In memoriam: Barbara Erickson

The Trustees of Reservations recently announced the passing of Barbara Erickson, its visionary leader for the past nine years, who died Jan. 15.

By Jocelyn Forbush January 31, 2021

Barbara, who was only 42 and a mother to two young children, worked tirelessly to ensure 120 of Massachusetts' most special places would remain open and accessible to everyone in the commonwealth, as she oversaw nearly a decade of intense growth and success at The Trustees. Under her audacious and inspiring leadership, the nation's first land conservation and preservation nonprofit expanded the operational budget, launched new initiatives in Boston, grew philanthropy, increased membership and secured several new iconic properties.

Named the organization's fourth president in 2012, Barbara was also its first woman in that role. Over her nine-year tenure, the organization's budget grew by more than $10 million, visitation doubled to 2 million people, membership increased by more than 40,000 households, and nine new properties were added to the organization's portfolio of 120 special places. Additionally, she increased the philanthropic strength of the organization, completing a $26.4 million campaign that revitalized cultural properties and strengthened cultural staffing, attracting support for many other projects.

Barbara grew up in the wild west of Wyoming, where her inquisitive, highly social personality and passion for outdoors blossomed. Professionally, she was most proud of growing the scope and scale of The Trustees and focusing its work on where people live, including a dedicated effort to build a waterfront park in East Boston. She also secured and transformed some of its most iconic properties, including deCordova Sculpture Park & Museum. She was awarded the distinguished Elizabeth Craig Weaver Proctor Medal by the Garden Club of America in 2017, named Conservationist of the Year by Northshore Magazine in 2017 and was named in the Commonwealth Institute's Annual Top 100 Women-Led Businesses in Massachusetts survey for seven consecutive years.

But pride in her professional accomplishments paled to what she felt for her "trio of light," her partner in life Peter Torrebiarte and their two children, Lucia and Marcelo. Although a rare cancer of the appendix cut her life short in her prime, both her love for her family and the love and care she bestowed upon some of the most culturally and ecologically significant properties in Massachusetts will be felt for eternity.