Richard Donald Barchfield

Barchfield—Richard Donald Barchfield, 69, on September 25, 2018, in Tucson, Ariz. Rich was born on December 2, 1948, in Summit, N.J., to Winifred Christophersen and Carl Fredric Barchfield. He spent his early childhood in Chatham, N.J. He had severe asthma as a child, and at age eight, he was sent for health reasons to boarding school at Fenster Ranch School in Tucson, Ariz. Later, in 1960, the rest of his family moved to Arizona. He received both undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona, studying history and Spanish, and traveled widely, spending time in Asia (specifically, India and Afghanistan), Europe (Great Britain), and South America. In 1972 he married Sharon Bundy in Benson, Ariz.

In the late 1970s, he began working as a railroad engineer, first on freight trains and then running Amtrak’s Sunset Limited. Looking out at starry nights developed in him a passion for astronomy. He taught himself about stars and faraway solar systems. The railroad transferred him to Alpine, Tex., in the late 1980s, and he and Sharon divorced in the early 1990s. Although his health forced him to take a disability in the early 1990s, he stayed in Alpine until 1994 and then returned to Tucson. He started volunteering at Kitt Peak National Observatory in 1996 as a docent doing guided tours. In 1997, he reunited with an old friend, Linda Haight, whom he later married. He transferred his membership to Pima Meeting in Tucson, Ariz., in 1997 from Friends Meeting of Austin (Tex.). He served on the Clemency Committee and participated in other anti-death-penalty activities.

He worked at Kitt Peak National Observatory as a nightly observing technician from 1997 until 2015, when his lung disease (COPD) kept him from continuing. He began writing a book about astronomy. With wide interests, he had a passion for baseball, born of listening to games on the radio at boarding school. His favorite team was the Los Angeles Angels. Toward the end of his life, he could not attend meeting very much, but Linda reports that he was always a Quaker at heart. He had been told in 1997 that he could expect to live ten more years. The world actually got to enjoy his presence for 21 more years. Friends are grateful for his life. 

Rich’s brother, Carl Frederic Barchfield Jr., died in 2009. He is survived by his wife, Linda Haight; two children, Jennifer Wynn Barchfield (called Jenny), who is a journalist in Portugal, and Vanessa Brooke Barchfield, a journalist in Tucson; and two sisters, Nancy Barchfield Kay and Elizabeth Barchfield Lutton (called Bitsy).

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