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Barbara Jonic, 66; longtime nurse was ‘natural nurturer’

Ms. Jonic later moved to Sandwich, close to her parents, whom she cared for until their deaths.

Ms. Jonic later moved to Sandwich, close to her parents, whom she cared for until their deaths.

As the oldest daughter among five children, Barbara Jonic was soon asked to help raise her younger siblings, and in many ways those duties were her first steps toward a career as a nurse at Massachusetts General Hospital and the Globe.

“The role of junior mother was thrust on her at an early age,” said her sister Flo of Attleboro. Rising to those responsibilities set Ms. Jonic on a path toward becoming “a real giver in her life, outside of her family and within her family,” said her older brother, George of Chatham.

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“Barbara was a natural nurturer,” Flo added. “She was a compassionate nurse. and she would always anticipate what you needed. Whether you were a guest in her home or in her clinic, she just knew what people needed to be comfortable.”

In September, Ms. Jonic fell, broke a leg badly, and developed a heart ailment. On May 7, she was found in her home in Sandwich, where she had died, apparently of a heart attack, her family said. Ms. Jonic was 66 and previously lived in Newton.

As a nurse practitioner in charge of the Globe’s health services department, “Barbara was just a wonderful presence, a great nurse,” said Walter V. Robinson, a longtime Globe editor and reporter. “When people went in with a problem at work, she was such a warm and lively personality that she made people forget about their ills.”

“She was a fine nurse and was one of the great assets we had at the Globe for many years,” said Benjamin Taylor, former chairman and publisher of the paper. “She made the place better because of her being there and was wonderful to have as part of the Globe family.”

Eileen Federico, a nurse who worked with Ms. Jonic at the Globe, said her former colleague “led by example and had impeccable nursing skills.”

“She also created a family atmosphere in our department,” Federico said. “I know all of us nurses feel that we’re better nurses for having worked with her.”

During her time at the Globe, much of which was during the final years the Taylor family owned the newspaper, “she could talk to anyone,” said Kathy Medeiros, a former colleague. “She could talk to the Taylors. She could talk to anyone from editorial. She could talk to anyone from maintenance, advertising, security. She just got it. Barbara was a really, really good person. And she was an exceptional nurse.”

Barbara Louise Jonic grew up in Glen Rock, N.J., the second child born to George A. Jonic and the former Catherine Morrissey. Her father was awarded a Bronze Star for his valor during the D-day invasion and worked for a chemical manufacturer. Before raising the children, her mother worked for a company that is now PerkinElmer.

“We had this idyllic childhood,” said Ms. Jonic’s sister Chris of Los Angeles. “It was ’50s America, where the town had this big Fourth of July parade, something she really loved.”

Ms. Jonic graduated from Glen Rock High School and the School of Nursing at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh. There she met Janice Crosby on their first day of orientation. They became friends as nursing students and both moved to Boston to work at Mass. General after graduating.

Ms. Jonic ended up in the thoracic section and “was a fabulous teacher,” Crosby said. “She went on to become the head nurse of that unit. She mentored a lot of nurses through their career paths.”

She also expanded the horizons of colleagues outside work, introducing them to her love of searching for antiques.

“Her house was filled with beautiful antiques,” said Karen Gacicia, a former colleague at Mass. General. “I remember going to lots of flea markets with her, and auctions, which was always interesting because she was very knowledgeable about it.”

After a dozen years or so at Mass. General, Ms. Jonic moved to the Globe and completed advanced studies for a nurse practitioner certificate. She was at the Globe for about two decades and then worked part-time as a hospice nurse.

Ms. Jonic and her sister Flo, a longtime radio news reporter in Boston and Rhode Island, shared a house in Newton for many years.

“Barbara loved to cook,” Flo said. “She learned it from our mother, but she took it to a whole new level. She knew which flavors worked well, she watched the cooking shows all the time, and the meals she made for me were absolutely delicious.”

She also “was kind of the rock of our family,” said her sister Chris. “She cared for everyone.”

“I referred to her as the glue for the family,” said their brother George. “She would reach out whenever there was a need, whether it was one of her sisters and certainly for our parents.”

In retirement, Ms. Jonic moved to Sandwich, close to her elderly parents, whom she cared for until the death of her father, at 92, in 2007 and her mother, at 97, in 2012.

“She gave up her personal life and made their quality of life better in their last years, allowing them to live in their home, and not only taking care of their nursing and medical needs, but anything they needed,” George said. “I told her in writing so many times how grateful I was.”

A service has been held for Ms. Jonic, who in addition to her brother and two sisters leaves another brother, Robert.

Years ago, Ms. Jonic “was pushing me on the swing set when I was 5 years old and Barbara was 10, and I looked up in the sky and saw the puffy white clouds,” said Flo.

“And I said, ‘Barbara, I want to be an angel.’ And she said, ‘You can’t be an angel because they’re already picked, but if you’re really good you can be a saint.’ In the last couple of days I’ve been thinking about that, and I think Barbara was the angel.”

Bryan Marquard can be reached at bryan.marquard@globe.com.

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