William D. (Bill) Barber passed away peacefully on July 8, 2019 after a brief illness with heart disease and dementia. He was 83 years old. He leaves behind his two daughters Jennifer Barber of Syracuse, New York, Jessica Barber of Portland, Oregon and granddaughter Collette. His wife Densie Rich Barber of 46 years also survives him.
Bill was born in Boston on August 13, 1935 and grew up on Greendale Ave. in Needham Heights. He graduated from Needham High School in 1953. As a young boy during WWII, he would visit the Italian POW camp near the house at what became the American Can/Coca-Cola plant to bring food and drink to the imprisoned but otherwise America-loving soldiers. He was a star of the Needham High Hill Toppers football squad and also played on the baseball and track and field teams. He went onto Northeastern where he received the “Unsung Hero Award” from the New England Sportswriters Association in 1957 for his achievements on the Northeastern football squad. His love of sports continued throughout his life, especially as a ski instructor and a member of the Ski Patrol at Whiteface Mountain in upstate New York and a volunteer for the downhill ski events in the 1980 Lake Placid Olympic games. When not participating in athletics himself, he was an avid fan of both of his daughters’ successful athletic contests.
Bill started a remarkable fifty-year career at General Electric upon graduation from Northeastern’s engineering program. During these five decades, he was mostly based in their Research Labs north of Albany, N.Y and contributed to the development of hundreds of impactful patents in both military and medical imaging equipment. A predominant aspect of his work focused on PET, MRI and CT-Scan technologies. His daughters Jennifer and Jessica both were among the first people in the world to see a scan of their own brain as Bill worked to perfect the technology. He published throughout his career in peer-reviewed journals and continued this work well into his retirement. In addition to his writing and research, Bill continued to remain active in the field, regularly attending conferences, and discussions about quantum mechanics and particulate physics were not uncommon to all that knew him.
Bill was an avid reader. He would read nearly anything, although he had particular interests for mystery novels and for technical engineering discoveries. His interest in his family lead him to complete an exhaustive study of the Barber family history in the United States and to many in the family’s surprise, he traced the family all the way back to the Mayflower. Bill was also known for his ability to solve board puzzles faster than anyone else at Thanksgiving and will be remembered fondly for a unique ability to crack himself up while telling “Dad Jokes.”
Bill leaves a lasting legacy that impacted many. His contributions to medical technology have immeasurably impacted the life of millions of people around the world. Despite this achievement, he made a much larger impact to the many family and friends who were blessed to know him. His intelligence, humor, thoughtfulness, and kindness will not be soon forgotten. Bill is also survived by his sisters: Joan K Pottlitzer and husband Roger of le Vesinet, France, Kathleen R Power and her husband Michael of Walpole, MA, Laurel M Degombert and her husband Jean-Pierre of Paris, France
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