OTIS, Mass. — In the early morning hours on Saturday, February 3, 2018, the Riiska Family said goodbye to their beloved Matriarch. Barbara Riiska was born on January 19, 1940, and died peacefully in the comfort of her home on Saturday, February 3, 2018, surrounded by family.
Daughter of the late Edwin M. and Margaret Robstock Dyer, Barbara was married to the love of her life, William A. Riiska, for over 48 years. Barbara was the mother of six children, 11 grandchildren (Melissa, Andrew, Nicole, Katrina, Thomas, Eric, Scott, Maggie, Emma, Valerie, and William) and four great-grandchildren (Maleki, Mitchell, Rory and Charlie). Her entire life revolved around her friends and family and those she loved dearly.
Barbara is finally reunited with her eldest daughters, Valerie Wrba (Larson) and Karen McPhillips (Larson), who predeceased her over a decade ago.
She leaves her daughters, Suzanne Riiska Avery of Otis, Mass., and Bethany Riiska Perry of Sandisfield, Mass.; her sons, Randy Larson of Indian Orchard, Mass., and Keith Larson of Sandisfield, Mass.; as well as her brothers, Edwin M. Dyer of Lenoire, North Carolina, and William Dyer of Otis, Mass.
Barbara was a life-long resident of Southern Berkshire County, having lived in Otis for most of her life until moving to Sandisfield 14 years ago. She and her husband, Bill Riiska, started planting trees at the family farm in Sandisfield in 1991. Today, Riiska Brook Orchard has over 2,500 apple trees and 800 blueberry bushes where people come from near and far to pick their own apples and blueberries each season. Barbara was a beautiful, strong woman with a most distinguished voice and an embrace that warmed your very soul.
Barbara loved the Orchard, which she referred to as her healing place after the passing of her daughters. She was a master in the kitchen and could whip up a hearty feast for a crowd in the blink of an eye. She baked pies, made jam, and canned fruits and vegetables each season. Before retiring to the full-time life of farm living, Barbara was a staple in the Town of Otis, where she worked at Berkshire Hardware Store, Farmington River Country Store, Otis Ridge Ski Camp and drove the Otis School Bus. She was a mother figure to an entire generation of Otis kids - many of whom now visit the Orchard with their families each apple season. The highlight for Barbara every year was to watch the preschool children come to pick apples during their annual field trip.
Barbara spent her life caring for others and saw to it that her parents, her husband’s parents and her dear friend Audrey were able to spend their last days at home in the comfort of her care. Barbara was a true believer in the good of people and the concept of paying it forward. She was a salt of the earth woman who will be dearly missed by so many.
Funeral notice: Funeral services for Barbara will be held Friday, February 9, 2018, at 10 a.m. at the Kelly Funeral Home with the Rev. Roger Zimmerman officiating. Burial in the Otis Cemetery will held in the spring.
Visiting hours will be Thursday evening, February 8, 2018, from 4 to 7 p.m. at Kelly Funeral Home. In lieu of flowers, those wishing may make a donation to HospiceCare in the Berkshires in care of Kelly Funeral Home, 3 Main St., Lee, MA 01238.