Barbara Carle, beloved wife of the children’s book author and illustrator Eric Carle, died Monday, September 7, 2015 at her home in North Carolina after a brief illness. She was 76.
Barbara Carle, known as “Bobbie” to her friends, was an educator and a lifelong champion of the arts. With Eric Carle, she co-founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. The mission of the Museum, which exhibits children’s book illustration, is to inspire a love of art and reading through picture books from here and abroad.
Barbara Carle was born Barbara Ann Morrison in Statesville, North Carolina, on November 22, 1938. She was the daughter of the late Dr. James Rudy Morrison and Agnes Nolan Morrison. She graduated from Salem College in Winston-Salem, N.C. with a B.A., then headed to Manhattan to share an apartment with her older sister Pat. In New York, Barbara worked as a Montessori teacher in an outpatient clinic, teaching children of mothers who had been hospitalized for emotional distress. She was also an adoption caseworker at New York Foundling Hospital, helping to find homes for hard-to-place children. She was working at the bookshop at The Cloisters, a museum and garden branch of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, when a friend introduced her to Eric Carle, a young illustrator and writer of books for children, including The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
In 1973, Eric and Barbara married and moved to Western Massachusetts. There, Barbara earned her M.Ed. from the University of Massachusetts in special education. Soon after, she co-founded Side by Side, an innovative preschool that integrated special needs children into regular classrooms. For many years, Eric and Bobbie made their home in Northampton, where his studio was, and spent summers in nearby Hawley. They enjoyed many friendships in both communities.
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, the Carles traveled several times to Japan and were inspired by the beautiful picture book museums there. They were also struck that there were no picture book museums in the United States. Together, they dedicated themselves to founding The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. It opened on Barbara’s birthday in 2002. In an interview about the founding of the Museum, Eric Carle said, “When I began to do well, Bobbie was the one who said, ‘We have to give back.’” To date, The Carle has served more than 600,000 guests and sends exhibitions of picture book art to museums around the world.
“Bobbie was such a genuine person—a kind, strong, and warm-hearted woman of tremendous grace and generosity,” said the Museum’s current board chair, Christopher B. Milne. “Throughout her life, art and books and the welfare of children were her sustaining passions. She believed that picture books could enrich children’s lives, that they could transform us. She and Eric were determined to create a museum where generations of families could gather together and feel nurtured. From day one, Bobbie was a force behind The Carle. She was the Museum’s first board chair, and her leadership set the stage for all of us. We will miss her so much.”
Eric and Barbara Carle retired in 2004, spending their time in the mountains of North Carolina and the Florida Keys. Barbara will be remembered by her many friends for her joy for life, her warmth, charm, and compassion, and her remarkable generosity.
Barbara leaves behind her devoted husband Eric, her sister Rita M. Wiseman, her brother-in-law Richard McDonald, her stepson Rolf Carle and his wife Teresa Toro, and her stepdaughter Cirsten Carle. She also leaves behind her nephew Keith Wiseman, Jr., and nieces, Kate Wiseman and partner Robbie Dunn, and Lynne Wiseman and partner Nicole Blankenbeckler. Barbara was preceded in death by her sister Patricia Morrison McDonald and her brothers Thomas Nolan Morrison and James Rudy Morrison, Jr.
There will be a private funeral service. Online condolences may be shared with the Carle family at rememberingbarbaracarle.carlemuseum.org. In lieu of flowers, gifts in Barbara’s memory can be directed to a favorite charity.