Barbie Sue Doucette, a wife, mother of four children and a great friend to many, passed suddenly on Nov. 11 at the Saint John Regional Hospital. Doucette was an accommodations facilitator at the Student Accessibility Centre for seven years. She was 36.
Born in Fredericton on Aug. 7, 1982, Doucette graduated from St. Thomas University and began her career at the University of New Brunswick at the Student Health Centre. Doucette worked there for a year and a half before switching to the Student Accessibility Centre. The staff were very grateful to have someone described as “a beautiful person inside and out” join their team.
The employees at the Student Accessibility Centre have all felt her loss.
“Her spirit was very calming,” said Jody Gorham, the centre’s director.
Doucette was able to help more difficult student cases when her colleagues were perhaps at their wit’s end. Gorham said if a student entered the office in tears experiencing a serious crisis, Doucette “was able to take care of them and calm them.”
Her colleagues describe her as calming for many reasons, but mostly because of her care and compassion for the students. No staff member in the office ever remembers having a conflict with her.
“She was just such a kind person,” said Kelley Flowers, the disability resource coordinator.
Pam Underhill, the administration assistant and exam coordinator, said Doucette was focused on helping others at the office and “was just a good soul.”
Doucette was a wife and mother, described by those close to her as someone who made sure to live a balanced life dedicated to her work and, most importantly, her family.
“Her kids were everything to her,” Flowers said.
Doucette’s passing was completely unexpected, making the event even harder for her family and friends. A young mother, Doucette had just given birth to her third child and experienced complications in the weeks after the birth.
Doucette’s young age also adds to the tragedy of the situation.
“Your brain just rejects the notion of a 36-year-old, presumably healthy woman dying suddenly. The shock of it all is mind-boggling,” Gorham said.
The staff at the Accessibility Centre are still in shock. Given that Doucette was on maternity leave at the time of her passing, they find themselves believing that she might be coming back soon. “But she’s not,” said Flowers.
“We were getting reports saying everything was looking optimistic and she was doing well,” Flowers continued. “Everyone was in good spirits; we just assumed she was fine.”
The staff say they are incredibly grateful for all the support they’ve received from the UNB community and from fellow staff at UNB Student Services. The community has been especially concerned with helping Doucette’s grieving family, and both the Accessibility Centre staff and the UNB community are trying their best to support her family without any intrusion.
“A gentle, compassionate, caring individual, Barbie was committed to ensuring students had a positive experience at university,” UNB president Eddy Campbell wrote in an email to staff.
Gorham said the immense show of support for all those impacted by Doucette’s passing demonstrates the caring nature of the university community.
After this deeply-moving and heartbreaking event, the Accessibility Centre staff are doing their best to act in a way that Doucette would have wanted and honour her memory in the most appropriate manner. They remind themselves every morning that they’re there to help students, “and that Barbie would have wanted us to support them,” Underhill said.