Barbara A. (Champion) Turbessi Barbara A. Turbessi, 85, of Chautauqua Institute, Chautauqua, N.Y. and formerly of Warren, PA., died Sunday, February 26, 2023 in Lutz, Florida.
Barbara, Barb to her friends, was born March 7, 1937, to John and Veronica Champion. She grew up in Warren, Pennsylvania, often visiting Celoron, NY on Chautauqua Lake. Barbara graduated from Warren High School in 1955 as a national scholarship winner and the first of her family to attend college, graduating at the top of her Pharmacy School class from Duquesne University in 1959. While at Duquesne, Barbara met the tall and handsome Albert Turbessi. They married in 1959 and moved to Morgantown, WV, where Barbara worked as a pharmacist while Albert attended medical school.
Once children came along, Barbara focused her energy on creating the best family she knew how. In 1967, Barbara brought her family home to Warren, where Al was starting his new medical practice. By then, they had two kids and one on the way. There, she planted the roots of her own upbringing in their three children, Lisa Turbessi of Charlotte NC married to Paul Caleca, Mark Turbessi of Tavernier, FL married to Eileen Turbessi and John Turbessi of Land O’ Lakes, FL married to Alicia Turbessi. Later in life, Barbara adopted Lexi, a black and white fluffball of love, and the two became inseparable, traveling near and far together.
Barbara was an active member of the Women’s Club, Conewango Valley Women’s Golf Association, the Warren Medical Auxiliary and any group supporting activities related to her children. She took up golf and became an unassuming assassin on the golf course, playing in leagues in Warren, Chautauqua, and northwestern Pennsylvania. She played golf much as she lived her life, starting with short, steady shots up the fairway, but grinding out the win with the grit and attention to detail in her short game.
As her own children grew into people with families of their own, Barbara was thrilled to become “Nonna” to her grandchildren, Katya Caleca, Maia Caleca, Andre Caleca, Robert Turbessi, Zane Turbessi, Daniella Turbessi and John Alberto Turbessi. She stocked her house with any curious endeavor they expressed even mild interest in, providing paints, water pistols, hoses, bubbles, and any other manner of messy playthings for her grandkids to play with, sometimes in spite of her own children. She always had fresh baked egg-free chocolate chip cookies for after summer camp and her notorious freezer full of ice cream for after beef-on-weck dinner. Nonna’s house was the kind grandchildren ran into and moped away from.
Spending summers at Chautauqua, Barbara and Al engaged in all that Chautauqua had to offer and eventually moved there full time. Barbara became an active patron of the arts, serving on the VACI (Visual Arts) board, the Chautauqua Opera Guild and as an avid “host mom” to art and opera students each summer. Barbara served as an officer of the Opera Guild for many years including multiple terms as President. While a member of the Guild she was actively involved in expanding Opera’s reach beyond Norton Hall and helping to oversee the renovation of Connolly Hall.
Barbara was Al’s constant travel companion, even if she didn’t usually enjoy the logistics often associated with travel. Eventually, Barbara grew to enjoy travel, particularly if the trips involved visiting children and grandchildren. Barbara continued to travel even once Al could not, oftentimes with her faithful dog, Lexi at her side Barbara was loved and admired more than she knew. There was almost nothing she wouldn’t do for family and friends if asked, though she rarely asked for help herself. She was smart, determined and stubbornly independent. She was adamant that her children and grandchildren would experience the arts and other things as she never could. She brought them to concerts and museums, drove them all over the eastern seaboard for swim meets, and took her grandchildren to the opera as junior members of the opera board. She encouraged her daughter to do engineering and son to sing.
Through her life and actions, she taught us how to set our sights and persevere to reach for our goals. She made houses “homes” we always wanted to come home to, not because of the physical surroundings, because of the love. Barbara was the yin to Al’s yang. Albert may have been the life of the party, but Barbara made them happen. She put down the roots, held the family together, pushed us forward and caught us when we fell. Barbara is forever loved and will be greatly missed by all of her family and her faithful travel companion, Lexi.
A Mass of Christian Burial for the family was conducted at Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Land O Lakes, FL on Saturday, March 4, 2023. Interment will be with her beloved Al in Chautauqua Cemetery, Chautauqua, N.Y on June 17, 2023 followed by a gathering to celebrate the lives of Albert and Barbara at “Nonna’s house” in Chautauqua Institute.
Those wishing to place memorials may do so through Chautauqua Foundation for the Barbara and Albert Turbessi Memorial Scholarship at PO Box 28, Chautauqua, NY 14722. E-mail condolences may be sent by visiting www.loylessfuneralhomes.com.