Barbara "Barb" Lee (Kleene) Babine, March 1, 1950–Nov. 1, 2018.
March blew in like a lion and brought with it Barbara Lee (Kleene) Babine, the only child of Kermit and Phyllis (Olson) Kleene, born on March 1, 1950, in Granite Falls, Minn. She passed away peacefully at home in New Hope, Minn., after a journey with cancer, surrounded by her family, on All Saints Day, Nov. 1, 2018. She grew up in New Ulm, Minn., with parents who instilled in her the curiosity for learning, which they all explored on family camping trips to Yellowstone as well as on Kermit and Phyllis’ respective family farms. She graduated from New Ulm High School in 1968 and was a music major at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa, before switching to elementary education. She was sharp-witted and unfailingly kind. She was the type of person who said “Pleased to know you,” not “pleased to meet you.”
At Luther, she was active in outreach programs, like the Good News Cast. In 1971, she spent the summer working at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Novato, Calif., where she met Dan Babine, the man who would become her husband, when his parents invited her on a waterskiing trip with their family. He declared his interest by throwing a bucket of water on her; she retaliated by making him ride a school bus (which his 6'5" frame didn't fit into) to the Billy Graham Crusade the next day. It took him five years to convince her to marry him.
Barb and Dan married on June 19,1976, in New Ulm, Minn., and they moved to northern Minnesota as their family grew to include three girls, Karen, Kristi Babine-Dinnen ‘03, and Kim Babine ‘05. Her love language was in the little things, making memories out of small moments. She spent summers traveling with her family in their 1972 Starcraft popup camper, passing on her love of the history and beauty of the country. She and Dan enjoyed a cruise around the Hawaiian Islands this winter, a bucket list dream.
She loved her son-in-law Mike and her three grandchildren, Cora, Henry, and Sam. She enjoyed Louis L’Amour, knitting, and Sudoku, chocolate desserts and white chocolate raspberry mochas named the “Lady Slipper" at a Park Rapids coffee shop.
She taught fourth grade in Osage and Park Rapids for fifteen years, where she reminded her students that there’s no fun in fourth grade and they would respond, “But Mrs. Babine, this is fun!” Before teaching in Osage she would substitute teach in Nevis and Park Rapids, often for music classes. She loved to bring her guitar to school and sing with her students. In 2003, she completed a master’s degree in educational leadership with teacher friends from Park Rapids; her 84-year-old father placed her master’s hood during the ceremony.
Barb was an incredible musician, a master of piano, guitar, and singing. She taught her three children to play piano, their house always filled with music. Barb was the most loving and supportive mother, always at every band concert, sports event, or school function for her daughters; sewing Halloween and Nevis Muskie Days Kiddie Parade costumes for the girls every year. She was active in the choir at Bethany in Nevis, Trinity in Detroit Lakes, First Lutheran Church of Crystal, and community choirs wherever she lived. She cherished connecting with dear friends through the community events and church activities that filled her time.
She and Dan moved down to the Twin Cities after retiring in 2012 to be nearer to her family. Moving closer has brought more frequent family dinners, impromptu coffee dates, and spending precious time with her grandchildren who know her as Nana.
Barb taught us all to find joy in the ordinary with a twinkle in her eye, and to meet the world with kindness and grace.