(1925 - 2020)
The granddaughter of some of La Plata County's first pioneers, and the daughter of early Durangoans Edward McDaniel and Zipporah Mason, Barbara Ruth Cummins, 95, passed away peacefully on June 6, 2020. She was the last of her generation, the matriarch of a large extended family.
Born on Valentine's Day, 1925, Barbara sang and danced her way through her school years at Durango High while working as a soda fountain clerk at Parson's Drug and in Durango's first movie theater. Her brother, Larry McDaniel, had a swing band. She and her sister, Doris Brennan, loved to cut the rug to his music.
After high school, Barbara worked at Durango's Mercy Hospital as a phlebotomist. In April 1945, her future husband, Captain Cyril Patrick Cummins, a navigator in the Army Air Corps and a Durango native, proposed. They were married in St. Columba Catholic Church on September 4th, 1946. They were life partners for fifty-two years until Cyril's death, and they raised six children.
In 1963, the family moved to Shiprock, New Mexico, where Cyril was employed by the Vanadium Corporation of America. Barbara embraced her new life in Shiprock, shepherding her kids through public school and on to college. She was a choir leader at Christ the King Mission Catholic Church, and weekly, she baked bread to fatten her good friends, Franciscan priests Father Bruce Hausfeld and Father Paul Juniet. She also met her lifelong friend, Georgia Briggs, a star player on the Shiprock Cardinals Women's basketball team. Barbara was often in the stands scolding refs at Cardinals games.
She loved little children. In 1968, she became the head cook at the Shiprock Nataani Nez Elementary. She proudly papered cafeteria walls with pictures the kids colored. When the family moved to Farmington, New Mexico in 1973, she began the most meaningful work of her life on behalf of children. In 1978, she founded the Farmington chapter of Birthright, and she devoted the next twenty years to pregnancy counseling, spearheading clothing drives, and to securing housing and food for families in need.
While in her early 80s, she was a vital percussionist for a Farmington folk group, the Hillbilly Band, marching in parades and performing for a variety of civic groups. In 2010, with her eyesight failing, she chose to enter assisted living at The Bridge in Farmington. In 2012, she moved to Albuquerque's Paloma Landing, and In her new home, she became the ambassador of her floor, greeting newcomers, organizing music events, and leading a weekly rosary for resident Catholics. She had many friends and was well-loved. "Your mother never met a stranger," Cyril used to tell his children.
She was a great letter-writer. For the last few decades, she wrote a weekly letter to her extended family, keeping everybody up-to-date on family news. During her final years, she dictated her letters to her son-in-law, Dr. David Siegel, her faithful scribe.
She was preceded in death by her beloved second daughter, Kathleen Grace Cummins-McDonald (1948 - 1993) and siblings Larry McDaniel, Doris Brennan, and Jerry McDaniel. She is survived by her children, Mary Katherine Cummins (Bob Mayer), Thomas Patrick Cummins (Debra) , Ann Marie Cummins (Steve Willis), Stephen Paul Cummins (Daphne) , and Patricia Marie Siegel (David), and by her grandchildren, Paul McDonald III (Kelli), Rachael Drullinger (Cory), Sara Preshaw (Daniel) Hunter Cummins (Janelle), and Gentry Cummins; and by her great-grandchildren, Haydan and Morgan Drullinger, Paul (Quatro) and Kaitlin McDonald, and Owen, Reid and Graham Preshaw.
A celebratory Mass will be held at Sacred Heart Church in Farmington, New Mexico on July 31st at 10AM preceded by a Rosary at 9AM. Inurnment will occur at Greenlawn Cemetery after the funeral Mass. (Note: Due to COVID 19, face coverings and social distancing will be required.) Donations may be made in Barbara's name to Birthright Crisis Pregnancy, 609 N. Butler Avenue, Farmington, NM 87401, or to Little Sisters of the Poor, 1900 Mark Ave., Gallup, NM 87301.
There was nobody like her. Her memory will endure.
Published in The Durango Herald on Jun. 16, 2020.