Found solace and joy in gardening, quilting, baking and caring for others


PEABODY — Barbara Johnson Hilton Fohlin, a remarkable woman of compassion, strength, and boundless love, passed away on September 16, 2023.

Born on December 28, 1928, in Andover, Mass., Barbara’s journey through life was one of unwavering dedication to her loved ones and a deep passion for caring for others.

She graduated from Punchard High School (1946) and the Nursing School of Lawrence General Hospital (1949). Later that same year, she proudly became a Registered Nurse, a profession she would grace with her compassion for many years.

In 1952, Barbara married Don Hilton, embarking on a journey of love and partnership that would last for nearly two decades. Their early years together saw them residing briefly in Lawrence before settling in North Reading in 1957. The couple became proud parents to three children and lovingly opened their home to her mother, Mabel (“Mimi”), and mother-in-law, Eliza (“Nana”), exemplifying her selflessness and devotion to family.

In 1971, Barbara’s husband, Don, passed away suddenly, leaving her to raise their three children: Sue, Jim, and Beverly. Barbara’s unwavering love and resilience guided her through these challenging times. For the following 10 years, Barbara’s focus was on her children. She was an active parent, engaged in supporting many of her children’s interests and activities. Her love, guidance, and nurturing spirit laid the foundation for her children’s success and the legacy she leaves behind.

In 1981, Barbara married Hal Fohlin. Barbara and Hal shared a love for adventure, traveling all over the world. It was Barbara’s love for family that inspired them to drive across the country on multiple occasions to visit their children and grandchildren, often making the long drives while knitting and listening to a good book.

The couple retired to a renovated 1840s farmhouse in Marlow, N.H., and later to a condo in Keene, N.H., where they resided until 2006 when they moved to Brooksby Village in Peabody. All along the way, she forged friendships, touching the lives of many. They shared 39 wonderful years together until Hal’s passing in December 2020.

While she moved several times in her life, church was a constant in her life. Here she found community and many opportunities to share her love. Her faith played a significant role in her life and inspired her to spread kindness and love wherever she went. Her focus always remained on serving others, finding countless opportunities to volunteer.

Barbara’s creative spirit found expression through knitting and quilting, with her handmade quilts adorning the homes of friends and loved ones. She found solace and joy in gardening, nurturing beautiful blooms, and baking delicious treats. Many an overnight guest awoke to the smell of freshly baked blueberry muffins. She never tired of a good game of Yahtzee or completing a jigsaw puzzle with her many grandkids.

Barbara is preceded in death by her parents, Mabel and Ernest Johnson, her brother, George Johnson, and her husbands, Don Hilton and Hal Fohlin. She is survived by her three children, Sue (Mark), Jim (Michelle), and Beverly (Jeff), and her stepchildren, Jim, Sylvia (Rob), Marybeth (Mark), Caroline (John), and Howard. Her legacy lives on through her 18 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren.

Barbara Johnson Hilton Fohlin’s life was a beautiful tapestry of love and care. She leaves behind a legacy of inner strength and a deep appreciation for the simple pleasures in life. Barbara’s passing leaves a void in our lives, but her spirit of love, compassion, and devotion will continue to guide us all. Her memory will be one of love and kindness.

A celebration of Barbara’s life will be held at 11 a.m. on November 14, 2023 at the Union Congregational Church,148 Haverhill St., North Reading, Mass. In lieu of flowers, the family kindly requests donations be made to Brooksby Village Student Scholarship Fund, Philanthropy Office, 300 Brooksby Village Drive, Peabody, MA 01960 ( or in the spirit of caring for others, a donation to the donor’s local food shelf.