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Technology and those birthdays

Technology and the modes and means of modern communication offer much to a family these days that is sweet.

Signing on to social media to see the very first pictures of the new baby being added to the family… whether of the human or furry four-pawed variety.

Being able to tag along virtually on the exciting trips.

Seeing the performance in the child’s play or recital we’d otherwise not be able to see.

But it can occasionally be bittersweet as well.

When you sign on to be greeted with that photo of a beloved pet on the anniversary of the day you had to make that terrible decision to end the pet’s misery.

Or, as in the case of The Legal Genealogist‘s social media this morning, signing on to the reminder of the upcoming birthday of an older cousin.

An older cousin who, on the 31st of January, would have been 77 years old.

Operative phrase: would have been.

bobbi-3Some of Bobbi’s story is told in her name: Michaela Bobette Staples Barrett Hopkins Richardson. But the usual genealogical deciphering of that would be a bit misleading.

She was born Michaela Bobette Staples in Midland, Texas, on 31 January 1940.1 Her mother, my oldest maternal aunt, Cladyne, was then married to Leo Staples. But the marriage didn’t last,2 Clady met and married her second husband, J.C. Barrett,3 and Bobbi took and used her stepfather’s last name in honor of the loving way he treated her as one of his own.

The Hopkins part, well, yeah, that was from Bobbi’s own equally misguided first marriage — something she routinely referred to as a foolish mistake. But the Richardson — that happened when she met and married the love of her life. She and Harold Kent Richardson had been married for more than 30 years when we lost Harold to lung cancer in 2002.4

But playing the name game is such a small part of Bobbi’s story.

She was smart. She was sassy. She was funny. She was loud. She was opinionated. She was brash. She was glamorous. She was independent. She was proud. Oh so proud. And particularly proud of being a Texan of Texans of Texans of Texans — both our grandfather’s father and our grandmother’s father were born in Texas too.5

She was fiercely loyal to her family. She might be ready to slap you completely upside the head as only an older cousin wishes to with an annoying younger cousin, but heaven help the fool from outside the family circle who dared to threaten one of hers. A mama bear with her cubs couldn’t have been as protective. There was never a single moment in my life when I wasn’t sure that Bobbi had my back against the rest of the world.

Bobbi knew she was losing her own battle with lung cancer weeks before her death in August of 2011. True to form, she was determined to meet whatever happened on her own terms. Her funeral, at Mount Gilead Baptist Church in Virginia, has to be the only one I’ve ever attended where the recessional hymn was “Happy Trails”:

Happy trails to you, until we meet again.
Happy trails to you, keep smilin’ until then.
Who cares about the clouds when we’re together?
Just sing a song and bring the sunny weather.
Happy trails to you, ’till we meet again.

Happy birthday, Bobbi. May all your trails be happy ones… ’till we meet again.


  1. Bobette Staples Barrett Richardson, obituary, Charlottesville (Virginia) Daily Progress, 18 Aug 2011; online at ( : accessed 6 Apr 2012)
  2. Email message, Cladyne Barrett to JG Russell, Oct 8 2002.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Bobette Staples Barrett Richardson, obituary, Charlottesville (Virginia) Daily Progress, 18 Aug 2011.
  5. See Texas Board of Health, death certif. no. 13603, Martin Gilbert Cottrell, 26 Mar 1946; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Austin. See also Oklahoma State Board of Health, death certificate 3065 (1912), Jasper C. Robertson; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Oklahoma City.
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