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Barbara Major was everyone's extra mom

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published July 13. 2014 4:00AM

New London - Erma Bombeck, in "When God Created Mothers," wrote this once:

"When the Good Lord was creating mothers, He was into His sixth day of overtime when the angel appeared and said, 'You're doing a lot of fiddling around on this one.'

"And God said, 'Have you read the specs on this order? She has to have 180 moveable parts ... all replaceable. Run on black coffee and leftovers. … A kiss that can cure anything from a broken leg to a disappointed love affair. And six pairs of hands.'

"'God,' the angel said, 'get some rest tomorrow.'

"'I can't,' said God, 'I'm so close to creating something so close to myself. Already I have one who heals herself when she is sick ... can feed a family of six on one pound of hamburger ... and can get a nine-year old to stand under a shower.'"

That was Barbara Major.

New London's mom.

And it was with unspeakable sorrow that her family, friends, colleagues and the city for which she was the unofficial caretaker learned of her death Friday.

We all mourn.

We will spend the rest of our lives missing her.

Barbara was the city she loved: Door always open. Always a seat at her table. She embodied Dr. King's "content of their character" speech. She saw people, not color. Unless the colors were green and gold. The Majors are New London's first family. Because they espouse the virtues on which the city stands. They are diverse, inclusive, opinionated, loyal.

Barbara spent many years as the city's Republican Registrar of Voters. And yet reader Vin Yannacci said it best:

"Describing Barbara as being the Republican Registrar of Voters is like describing Lincoln as a country lawyer," Yannacci wrote. "She was so much more to people who knew her personally and those who just benefited from who she was.

"Thanks to being best friends with Patrick Heap, I spent most of my youth and a very good portion of my young adulthood, listening to Joe and Marge and Tommie and Barbara holding court on the Heap's front porch.

"The most valuable lesson I learned from those four Whalers was, love her or hate her, good time or bad, New London was my hometown and that should mean something.

"Prayers and good thoughts to Tommie and the kids and everyone who is feeling her loss."

Barbara's husband, Tommie, runs the city's Recreation Department. He's been an assistant football coach at the high school since forever, punctuating pregame atmospheres with an act that's part revival, part comedy. The train's comin'.

Tommie and Barbara raised Melissa, Alexis, Tommie, Todd and Tyler.

And yet they had so many more children.

Like the night Barbara awakened at 3 a.m., walked in the kitchen and found Rajai Davis snacking at the table. This is the Rajai Davis who plays for the Detroit Tigers now.

"You go right on eating Rajai," Barbara remembered saying, as she went back to bed.

Rajai: "They helped me out when it was tough. I didn't have any money. I didn't really have ways to eat the way I wanted to. Their house was always open. The Majors were very good to me."

Once, Barbara and I were having lunch and she said of her house, "we have a revolving door."

And one day, Jordan Reed walked through it.

This is the Jordan Reed who plays for the Washington Redskins now.

Tommie and Barbara, five kids in, took in Reed, the unofficial Major No. 6. Karen Reed, Jordan's mom, lived in New Britain and was paying rent in New London because she wanted her son to play for former New London coach Jack Cochran. It became a financial burden.

"Tyler, who is one of Jordan's best friends, came to me and said, 'Can Jordan live with us?'" Barbara said once. "I had already fallen in love with him. How could we say no?"

The Majors became Jordan Reed's legal guardians.

"What the Majors have done for me ... coach Major, I look up to him like a dad," Jordan Reed once said. "And Mrs. Major is another mom."

Barbara liked to end her Facebook posts with "taa daa." Always something about her kids, grandkids, the Whalers or the menu. Like from Easter:

"What to make for Easter dinner? Let's see: we have roast beef, turkey, ham, lasagna, lamb chops, Lighthouse Inn Potatoes, green bean casseroles, butternut squash, turnips, and four different cakes, plus a nice spinach salad with fresh fruit and feta cheese!!! I'm thinking I'll pick a couple of entrées and save the rest for another time. Plus rice pudding for my mom!!! Taaa daaa."

I'll remember Barbara for care packages, yelling at me over something I wrote, watching the Whalers, advice on parenting and being a beacon for love. As in: We should all love something in our lives the way Barbara Major loved her city.

Rest in peace.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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