Let Us Not Forget

My name is John Hayes, and I recently received the following sad news which I would like to post for those who have noticed Barbara’s absence from these pages:

“Alas, your fears are justified. Barbara died in early September (2018) from complications of surgery. . . She had survived radiation for tumors behind her eyes, and her sight had improved. She was in the middle of chemotherapy. Evidently, however, her cognition and balance led to a fall and immediate hip surgery for the break. She aspirated during surgery.”

I “met” Barbara online in 2012 while reading her book, The Gandy Dancer & Other Short Stories. We shared a love of art and writing, and over the next half-dozen years our email correspondence would grow to ¾’s of a million words.

From the beginning it was obvious that Barbara was special. Her observations and insights, her paintings and drawings, her bohemian life as an artist – in so many ways Barbara defied the norm and approached greatness.

In 2013 I described Barbara’s life in a blog as:

  • A life lived on the edge where the risks are greater but the rewards are priceless
  • A life spent saying ‘no’ to compromise and ‘yes’ to distant horizons
  • A life bristling with the ‘courage to be’ and practiced in the art of joyful engagement

If ever there were a biography as yet unwritten I would love to read,” I noted in that same blog, “it would be Barbara’s.” And toward that end I urged her many times to sketch her life in words, as well as to let me photograph and document her canvases. An artist of her caliber should not be forgotten.

“The only impulse I’ve had is to try and organize and solidify my papers and work, to make it easier on historians to keep alive, and still have some control over what gets selected out. Whoosh. I want some legacy, I think about it.” 

– Barbara Sparhawk

And yet, two months after Barbara died her body still lay unclaimed in a morgue in Carmel, California. I do not know if the situation has since been resolved.

If anyone has more information or thoughts they would like to share, please do.


“So we shall have at it and write for the sake of, and see where it leadeth and be happy and full in our souls from the splendours of the language, shall we not.”

– Barbara Sparhawk



5 thoughts on “Let Us Not Forget

  1. FYI: My only information about Barbara was sent to me by her friend/landlady in a letter dated last October 31st. She mentioned possibly asking for donations and I, too, said I would donate. She also said they may have found a distant cousin of Barbara’s, so possibly the situation is resolved.

    My email back to her has gone unanswered. My understanding is that she travels far and wide, and may be off the grid. Hopefully, she will see this post and update us.

  2. Mr. Hayes, thank you for the notice of Barbara’s sad demise. I only knew her as a friend but had not had any contact with her for the last year. I do, however, have several of her paintings. If there is ever a need to raise money for bills or final expenses, I could donate them. Let me know. Nola Barnick 805.610.8484

    • Thank you John Hayes. What sad news to read this evening. Barbara has been strongly on my mind & I wondered why I hadn’t gotten any recent blog notifications. She was indeed a free & extremely talented soul. I have the 2 Coney Island paintings that are shown under Coney Island on her Hawksperch Blog. She told me the little boy holding his mother’s hand, was her son. As Kate said, being with Barbara was always an event you never forgot.

      Please let me know if you find funds r needed for final expenses.

  3. oh my gawd!, I knew about her death, but not that her body lay unclaimed. I came everyday when she had her open heart surgery, and we laughed as we always did, with her clutching her special heart pillow to her chest to ease the pain of laughter. Another friend, knowing Barbara and I shared our friendship, called and told me the news, as Barbara had my phone number. She was trying to find any family, but her only son preceded her in death, and I knew of no other family.

    As you say, she was so ful of life. It saddens me that she died during surgery. I have her painting of the wild south coast I will always treasure.

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