Barbara Claudette Birdsall Edwards

March 19, 2022

Obituary Image


Mrs. Barbara Claudette Birdsall Edwards, 73, departed this earthly life on Saturday March 19, 2022.  Her Celebration of Life will be held at 11:00 AM on Friday, March 25, 2022 in the C A Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel, 2415 South Wilmington Street, Raleigh, NC 27603.  Prior to the service, there will be a Viewing and Visitation beginning at 10:30 AM. A Public Viewing will be held on Thursday March 24, 2022 from 2:00 PM to 5:00 PM at Haywood Funeral Home.  Interment will follow at Carolina Biblical Gardens, 1530 Creech Road, Garner, NC 27529. 

Mrs. Edwards was born at St. Agnes Hospital in Raleigh, NC on July 31, 1948. She was the daughter of Josephine Birdsall Williams and an unknown soldier stationed at Fort Bragg. Barbara grew up in the household of her grandfather, Melvin Birdsall. Sr. and her grandmother Rosa Hill Birdsall on 605 E. Edenton Street. The Black community in downtown Raleigh was very closely knit. As a result, Barbara was surrounded by many Birdsall clan relatives and family friends who had know each other since even before the Civil War. At the time Barbara was born, an out-of-wedlock child was quite a scandal and until it became fashionable in the new millennium, Barbara felt a deep shame for the circumstances of her birth. Perhaps this combination of shame, but also a loving family produced a child and woman known as being remarkable for her empathy, kindness and humbleness. 

Barbara grew up in St. Paul’s church, which had been her family’s church since they were reunited after the Civil War, having made the trek on foot back to the Boylan Raleigh plantation from the plantation in Yazoo, Miss. St. Monica School, a Catholic elementary school for Raleigh’s Negro population, provided Barbara with her K-8th grade education until 1962.  She graduated with her High School diploma from Ligon High School in 1966. In the late 1960s she converted to Catholicism, along with her cousin, Bertrand Birdsall.  

Barbara decided early on to become a teacher, driven primarily by the examples and encouragement of her Aunt Eleanor Mitchell and Aunt Fannye Mae Birdsall. To this end she attended St. Augustine College in Raleigh and earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education in 1970.

Another major event occurred in 1970, as Barbara married William Franklin Edwards, a former Marine, fellow classmate and future chemist from Norfolk, Va. Barbara and William were blessed with a daughter, Tousette Yvonne Edwards, in 1971. The family moved to Cockeysville, Md., where Barbara went on to earn a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education in 1977, while working as a graduate teaching assistant at the university’s Lida Lee Tall school. Returning to Raleigh the same year, Barbara became a Chapter 1 Migrant Teacher and worked at such elementary schools as Zebulon, Brentwood, Northwoods, White Oak, Hollister, Laurel Mill, Southwest, North Harnet and Conn. After retiring in 2003, she became a Community Resource Trainer for Easter Seals and aided handicapped and special needs adults with integrating into the workforce.

Barbara and her husband Bill enjoyed their retirement. Barbara was able to use her time to care for her mother, who moved to Raleigh from Bronx, NY., and aid in the care of other relatives. She also used her time to engage in sports and was a member of the Galloway walking/running group. Barbara was always trying to learn something new and she was open to new ideas, which kept her young at heart. Barbara and Bill continued on for some time in excellent health and were able to travel extensively, visiting their daughter and - later their daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter - in Germany and Saudi Arabia and traveling with her to locations including, Italy, France, the Czech Republic and London. In 2007, the two were rewarded with a grandchild, Georgina Dechet, who Tousette conceived with her German husband since 2001, Richard Dechet, after praying with the Body of Christ for a grandchild.

In March 2018, Barbara’s half-sister, Patti Ratcliff Allen, searched for and found her. Although the two of them only had a short time together, after a lifetime spent apart, it was a blessing for the both of them.

Barbara was known to her family and friends as a very positive light. She believed deeply in Jesus Christ and looked to him for her salvation. She trusted implicitly in the Lord Jesus and was a long term member of St. Raphael’s Church. She loved teaching, helping out others, doing sports and was interested in health. She preferred fast Top40s pop music and loved to be out and about. She was also a devoted keeper of family, trying to unite them and documenting their together-time with photos. She encouraged everyone she met and had a special place in her heart for the elderly and people with special needs.

In 2017, Barbara had mitral valve replacement at Duke. Ever the optimist, she stated that if she lived for the duration of the post-surgical prognosis of three to five years, then she would be happy. She also said that she wanted to go before her 14 years older husband, because she didn’t want to be alone. Concerned that recent events in the news could be pointing to the return of the Antichrist, she remarked that maybe she wouldn’t be around if Jesus took her early.

The Sunday before she went into a coma, and passed several days later, she was making plans, with Bill, for an extensive stay in Germany as a prelude to eventually immigrating to the country.  Barbara our wife, mother, relative and friend will be sorely missed!

Barbara was preceded in death by her mother, Josephine Birdsall Williams and her stepfather Sandy Williams.

Barbara is survived by the following relatives: husband William Franklin Edwards; daughter Tousette Yvonne Edwards with son-in-law Richard Dechet and granddaughter Georgina Dechet of Windsbach, Germany; one sister Patti Ratcliffe Allen of Raleigh with son CJ Allen, one aunt Lillian B. Hunter of San Antonio, Tx, Cousin Adrienne Mitchell Blalock of Raleigh, with husband Steven, and children Alyssia and Sam, Cousin Claude Gibbs of Raleigh with wife Diane and daughter Annye, Cousin Maxine Littlejohn of San Antonio, Tx. with husband Ray and children Marty and Milbert Jr. Gorman and a host of other dear cousins and dear friends, including Cynthia Carter, Barbara McClure, Cynthia Carter (a distant cousin via shared GGGrandmother Emily Birdsall Saulter), Carolyn Robinson, Anita Quigless, Agnes Penny and Jean Gaddy.

***Please Note:  We are requesting that all in attendance wear a face covering or mask for the viewing, visitation, and service.  Also know that 3 feet of social distancing is expected.  We are limited to accept a total of 100 individuals for any indoor services due to COVID. .... Thank you for understanding.

****Service will be live streamed****


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March 24, 2022

2:00 PM to 5:00 PM
Haywood Funeral Home
2415 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27603

March 25, 2022

10:30 AM to 11:00 AM
C.A. Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel
2415 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27603

Celebration of Life
March 25, 2022

11:00 AM
C.A. Haywood, Sr. Memorial Chapel
2415 S. Wilmington Street
Raleigh, NC 27603

Video is available for this event

Interment following funeral service
March 25, 2022

Carolina Biblical Gardens
1530 Creech Road
Garner, NC 27529

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