Caren Barch Canfield, age 74, and of Rockford, Illinois, passed away on March 18, 2022, after a long
and brave battle with cancer. Caren was born Caren Diane Barch on January 19, 1948, in Detroit,
Michigan, the daughter of Kathleen Muldoon Barch and Chester Barch. Caren is predeceased by
her mother, Kathleen Barch, her father, Chester Barch, her brother, Brian Barch, and her sister,
Erin (Barch) Bueschel. She is survived by her husband, Robert (Bob) Canfield, her children and their
spouses: James Canfield, Kimberly (Daniel) Bakke, Gregory (Katherine) Canfield, and Elizabeth
(Edward) Dawson, and her grandchildren – Gavin, Kadin, Evelyn, Catherine, Asher, Cora, Benjamin,
Matthew, Margaret, and Emily. She is also survived by her brother Bruce (Teresa) Barch as well
as many nieces, nephews, cousins and their families.
As the eldest of four, she enjoyed adventures with her large extended family and stayed connected
to her siblings, cousins, and their families throughout her life. She initially spent her childhood
growing up in Grosse Pointe Woods, MI. Then, as a young woman, Caren moved to Rockford with
her family. In Rockford, Caren soon met her soulmate. In the summer of 1963, Caren, a shy 15-
year-old was attending summer school, when Bob confidently sat on her desk and introduced
himself. Their friendship was solidified when Bob invited Caren to go sailing on Lake Geneva where
the two faced down a waterspout that left them drenched and exhausted. This harrowing adventure
was the first of many as their love would grow and blossom over the next 59 years.
Caren graduated from Guilford High School in 1965 and went on to study architecture at the
University of Illinois. Following her time at the University, Caren moved to Ottawa, Illinois, to join
her family and where she got a job at the local newspaper creating commercial ads. Bob, away at
Army Flight School in Texas, proposed from a payphone. He took a 2-week “delay in route” to marry
his beautiful bride. When they walked down the aisle on September 14, 1968, she had seen him only
twice in the previous 6 months. They were giddy in love and plenty exhausted.
Following the wedding, they embarked on a road trip to Fort Rucker, Alabama where Bob would
continue flight school. Seven months later, Bob deployed to Vietnam, and Caren returned to
Rockford to be with her family who had also returned.
When Bob returned home from Vietnam, they again lived in Alabama where Bob taught flying for
the Army. In June of 1971, they traveled to Richfield, MN where Bob would attend undergraduate
and law school. There, Caren worked again designing commercial ads for the local Sun newspaper,
planted a garden, and learned to wield a sledgehammer to address her latest home improvement
projects. She also protected her cat – aptly named Pandemonium – from dive-bombing blue jays in
the backyard. Once Caren adopted you into her family – be you person or critter – her loyalty and
commitment were unflagging. Soon after moving to Minnesota, Caren became a mother of two, a
role that would be a cornerstone of her life.
Bob and Caren returned to Rockford in 1978 to put down roots close to her family. They completed
their own family of four children, became involved in the community, and continued their adventure
building a house, garden, and home together. They were never apart for long.
For almost 60 years, Caren and Bob supported each other through trials and triumphs, heartbreak
and elation. They each shored up the other’s weaknesses, enhanced the other’s strengths, and
embraced the other’s imperfections. They were truly better as a team. They were best friends, and
anyone inviting Bob to a “boy’s night” knew that such an invite included Caren. They enjoyed
traveling, remodeling every corner of their house, and their longstanding Friday movie night, where
dinner consisted of popcorn and a glass of wine. Bob and Caren supported each other until death
separated them after more than 53 years of marriage, and Caren would have had it no other way.
When her children were still young, Caren returned to school and graduated summa cum laude in
1989 from Northern Illinois University with a degree in Finance. She worked as the Executive
Director of the Foundation at Rock Valley College for years before taking on the role of Chief
Financial Officer for American Management Technology, an accredited ANAB registrar owned by
her brother, Brian. There she worked with both of her brothers and served as a Management
Information Systems guru, finally retiring in 2016 to tend her garden, her grandchildren, and her
Modest about her own successes, Caren often underscored her life’s many great accomplishments
and pivoted conversations to her latest adventure with Bob or tales of her children – of whom she
was unabashedly proud. She was an exceptional mother. While Bob encouraged their four children
to spread their wings and fly, Caren was their anchor. She tethered her family to what was most
important in life through unwavering support, celebration of their success, and aiding their
recoupment after defeat. She never, ever, gave up on them, and they each knew the steadfastness of
her love. She was their port in a storm. Caren adored her babies and was prouder to say she enjoyed
the adults they became and the adults they chose to join their family. She is survived by her children
and their spouses and partners and by ten grandchildren and three grand puppies, each of whom in
their time was spoiled rotten in Nana’s kitchen.
Caren was a long-time member of Second Congregational Church, now Second Congregational/First Presbyterian Church, where, among other duties, she was a past chair of Deaconesses. Bob
and Caren shared an obsession with the weather. An avid boater, Bob used his ever-growing
knowledge of wind speed, atmospheric pressure, dew points, and squall lines to navigate boats. But
Caren knew the real value of weather was in safeguarding her children’s commutes. Like air-traffic
control, Caren was always aware of her children’s travel plans and would provide targeted weather
information that rivaled the National Weather Service. If things ever turned bad, Caren was always
ready to suit up and head out to support her family through the storm.
Never idle long, Caren always had a project in the works. She was an accomplished artist and an even more accomplished seamstress. She refinished furniture, sewed drapes, and painted her house like most people change socks. She could run a tile cutter and a miter saw; she could troubleshoot a database and build a pivot table in Excel; and she could quiet a colicky baby – often at the same time.
She ran for exercise and stress release: 5Ks, 10Ks, half-marathons. However, most often she ran to chat with the child running next to her.
Caren was a consummate gardener and could find a spot in her beautiful garden for any plant in
need of love; a dying astilbe, a 40-year-old rhubarb, and last Christmas’s gift poinsettia all would
thrive under her care. Caren was thrifty in the sweetest way. She added length with ruffles, patched
holes with applique, covered stains with embroidered designs, and, in a pinch, once wallpapered her
kitchen in tinfoil for extra sparkle.
Bob was a sailor, and true to their love story, Caren joined him on that adventure. She began finding
her sea legs on Lake Geneva the summer they met and ultimately became an adept power boater
and accomplished sailor. A life member of the United States Power Squadron (America’s Boating
Club), Caren quietly rose through the ranks to become Squadron Commander and then District
Commander. She also attained the Squadron’s second-highest education grade by becoming
qualified in offshore navigation. In all, Caren could trailer a boat, deftly skipper a 50-foot sailboat at
sea, and chart her course with a sextant – literally navigating her adventures by the stars.
Adventure they did. Caren rode elephants in Thailand and climbed glaciers in Alaska. She scaled
waterfalls in Costa Rica and walked the Great Wall of China. She basked on the beaches of Barbados
and sailed 14-foot waves in the Caribbean. She sailed the islands of Greece and boated the canals of
France. She boated on all 5 Great Lakes (including crossing four of them) and spent countless
weekends boating the backwaters of the Mississippi River. In all her adventures there were two
constants: a sturdy sun hat and Bob.
Caren was shy and quiet in public, but she was selfless to a fault and preferred to serve in quiet ways that garnered little attention. She was a frequent visitor to the Northern Illinois Blood Bank. The
magnitude of her love was fierce but subtle, most often noted by little eyes not yet jaded by the
trials of adulthood. Children flocked to her, and fuzzy critters of all kinds knew inherently she was
their safest haven. Her polite demeanor masked a wicked, and often irreverent sense of humor.
Caren had a dry wit, straight face, and perfect comedic timing that could – and often did – reduce
her family to fits of “my stomach hurts and I can’t breathe” laughter.
She was a pragmatist. Spills can be mopped. Hands can be cleaned. A crying baby is a breathing baby. Life never promised you a rose garden. You won’t melt in a rainstorm. Take a deep breath. This too shall pass. Though Caren’s life has passed, she leaves an enduring legacy of bravery, resilience,
commitment, and the power of unconditional love.
A memorial service was held Saturday, April 2, 2022, at Fitzgerald Funeral Home & Crematory with visitation from 2:30 PM to 4:00 PM and a funeral service immediately after. Following the service, there was a Celebration of Life at the University Club at 5:00 pm with all invited and welcome to attend.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation of any kind to the Rock River Valley Blood Bank in the
name and honor of Caren, who gave almost 14 gallons of blood during her lifetime.
Arrangements entrusted to Fitzgerald Funeral Home & Crematory, 1860 S. Mulford Rd. Rockford,
IL 61108. Share online memories and condolences at www.fitzgeraldfh.com.