Who was Eric Carle's wife Barbara? Late children's author founded museum with partner of 42 years
'When I began to do well, Bobbie was the one who said, 'We have to give back,' Eric Carle said about wife Barbara Carle, speaking about their museum
Legendary children's author and artist Eric Carle, who gave the world classics such as 'The Very Hungry Caterpillar', 'The Very Busy Spider' and 'Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?', died on May 23, 2021. As confirmed by his son Rolf, he died from kidney failure, at his summer studio in Northampton, Mass. The obituary on his website read, “In the light of the moon, holding on to a good star, a painter of rainbows, is now traveling across the night sky.”
Eric was married to his wife Barbara for over four decades, till her death in 2015. Together, the couple founded The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art — a dream project for both of them. The museum has now become a popular destination among children and adults alike, and a sanctuary to preserve the legacy of Eric and Barbara Carle. Read on to discover more about the eternal love story of literature's iconic couple.
Who was Barbara Carle?
Known as 'Bobbie' in her close circles, Barbara Carle was a well-known educator and art connoisseur. She championed the cause of children's education and unfailingly supported her husband Eric in all his ambitious ventures.
Born on November 22, 1938, in Statesville, Barbara Ann Morrison was the daughter of Dr James Rudy Morrison and Agnes Nolan Morrison, according to her obituary. After graduating from Salem College with a bachelor's degree, she headed to Manhattan, New York. There she started working as a Montessori teacher to children, whose mothers were hospitalized for emotional distress. While working as an adoption caseworker at New York Foundling Hospital, Barbara also helped hard-to-place children find forever homes.
Later, she started working at 'The Cloisters', a bookshop in The Metropolitan Museum of Art. It was here that she first met Eric when a mutual friend introduced them. The pair soon fell in love and got married in 1973, before settling in western Massachusetts. After pursuing her master's degree in special education from University of Massachusetts, Barbara co-founded a preschool for special needs children, named 'Side by Side'.
Eric and Barbara Carle's dream project
Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Eric and Barbara traveled extensively and were mesmerized by Japan. They were particularly fascinated by the Japanese picture book museums, which gave them the idea to open a similar museum in the US. Thus, in 2002, the couple's dream came true with the inauguration of The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art. The museum was opened on Barbara's birthday in 2003. In an interview, Eric credited his wife for the idea of the museum. "When I began to do well, Bobbie was the one who said, 'We have to give back.'" The museum has catered to thousands of guests so far.
Speaking about Barbara's contribution to the museum, board chair Christopher B Milne said in a heartfelt message. "Bobbie was the museum's first board chair. She was such a genuine person - so kind and generous. Throughout her life, art and books and the welfare of children were her sustaining passions. She believed that picture books could enrich children's lives, that they could transform us. She and Eric were determined to create a museum where generations of families could gather together and feel nurtured. From day one, she was a force behind The Carle. Her leadership set the stage for all of us," he said after her death.
After retiring together in 2004, Eric and Barbara spent their time in the mountains of North Carolina and Florida Keys. On September 7, 2015, Barbara died at the age of 76, leaving behind a heartbroken Eric.