Lasting Memories

Barbara Nyden
June 13, 1924-Feb. 17, 2023
Palo Alto, California

Barbara June Nyden, matriarch, art historian, and teacher died February 17, 2023, at the assisted living home in Citrus Heights, CA, where she had lived for several years. She was 98.

Born in Kansas City, Missouri, and raised during the Great Depression, she was exposed to music from a young age. Her father played the cello, and she regularly listened to the Metropolitan Opera radio broadcasts starting in the 1930s. The family moved to Boulder, Colorado, where she graduated from high school and, in 1945, from the University of Colorado with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics of the home. Her first job was teaching mathematics at the Japanese relocation center in Heart Mountain, WY.

While in Boulder she met and married Robert C. Nyden. In 1946 they welcomed their first son, Robert, beginning Barbara’s long-time role as mother and home-maker. While living at China Lake Naval Station, their second son, William, was born, and in 1952 the small family moved to Palo Alto, Ca., beginning a long association with the area. By the time son Kristofer arrived in 1954, Barbara was a Cub Scout den mother, an alto in the church choir, active in the PTA, and devoted to raising her children. In 1957, she was overjoyed that the fourth baby was a girl: Elizabeth.

In the early 1960s the family lived in Moorestown, NJ, where Barbara took full advantage of their proximity to societal, cultural, and historic offerings in New York and Philadelphia to broaden her children’s education. Then in mid-1962 they all moved for a year to Trinidad, in the West Indies, where her husband assumed management of a radar tracking station run by the U.S. Air Force. Barbara became president of the American Women’s Club in Trinidad, which involved some service to the US embassy.

Returning to California in 1963, all four children went through Palo Alto schools. Barbara shepherded Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, sang in the Grace Lutheran Church choir, and was a founding member of the Schola Cantorum choir under Royal Stanton. She also began to take courses at San Jose State University in art history and languages to strengthen life-long study in those fields.

Once all the kids were college age or older, Barbara earned both a Bachelor and a Master of Arts degree in Art History, as well as a teaching credential. She gave lectures on San Francisco museum exhibitions such as King Tut and taught college-level art history. She visited Egypt, and over the years traveled many times to Europe, including a four-month residence in Antibes, France. Barbara was pre-deceased by her former husband (2009) and her son Kristofer (2019). She is survived by her children, Robert (Cynthia) of Palo Alto, Ca.; William of Citrus Heights, Ca.; and Elizabeth Messina (Mark) of Citrus Heights; by daughter-in-law Helen Vinding of Vashon Is., Wa; by grandchildren Julia, Michael, Rachel, Emily, and Steffen; and by seven great-grandchildren.