We mourn the loss of a one-of-a-kind soul: Barbara Okvist passed away peacefully on August 13, 2021.
Known as ‘Babo’ to her friends and family; Barbara lived life on her own terms. She had an adventurous spirit that brought her from Lake Ronkonkoma, NY to Mt. Morris, NY to Theresa, NY to New Port Richey, FL and finally to Saratoga Springs, NY where her daughter, Kim Zygadlo, her granddaughters, Kasha and Marlena and son-in-law, Paul Mastrodonato live to spend her final days. All who knew her can share a story of her antics, usually told in her Long Island accent and her husky ‘smokers’ voice. Smoking was a lifelong habit that finally got the best of her through COPD. Four foot, eleven inch, blond hair, blue eyed Barbara graduated from SUNY New Paltz with a BS in Art Education. There, she was affectionately called ‘Knick Knack’ because she was small enough to be put up on a shelf and pretty enough to shine brightly. She married Henry Zygadlo and had three toe-headed children, Mark, Scott and Kim. As a young mother, her artistic flair kept all the neighborhood kids occupied with projects. Being the wife of a Superintendent of Schools meant that moving became a way of life. She was a substitute art teacher and a real estate salesperson, in addition to raising her kids. After she and Henry divorced, Barbara went back to get her Master’s Degree from SUNY Potsdam in Computer Science. She found her final career within the NYS Correctional System, teaching prisoners computer skills. Barbara’s philosophy for life and education were the same: “Let each become all they are capable of being.” She was a beloved teacher. You did not mess with Ms. Okvist, or you heard about it back in the cell block. She had a lifelong love of learning about other cultures, exhibited by her devotion to volunteering with the American Field Service (AFS) organization and by travelling around the world once she retired. Florida was the home of her heart and that heart was broken when she had a fire in 2020 in that home and had to leave. Her daughter-in-law CJ Zygadlo; grandchildren Jack and Audrey; friends in the Women’s Club and Garden Club of Tarpon Springs are still mourning her departure. Barbara will be missed, but her stories and the laughter that they elicit, will carry her memory forward.