Sherman Hessenbruch was born June 20, 1922 in Spring Lake, New Jersey. She
was graduated from Columbia High School (Maplewood, NJ) in 1940 and from
Wellesley College with a B.A. in English in 1944. During her senior year,
she married Herman Markle Hessenbruch, who was serving in the Naval Fleet
in Japan. After graduation, she held a variety of jobs while waiting for
the war to end and her husband to return home. The couple attended Wesleyan
University from 1946-1947 (Herman, finishing his B.A.; Barbara, working
on her M.A. in English). After several years and several moves, the Hessenbruchs
settled in Ridgewood, NJ, a suburb of New York City.
and "Hess" had three children: John Markle (born 1949), Carolyn
(born 1953), and Andra (born 1956). As a young mother, Barbara enjoyed pursuing
her interests of music (violin performance) and jewelry making (primarily
silver). In 1959, Barbara was widowed when her husband suffered a heart
attack. Never having remarried, she successfully juggled raising three children,
traveled extensively with her young family, as well as continuing to broaden
her own interests. Besides being fluent in French and Latin, Barbara acquired
a strong background in Spanish, Italian, German, and Greek through night
classes. Her knowledge of languages proved invaluable during her many travels,
both within the U.S. and internationally (Europe, Eastern Europe, British
Isles, Scandinavia, Middle East, South America, Central America, Australia,
New Zealand, South Pacific, and Canada).
showed interest in rocks during college---at a different place and a different
time, she might have forgone the English major for a career in geology.
Her enthusiasm for the science rubbed off on two of her children, both of
whom received their M.S. in the field. A trip to Florence in 1970 led her
to the Museo dell'Opificio delle Pietre Dure a Firenze (Museum of Hard Stones),
a magnificent monument to the art of intarsia. From that point on, she was
hooked. She began acquiring pieces, both large and small.
In 1980, she relocated to San Clemente, CA, where her interest in stones
and intarsia became a passion. Her micromount mineral collection continued
to grow. She became an active member of the Capistrano Valley Rock and Mineral
Club and the LA County Museum. Her calendar soon revolved around gem shows
and field trips. Barbara enrolled in her first lapidary class in 1985. Ultimately,
she graduated into working almost exclusively in intarsia. She completed
a wall hanging of the Hessenbruch family crest in 1994. Since then she has
focused on smaller pieces, primarily miniatures with an ocean theme. On
her most recent trip to Florence (1997), she and a stone master designed
a table she purchased depicting a bird in a flowering tree---the results
moved to Bellingham, WA in June of 1999, where she continues to reside.
Although new to the area, she has already become involved in the Mt. Baker
Rock and Mineral Club.