Arleen Judith (Isaacs) Barnes, beloved wife, mother, sister and friend, has died at age 83 from complications that arose after a fall. Arleen was an artist, an educator, a voracious reader, and an eager traveler. But if you ask her friends and family, the description you’ll most often hear is that she was a force of nature. Indomitable, opinionated, creative, loving and fierce, she left an indelible impression on everyone she met.
Arleen was born in Chelsea on August 9, 1939, the daughter of Rose and Ralph Isaacs. Her brother Ken was born in 1944 and they lived with their parents and maternal grandmother, Annie Levine. Arleen was a proud graduate of the Chelsea High School class of 1957. She made many lifelong friends among her fellow Chelsea “Red Devils,” and for decades after graduation, she organized their reunions. She went on to earn a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Massachusetts College of Art, and a Masters of Education and Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies from Boston State College.
In the mid-1960s, Arleen started working as an art teacher at Lincoln Middle School in Revere. She also taught summer school at Revere High School, where she made the acquaintance of a handsome math teacher named James Barnes. One afternoon in 1969, during a break between classes, Jim told another teacher to ask Arleen if she wanted to go out with him. “Tell Jim to ask me himself,” she replied. He did; she said, “Call me,” and a romance was born.
The couple were married on August 21, 1971 at the Colonial Country Club in Lynnfield. Arleen became stepmother to Jim’s two children, James Barnes Jr. and Michelle Barnes. Then, in August of 1976, their daughter Randi was born. “It’s Randi with an I,” the nurse announced, which was how they found out their baby was a girl.
The young family lived in Revere, and Arleen worked fulltime at Revere High School, first as dean of girls, then as an art teacher, and finally as the chair of the art department. Her artistic skills were legendary, from painting to illustrating to calligraphy, but her most famous work came during a teachers’ strike. Jim was still teaching, and she was in the administration, so they were on opposite sides of the strike. But when Jim showed up carrying beautifully crafted picket signs with big bubble letters and excellent composition, everyone knew who had made them.
Arleen put her artistic talents to other good uses, starting a small business – aptly named “The Social Butterfly” – doing calligraphy and other design work. She also designed her own costume jewelry, creating matching necklace, bracelet and earrings sets. In 2000, she retired from education, finishing her career as the director of fine arts for the city of Revere public schools.
The family moved from Revere to Marblehead in 1985. After Randi’s graduation from Marblehead High School in 1994 and Dartmouth College in 1998, Jim and Arleen embraced the snowbird life, spending summers in Salem and winters in South Florida. Arleen became active in Hadassah, serving as president of the Kiryat Yam chapter and as editor of the Region Record of Broward Hadassah. She was named a Hadassah Woman of the Year in 2009. She made many new friends in South Florida, where she had a mahjong circle and joined several book clubs. She traveled all over the world with Jim, often on cruises, and loved visiting with Randi and other family members in Los Angeles. She also went on a women’s trip to Israel that was transformative for her and reignited a devotion to her Jewish roots. She lived life out loud, and the world will be a quieter, less colorful place without her.
Arleen Judith (Isaacs) Barnes is survived by her loving husband James, her daughter Randi (wife Lisa), her brother Ken (wife Janice), James Jr. (husband Daniel), Michelle (partner Bill), Beth Raanan (husband Uzzi), Ben and Emma Raanan, and a host of other relatives and friends. She will be laid to rest in a graveside service, date to be determined, at the Puritan Lawn Memorial Park in Peabody.