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Wounded Warrior Project
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Life Story / Obituary
Ever the loving, caring and protective mother, Barbara Charns was a woman of substance who was defined by the things she held most dear. Devoted to her faith and family, Barbara stood strong in her beliefs. She gave of her time and talents, and her love of teaching gave her the opportunity to touch the lives of young minds in a most remarkable way. Fiercely proud and patriotic, she held high to the standards for which she was raised, and the land which offered so much opportunity. For these things and so much more, the heart of Barbara lives on in those who came to know and love her.
Alexander and Agnes Gwiazdowski came to make their home in America with hopes and dreams for a bright future. They especially had reason to celebrate when they were blessed with the birth of their little girl, “Basia”, born on December 6, 1929.
Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Basia joined her two older siblings, Marie and Richard. Her parents were of Polish descent, and brought up their children with a strict Catholic upbringing. Basia’s father was a Professor of Engineering, while her mother worked as a shopkeeper for a time, and looked after their home as a homemaker. Although her birth name was Barbara, she came to be known by the Polish version, Basia. The meaning of her given name, God’s daughter, was certainly a proper fit for Barbara. A stranger or traveler from a foreign land, she was no stranger to the trials of the world around her.
In her early years, Barbara’s family returned to their homeland of Poland. Raised there alongside extended family, she was just a young girl of 12 in 1941 Poland and watched as the German Secret Police arrested her Father for treason. Before he left, he instructed his dear Basia to save her tears until the Gestapo’s men left. Fleeing the occupation with her mother, Basia missed school the day the Nazi’s took her fellow students to be used as slave labor. They later repatriated back to America, where her faith in “land of the free” only solidified her allegiance to the meaning of being an American. She continued to love her heritage, but suffered from a lifetime of survivor's guilt.
After returning to the U.S. from Poland in her late teens, Barbara had to relearn English, as well as overcome the many taunts of being labeled, “a refugee”. She attended the local schools, and went on to graduate from high school for which her parents were proud. Barbara went on to further her education, receiving her B.A. in education from the University of Michigan. As fate would have it, she came within one class of acquiring her master’s degree. For the next 20 years, Barbara was an elementary school teacher in the Detroit Metro area. As a teacher, she made a huge impression upon her students, she received hundreds of letters from students professing their gratitude and love for her. Teaching was Barbara’s life, and it clearly showed in her students, and in her heart.
During this time, Barbara met and married Richard Charns. They made their home in Livonia, Michigan, raising their three children, Alex, Debbie, and Lee devout to their Catholic faith. Always loving, Barbara was just as caring as she was protective of her fold. She taught them right from wrong, and made a good home for Richard and the kids. Always involved in their many school and sporting activities, she never hesitated volunteering when needed.
As a family, memorable times were shared during the holidays and fun-filled times throughout the years on family outings. They often went camping, went on many picnics, and she so enjoyed traveling throughout the U.S. with her family. A woman of great faith, Barbara prayed daily to the Virgin Mary, Matka Boska Czestochowska, and always encouraged her children to pray. When it came to her heritage, Barbara treasured her Polish background and the ways of the Polish people. Having been raised in Poland for a time, she learned much, especially when it came to cooking, and standing up for what she believed in.
Barbara’s love for America and her patriotism was strong. She handed out mini American flags and carnations to the servicemen at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor. One to voice her opinion, especially on governmental issues, she wrote hundreds of handwritten letters to legislators. Perhaps it was due to what she witnessed early on in life, but Barbara knew too well the travesties of restricting citizen’s rights. Through her caring heart, Barbara also donated numerous care packages throughout the years to friends back in Poland.
Later in life, Barbara had the opportunity to visit Poland, the home of her youth. They also traveled to Alaska and Central America to see the sights. Barbara loved following Lee's journey running through all 50 states. She wanted to accompany him but was physically unable. She rarely missed her favorite news program with Brian Williams, or her favorite show, Friends. When it came to music, Barbara liked the classical genre, often listening to Mozart or Beethoven while dining.Barbara was an avid swimmer, it was one of her passions.
Shortly after the death of her husband, she moved to Ann Arbor to take care of her older sister Marie. After suffering a major stroke ten years ago, she was lovingly cared for by her youngest son, Lee. As mother and son, they built a special bond and friendship. Due to her son’s loving care, quite often around the clock, Barbara surpassed every doctor’s predication of impending death. Although with her body weak and other health issues, Barbara could no longer fight. Always to be remembered for her thoughtful ways, giving heart, and deep faith, Barbara’s example is a lasting legacy of her love and devotion. She will be deeply missed.
Barbara “Basia” Charns, age 85, passed away on Tuesday, April 21, 2015. She was the beloved wife of the late Richard, and the loving mother of Alex (Tucker), Debbie (Dennis) Cox, and Lee; dearest grandmother of WilloJane and Leo. Friends may visit with Barbara’s family on Friday, 4-8pm at the Neely-Turowski Life Story Funeral Home, 30200 Five Mile (between Merriman and Middlebelt) where her funeral service will be held Saturday at 10:30am. Interment in Parkview Cemetery. Memorial contributions in Barbara’s memory may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project. Please visit www.TurowskiLifeStory.com to share a favorite memory or upload a photo of Barbara and to sign her online guest book prior to arriving at the funeral home.