Barbara Josephine Backer Heffelfinger was many things — a devoted wife, mother, friend, volunteer and traveler, and an avid golfer.
But her family and friends are most likely to remember her as a consummate hostess, whether she was entertaining at home, preparing a shore lunch near the family cabin in Minaki, Ontario, or setting out a meal on the tailgate of the Heffelfinger family station wagon during summer road trips Out West.
“Those were the classic 1950s family car trips,” said her daughter, Heidi Heffelfinger Todd, of Boulder, Colo. “Picture a two-tone station wagon with kids piled in back. We’d pull over on the side of the road at whatever spot Mom thought looked nice, and she’d have this amazing spread.”
Heffelfinger, who’s also the mother of former U.S. Attorney Thomas Heffelfinger, died at her Eden Prairie home on Dec. 25. She was 88.
A native of Beverly Hills, Calif., she moved to Minnesota in 1945 after meeting her husband and then-Navy pilot, Frank Totton Heffelfinger, while attending Stanford University.
“They got engaged when he gave her his wings while they were on the ferry between Oakland and San Francisco,” said Thomas Heffelfinger, who is now in private law practice.
Though she disliked Minnesota’s cold winters, the couple made their home in Edina. They established an enduring circle of friends, many through the Minikahda Country Club in Edina, by playing bridge and poker and by entertaining frequently. The couple had been married 63 years when Frank died in February 2009.
“She was an incredible hostess. She loved it, and was well known for it,” her son said. “She was also a woman who had a highly refined sense of manners.”
Said her daughter: “I loved the way she could always find the gracious or beautiful in something. If we were having a picnic, she’d set out a tablecloth —even when we were up in Canada, where there were no roads and we got there by boat.”
The couple also had a winter home in Palm Desert, Calif., where she enjoyed playing golf.
In 1997, she suffered a stroke that left her using a wheelchair, but still was able to live at home. “She fought hard to make the most of life under very difficult circumstances,” her son said.
In addition to Heidi and Tom, Heffelfinger is survived by another son, Frank Totten Heffelfinger III of Edina, three siblings, four grandchildren, three stepgrandchildren and a step-great-grandchild.
Services will be held at 10 a.m. Friday at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Edina, with visitation an hour beforehand. Burial will be at Lakewood Cemetery in Minneapolis.