms. Gill recite family histories from memory—and instantly lay her hands on files of photographs and news clippings in the archives room—she did so with love, her friends and family members said this week.
“I think she really enjoyed it. She loved talking about geeky histories,” said Kaethe Maguire, who described herself as a close friend of 20 years and fellow history geek.
Ms. Gill was “always pleasant and welcoming,” Ms. Maguire said, echoing the comments of everyone who remembered Ms. Gill this week. “She made allowances for people who would irritate 90 percent of the world.”
Ms. Maguire and others said they appreciated Ms. Gill’s dry sense of humor.
“She loved to tell this story: Her mother’s maiden name was Fish, she married a Gill, her granddaughter married a Frye, and now there are small Fryes,” said Julia Hendy, who had been friends with Ms. Gill since childhood.
Ms. Hendy, who worked in the town clerk clerk’s for many years, said Ms. Gill served as an assistant town archivist under Russell A. Lovell, another noted local historian and author, and who died on New Year’s Eve.
“We’re all going to miss her—and her accurate knowledge and thoroughness. I am speaking as someone who does similar work,” said John Nye Cullity, who said he consulted with Ms. Gill whenever he could tear himself away from his own archival duties with the Nye Family of America Association.
Ms. Gill worked as a scientist at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution before becoming the town archivist in Sandwich, Ms. Hendy said.
Ms. Maguire remembers asking Ms. Gill how she made the transition from scientific classification to genealogy.
“It’s all phylum,” Ms. Gill replied cheerfully, Ms. Maguire said.
Besides loving her work, Ms. Gill loved her family and spent many years researching its genealogy.
“It was her gift to them,” Ms. Hendy said.
Town Manager George H. (Bud) Dunham said this week he had many conversations with Ms. Gill over the years and she always seemed so happy.
“She would tell you something and then laugh,” Mr. Dunham said. “She had a very special relationship with her husband, Clyde.”
Clyde Gill agreed.
“She was the best thing that ever happened to me,” Mr. Gill said. “She was a wonderful woman. I am a lucky man and I will be a lonely man without her.”
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Mr. Gill said he met his wife by chance when he was working as a delivery man for the Roberti Dairy. He made a delivery one day to the Dan’l Webster Inn, where Ms. Gill (then Barbara Luksanen) was working at the time, and the rest is history.
The couple married in 1954 and, Mr. Gill said, continued their romance for 65 years.
Mr. Gill said his wife never complained about anything.
Ms. Hendy had mentioned that trait, too, when talking about how stoically Ms. Gill labored in the cramped archive room above the tax collector’s office when the Town Archives was in the Town Hall Annex.
“We called it the dark hole of Calcutta,” Ms. Maguire agreed.
Ms. Maguire said the loss of Ms. Gill and Mr. Lovell leaves a huge, unfillable hole in the tapestry of Sandwich.
Town Clerk Taylor D. White agreed.
“Her extensive knowledge of the town’s history was remarkable,” Mr. White said. “She always knew the answer to questions about people in town. I don’t know where else you could find this.”
Besides her husband, Ms. Gill leaves her sons, Charles Gill and his wife, Michelle, and John Gill and his wife, Patricia; five grandchildren, Melissa Frye, Nicole Perullo, Connor Gill, Ryan Gill and Megan Gill; and two great-grandchildren, Lorelei Frye and Robert Frye.
A service celebrating Ms. Gill’s life will be held at First Church of Christ, 136 Main Street, on Saturday, October 26, at 10 AM. A reception will follow the service. Friends are asked to wear blue to the service—Ms. Gill’s favorite color.
Donations in lieu of flowers may be made to the Friends of The Sandwich Town Archives (FOSTA), 142 Main Street, Sandwich, for the Barbara Luksanen Gill Scholarship Fund.