Barbara Naughton was born into a world ripped apart by war, a conflict that had already taken the life of her father and all of her brothers and sisters.
Naughton's mother, a Pole, gave birth to her at a German work camp at the end of World War II. Somehow the mother and infant survived the chaos of the conflict. As refugees, they eventually came to the United States, alone except for each other.
Raised in Sioux Falls, S.D., Naughton married, raised a family of her own, became a registered nurse and settled in Brooklyn Park. For years, she helped to manage a dementia unit in a nursing home. All her life, she sympathized with refugees and immigrants and others in need.
"When she was born, she saw the world at its worst," said her son, Chad Naughton. "Her whole life was demonstrating people at their best."
Barbara Naughton died Feb. 4 in a memory care facility in St. Paul at age 74 after being diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.
Her parents, Bernard and Dora Wolczynska, had two sons and two daughters in Poland before Barbara was born. But the family was devastated after World War II broke out in 1939 and Poland was invaded by Germany and the Soviet Union.
The family's two sons, ages 7 and 9, were killed by a bomb, according to a 1981 Sioux Falls Argus Leader story about Dora. The two older daughters also died during the war, one after being put to work digging ditches and becoming ill. The father also became ill and died after being put to work in a factory by Germans.
The pregnant Dora was sent to Germany to milk cows. That's where Barbara was born on Feb. 11, 1945.
According to Chad Naughton, as the war was ending, Dora and her newborn child were trapped in a house that had been bombed. Dora was too weak to call for help. But the baby's persistent cries alerted rescuers to dig them out of the rubble.
After the war, the mother and daughter came to the United States, arriving in New Orleans. With the help of Lutheran Social Service, they were eventually settled in Sioux Falls, Chad Naughton said.
Dora cooked for the priests at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Sioux Falls, and Barbara studied to become a nurse.
Later, she met and married Daniel Naughton, who was a civil engineer. They started a family and had six children, including one with special needs. They lived for a while in New Mexico, where Barbara volunteered at health clinics on a Navajo reservation, and in Omaha, where she worked at a nursing home.
They moved to the Twin Cities, where Barbara would work for about 20 years caring for people in the memory care unit of the St. Therese senior care center in New Hope.
"She just had a remarkable capacity for taking care of everything and caring for people," Chad Naughton said.
He said his mother loved peace and solitude. She never forgot what it was like to be an outsider, having to start a new life in a new country.
"When her mom passed away, she said she felt alone in this world," Naughton said.
In lieu of flowers or memorials, her obituary advised mourners to "do something meaningful and kind on behalf of immigrants."
Naughton is survived by sons David and Chad of Minneapolis and Christopher of St. Paul; daughters Lisa Naughton and Sarah Jones of Minneapolis and Amy Moore; and seven grandchildren.
Services have been held.