"You are our Sunshine"
Barbara Marie Vickers (Datomi), wife and mother of four, passed away peacefully in her sleep at home on February 9, 2023. She was 81 years old.Though her health had been failing for some time, Barbara’s resolute spirit and love of family, inspired her to carry on each day, without complaint, until the inevitable consequences of illness and time finally held sway.
Barbara is survived by her loving husband of 41 years, Richard Vickers; her four children and their families, son Brian (Courtney Buck, children Isabella and Elias), son Gregory (JoEllen, children Jake-Anthony and Trent), daughter Julie (John Simonelli, children James and Lauren) and her son David (Marissa, daughter Quirina); her sister-in-law Phyllis Datomi; her niece Jill Reilly (son Christopher Evans); and her many other nieces and nephews.
Barbara was born on September 16, 1941, in Hollywood, California, to Italian immigrant parents Anthony and Mary Datomi (Damato). She was their third child, preceded in birth by her brother Rocco (future wife Phyllis Long) and her sister Frances (future husband William Kay).
The world was at war when Barbara was born. The attack at Pearl Harbor was imminent. Her big brother Rocco, the family’s firstborn in 1926, like many of his generation, left high school to join the Marines.
Prior to her birth, the Datomi family, seeking economic opportunities, had moved to California from Omaha, Nebraska. Their house was located on Wilcox Avenue, near the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a famous tourist attraction known for its embedded brass star tributes to the entertainment industry. Her father, who never learned to drive a car, took Barbara on long walks there.
The heart of the Datomi household was its kitchen. Visitors were greeted with the distinct aroma of the family’s ragu sauce, a tomato concoction made with small oily fish called smelts. In this kitchen, Barbara learned to cook alongside her mother and older sister. The Wilcox house became a revered place of memories for the growing Datomi family and for the generation that followed. Here, traditions had a time and place to grow. Important life events and holidays were celebrated.
Easter meant baking braided biscotti dough into “baskets”, one for each grandchild. Christmas saw the preparation of large pans of homemade lasagna and meatballs, to serve with the holiday ham. And New Year’s meant Italian sausage and pepper sandwiches, self-served between games of cards or Parcheesi, whilst cheering for the Rose Bowl football game on the television.
At the age of 18, Barbara started university at UCLA. During this period, she met Vincent Charles Medici (deceased, 1985), who would become her first husband. In the summer of 1963, Barbara moved with Vincent and their one-year-old son, Brian, to a small three-bedroom house on Minuet Place in Panorama City. The family grew to four children before Brian had finished second grade. This was a time when women typically stayed home with their children while their husbands worked. And this was so for Barbara, who was content being the central figure in her children’s lives, keeping them fed, clothed, schooled, and comforted.
Unfortunately, Vincent suffered from a series of underlying mental illnesses that in the ‘70s were poorly understood or treated. The progression of these maladies eventually overtook his capacity to be a husband, father, or provider for the family. The marriage ended in a divorce and was also later annulled by the Catholic Church. Barbara had full custody of her children.
Barbara entered the workforce. She was hired as an Admitting Clerk at the nearby Kaiser Hospital in Panorama City. She worked graveyard (night)shifts, sacrificing sleep to care for her children during the day and relying on family hand-me-downs and government disability checks to buy groceries during difficult stretches. She also resumed her education, taking classes to complete a college degree left unfinished after she married. Through it all, Barbara never gave up hope, and reminded her children that “tomorrow would be a better day”.
Nobody knows how she did all this.
In 1978, Barbara met Richard (Rick) Vickers, who also worked as an Admitting Clerk at the same Kaiser Hospital. A romance developed and bloomed. They married on April 11, 1981, at St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church in Panorama City, a notable place for her four children, as they had all graduated from the high school that was part of the church. Rick’s parents, Alfred and Betty Vickers, his brothers Alan and Michael, and their respective families, welcomed the newcomers.
Barbara’s nursing career began in 1982, when she completed her nursing degree from LA Valley College, and finally received that coveted R.N. License that she had worked so hard for. She decided she would continue as an employee at the Panorama City Kaiser Hospital, only now, this one-time Admitting Clerk was a licensed Registered Nurse. With a stethoscope in hand, she joined the hospital’s medical staff, starting with the eight-floor orthopedic unit, where she soon developed a disdain for motorcycles.
Barbara excelled in nursing. She was soon promoted into nursing management positions at the hospital. These included the roles of Clinical Nursing Supervisor and Nursing Home Placement Coordinator. She also never stopped learning. In 1991, she earned her second college degree, a BS in Health Care Management, from the University of La Verne. It was at this time that Barbara and Rick, her children now adults, moved into the Vickers’ family home in nearby Toluca Lake, which became a new place for gatherings, celebrations, and memories.
In 1992, Barbara became the Extended Care Coordinator for Kaiser’s Continuing Care Department. In this function, she ensured that patients received quality skilled nursing care once discharged to a nursing home. Effective monitoring required her personal on-site inspection and interaction at each facility. Her car became a mobile office. Her “daily rounds” now used city streets, rather than hospital hallways. She performed this role for many years, first as a Kaiser Hospital employee, and later as a private contractor for Kaiser.
In 2004, after over 20 years of nursing service in the community, Barbara hung up her stethoscope for good and retired. Now, there was more time available. There was more time to explore the world with Rick. There was more time to love and spoil her many grandkids now underfoot. There was more precious time.
And so, Barbara and Rick (also retired now) took advantage of this time. Together, they traveled everywhere, near and far, via country roads or the Seven Seas. Ocean cruises took them to ports-of-call all over the world. Road trips took them across the USA. Where the road ended was secondary, as long as they were together…
… together on some lonely highway, Rod Stewart singing from the car stereo, a mandolin wind blowing through an opened moonroof – the stars above shining down. As the mile-markers passed by, one after another, time’s passage slowed, giving Barbara and Rick more of it.
What’s the next stop, you ask
Monterey Bay, perhaps?
In the end, this is what mattered most:
Barbara adored her family and friends, and they adored her. To her grandchildren, she was their “Mimi”. As wee ones, they found comfort and coziness when snuggled in her lap. As she rhythmically rocked her chair back and forth, they shared their hopes and fears, listened to the wisdom of her stories, and drifted into dreamlands, nurtured by the sweetness of her lullabies.
More time gave Barbara the gift to witness her grandchildren, who had slept peacefully in her arms as babes, grow to be productive, wonderful young men and women, shaped by values exemplified by her life story – a shining star to guide, should skies turn gray.
Dearest Barbara Marie (Mom)
You were our sunshine
Our only sunshine
You are starshine now
Into the stars
A constellation in our family’s sky
Look no further than above
A twinkling light of guidance and love
Thank you for all your kind thoughts and prayers.
Mom, we miss you dearly. Rest in peace now...
|Name||Barbara Marie Vickers|
|Date of Birth||September 16th, 1941|
|Date of Death||February 9th, 2023|
|Favourite Saying||"Tomorrow will be better"|
|In Memoriam Donation||The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research|
|Other||Keeper Virtual Memorial Events|
|Children||Brian Vickers, David Richard Vickers, Gregory John Vickers, Julie Simonelli|
|Parents||Anthony Datomi, Mary Datomi (Damato)|
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