In Bolinas, there would be no Barbara “Barbie”Rothwell without her mother, Mary Rothwell. And there would certainly be no Mary Rothwell without her daughter, Barbie.
|Inseparable: Barbara and Mary Rothwell
The two were inseparable as a family unit, tied together in the collective consciousness of the town, as Mary raised Barbie in the tiny West Marin village where everyone knows each other moderately well, and Barbie later cared for Mary in her old age, living together in the same rental on the Mesa. It was Barbie who occasionally filled in for her aging mother on hotel cleaning jobs at Smiley’s. And she was a dutiful daughter, visiting her mother in the hospital when she was ill in late 2012.
That’s where Barbie was coming home from on the night of December 5, when she crashed her BMW on Highway 1, just outside of Bolinas. Her son, seven-year-old John-Rene, survived the accident with a bloody nose andstill had the wherewithal to run for help, maneuvering his way in the dark about a quarter mile down the road until he saw the lights of Rancho Baulines,where he went for help.
Mary Rothwell, however, would not survive the crash, even though she was nowhere near the accident.
After weeks of remaining severely ill, and having to move out of the home she lived in to a residential care facility in downtown Bolinas, she passed away at 5:10 a.m. on Saturday, just hours before the memorial that was scheduled to take place for her daughter. In the days prior,Mary had been taken from back to Marin General Hospital due to her deteriorating condition, but returned to Sam’s House in Bolinas on the afternoon of January 11, in essence, to die.
At the Memorial on Saturday, stunned community members arrived to pay homage to mother and daughter. A table that had been decorated with photos of Barbie and her son was soon joined by photos of Mary at various points in her life, and the personal photos she had at her bedside of her own children and grandchild. People were able to write their thoughts about Barbie and Mary into a book for John-Rene, and to write their parting wishes onto a balloon that was to be launched into the heavens later in the afternoon.
The potluck event had plenty of food, and John-Rene seemed in good spirits, playing with young friends that attended while also keeping a careful eye on the slideshow of his mom and grandma that was taking place on a nearby screen.
His stepmother, Kori Martin, spoke of the gratitude her and her husband, Scott, had for the Bolinas community, and how she definitely wanted to keep the connection between the town and their child.
A handful of other people got up to speak, with thoughtful shares combining memories of both Barbie and Mary. More than one person recognized Barbie as the hardest worker they had ever known. And the samewas also said about Mary.
Charselle Hooper, a former Bolinas resident from several decades past, traveled from San Rafael to attend and read a poem that she had written in December to honor Barbie, and on this occasion, Mary and Barbie. She was followed by rugged-looking Bolinas resident John Cozy,who belted out a painful rendition of the song “Amanda,” made famous by country singer Don Williams in 1973, and by Waylon Jennings in 1974, calling it Barbie’s favorite song.
Bolinas resident Debbie Morrison said that Mary was her first friend after arriving in town more than 35 years ago. She said their friendship provided a lot of fun times over the years, and added that both Mary and Barbie were the hardest-working people she had ever known. She added that nothing lit them up more than being near John-Rene.
“It was amazing to see the amount of love in both Mary and Barbie had for the child, for sweet little John-Rene,” Morrison said.”I also want to let them know that as the Bolinas family that we will be here for them. That we will be here for John-Rene, for anything that he needs.”
Morrison had spent part of the previous evening with her friend Mary on her deathbed.
“She came home – she wanted to come home,” Morrison said. “The ambulance dropped her off, and she told Rosie [Rosie Barry of Sam’s House] that she was glad to be home. So may they both rest in peace, and we will dearly, dearly miss them.”