Remembering Barbara Ann Denovan

Barbara Ann (Budd) Denovan, 78 years old, passed away on October 18, 2021, in the company of her family at her home, The Barn, on Guemes Island. 

Barbara, with a love for learning, solving complex problems, finding adventure, building deep friendships, and fighting for truth and people in need, was a bright star for many. She cared for those that she felt needed it and would often go out of her way so that everyone would feel welcome and included. Barb’s lifelong love of learning was fueled by intense curiosity that led to a life full of research and adventure. Her passion for learning ranged from microbiology, genetics, photography, genealogy, building electric cars, and native plants to name a few. Barbara also loved meeting people, traveling, spending time with friends, and helping others. She will be remembered for her smile, her warmth, her loving and friendly nature that allowed her to develop deep and long-lasting relationships. 

Barbara was born on August 5th, 1943, in Bremerton, Washington to Elizabeth (Doyle) Budd and Richard Newton Budd. Barbara was the middle child of three, between her older brother John and younger brother Bill.

The Budd family moved to Manchester WA and then to Shelton, WA, wintering in Palm Springs and Cathedral City, CA. In 1951 the Budd family moved to Seattle's Capitol Hill where she attended Holy Names Academy and graduated in 1961. She went on to the University of Washington. There she met her future husband, Jim Denovan. Barb met Jim in Chemistry 140 when she dropped her apple and it rolled down the lecture hall aisle. Embarrassed, she turned “almost as red as the apple”. Jim knew then he had to meet her. They were married in 1965. 

Barb and Jim then moved to Corvallis, OR, where she worked for the Pacific Northwest Bell, as an operator, while Jim continued school. Soon, their son, Rory, was born, and they moved to Ann Arbor, MI. where, their daughter, Laura was born. In 1972 they moved to Sierra Madre, CA, where Barb juggled taking care of their two children while attending community college. Wanting to get back to the Pacific Northwest, Barb and her family moved to Kennewick, Washington, in 1976. 

Barb loved learning and was determined to continue her education. While living in Kennewick, Barb commuted weekly to Seattle to go to school. She earned an AA in Biological Photography (Bellevue College), a BS in Biology (UW), and a MS in Molecular Biology (WSU). She also worked for Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) where she conducted microbiology research, including early efforts to understand the human genome. With a desire to help solve environmental problems, in 1988, she earned her second MS in Environmental Engineering (UW), researching biological degradation of ozone depleting chlorofluorocarbons. After the Exxon Valdez spill, Barb researched the prospect of using microorganisms to clean up oil spills, at PNNL’s Marine and Coastal Laboratory in Sequim, WA. 

In 1990, Barbara and Jim, moved back to Seattle and started their own environmental health and safety consulting company, EIC Environmental Health and Safety.  Together they grew EIC to be the leading environmental health and safety resource for the Northwest’s biotechnology industry. Always loving a good puzzle, Barb really enjoyed solving complex technical challenges to support medical and environmental research. They continued the business through 2016, until in 2017, Barb and Jim retired and moved to her “special place” on Guemes Island. 

Barbara was always up for adventure, particularly ones that involved traveling with friends, being outdoors, and meeting new people. She and Jim hiked, bicycled, and canoed throughout their entire marriage. Memorable canoe trips included taking toddlers in diapers throughout Michigan and Ontario, paddling the length of Ross Lake in Washington state, canoeing the Peel and Wind Rivers in the Yukon and throughout the Quetico and Boundary Waters wilderness on the Minnesota/Ontario border. She also kayaked and canoed on many rivers throughout the Pacific Northwest. 

However, Barb’s favorite way to travel was bicycling. The adventure, the comradery, the technical challenges of working on bicycles, and the ease of meeting new people, all greatly appealed to her.  She really loved the challenge of long 500-mile plus rides and the deep friendships she built with those that accompanied her and those they met along the way. Barb’s spirit for adventure took her on several multi-week trips around Washington, British Columbia, and Alberta, bicycling across the Great Divide in the Canadian Rockies, around the Olympic Peninsula, and along the length of Vancouver Island. These adventures always resulted in fond memories even when things didn’t go as planned, including having to take shelter in a jail, in Powell River, BC. after their camping gear was stolen. 

Barb particularly loved travel when she could meet people from different cultures. From a village deep in the bush of Senegal, where she stayed in a hut, and learned about Wolof culture, to Armagh, Ireland, where she stayed in a castle during a trip with her cousins to learn more about her family’s roots. Whether it was Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast or Tierra del Fuego Patagonia, she really enjoyed visiting remote places to learn about the local culture and environment.

Throughout her life, Barbara was an advocate for people. Whether it was a young person trying to sort things out or an elderly neighbor with ailing health, she was always willing to help. She frequently became a health advocate, researching treatment options, and attending doctor appointments with friends to provide moral support and help them understand the science behind the doctor’s advice.  

More than once in her life, Barb was compelled to advocate for real evidence and truth even though it was politically inconvenient. While normally a quiet introvert, she was not afraid to speak truth to power when it was important. 

Barb also loved photographing nature. From wildflowers to birds, bugs, and bacteria, revealing natural beauty through close-ups shots was a passion she was able to share with her children and grandchildren.

Barbara had a “can do” attitude and relished the challenge of solving a problem. If a car or household appliance needed fixing, she would jump right in just to learn how the thing worked and to see if she could solve the puzzle. She found genealogy a perfect puzzle, allowing her to combine her interests in genetics and family and help others learn about their genetics and heritage. 

In 2005, frustrated by government and industry inaction on climate change, Barbara decided to convert and promote electric cars.  Working with the Seattle Electric Vehicle Association (SEVA), she bought a 1984 VW Cabriolet and organized a hands-on electric car conversion class on Guemes Island that converted the Cabriolet to electric.    She went on to organize an electric vehicle conversion class through SEVA and South Seattle College’s Automotive Technology program.

Barb always knew that bad luck is temporary.  Sometimes she would almost enjoy bad luck just so she could watch it change. As an example, she was tickled that every time she lost her wallet, it would make its way back to her.  One time her wallet was delivered to her house just as she arrived home and before she even knew it was missing.  

Barb was determined that she was going to decide her own fate. Even when very sick with Parkinson’s, she refused to let the disease rule her life. 

Barb is survived by her husband, Jim Denovan, their two children and their spouses, Rory Denovan/Rebecca Fong and Laura Denovan/Dante Carrasco, four grandchildren that she adored: Danilo and Mila Carrasco, and Fiona and Calum Denovan.  Her brother, Bill Budd and his wife, Marty Bishop. As well as her nieces and nephews, Doyle Budd, Caitlin Budd, Christine Budd, Kathy Copeland, John Budd Jr., Rob Leighton, and Leah Budd.

Barbara loved bringing people together and her motto was always the more the merrier, so in classic Barbara style, we will have a celebration of life for Barbara on Guemes Island on June 18th.

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