Barbara Gibbs Barton, a longtime textile designer who turned 110 on Thursday, is still "steady and very creative," according to daughter Charlotte Sornberger, 82, who says that even now, she and her siblings are learning from their mother.

BARRINGTON — Charlotte Sornberger, now 82, has some fond memories of her mother, and she looks forward to creating some more.

"If I have genes that might allow me to live to be so old, that's great," said Sornberger, whose mother, Barbara Gibbs Barton, turned 110 on Thursday. "It has been wonderful to get to know her as a mature adult."

"When you know your parent as a youngster, that’s one thing," she said. "In the last 20, maybe even 30 years, we’ve [Sornberger and her siblings] gotten to know her as an adult and talk to her about a lot of things."

Barton is a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design whose art has remained a constant throughout her very long life. She's worked a large portion of that life as a fabric designer in a Worcester textile design company, J & P Coats.

She now lives at the Hattie Ide Chaffee Home in East Providence, while her children still live in her hometown, Barrington.

"She's steady and very creative," said Sornberger, who added that she and her siblings — Prudence Barton Bishop, 84; Ralph Gibbs Barton, 76; and Edwin "Ned" Sanders Barton III, 72 — have a more substantial relationship with their mother now that none are working or raising children. "We spend more time with her and being able to talk about ideas with her."

Although Barton recently became ill, making an interview difficult, she is still highly lucid, according to Sornberger, and she often challenges convention.

"Mother and I have very good talks about spiritual things, why we are here as human beings," she said. "In those terms, she is very much a liberal thinker. She is not your down-the-line church person. ... She thinks for herself."

Barton lives in an apartment filled with her watercolors — an art form that Sornberger also practices — and other pieces dating back to Barton's studies at RISD.

Sornberger, a biologist in her working life, said that aside from genes, she's not really sure what contributes to her mother's longevity, but she has an idea of what might help.

"If there’s any secret at all, it's that she's very positive," she said. "She sees the glass as half-full always. ... She thinks in a very positive manner."

— kandrade@providencejournal.com

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