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A Life: Barbara Wilder Anderson Tullar, 1929 — 2014; ‘She Committed Her Life to Her Family and Friends’

Barbara and George Tullar in a 1945 photograph. (Family photograph)

Barbara and George Tullar in a 1945 photograph. (Family photograph)

Orford — Barbara Tullar, the matriarch of an award-winning dairy family, lived a life of hard work, kindness and humility.

She took part in all aspects of her family’s modern dairy farm, including — but not limited to — driving tractors, feeding calves and managing the books.

From her farmhouse kitchen, Tullar prepared enough food to feed anyone who passed through her door, listened carefully to the people in her life and led by example.

And throughout her life it was clear that Tullar, who died Feb. 11, 2014, at 84, was rooted in the Upper Valley.

After graduating from Thetford Academy in 1947, where her parents were educators, she studied at Syracuse University for two years but decided to return to the Valley to farm with her high school sweetheart and husband, George Tullar.

“She could have done anything,” said her youngest sister Ginny Barrett, a retired Thetford Academy librarian. “She wanted to marry George and start living on a farm.”

After a stint at the Dartmouth Dairy, the Tullars founded their own farm off Route 10, along the banks of the Connecticut River in Orford in 1956. They named it Tullando, a combination of the each of their last names and a symbol of their partnership in business and in life .

Tullando began as an 18-stall barn and doubled in size within two years, their son Rendell Tullar said.

Rendell, his son, Nate Tullar, daughter, Emily Gray, and 10 employees now milk 550 head.

“What we have today is really related to what Mom and Dad’s vision was of farming,” Rendell Tullar said.

Tullando holds the distinction of having been home to what was then the world’s highest producing cow, Maxima, a Holstein who produced nearly 59,000 pounds of milk in 1992. Maxima topped the previous record of approximately 56,000 pounds produced by another Holstein, Ellen of Indiana, in 1975.

The New Hampshire Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food twice granted Tullando the title of Farm of Distinction. The farm also was honored twice with the New England Green Pastures Award.

Rendell Tullar said his parents consulted with the University of New Hampshire Extension Service and fellow farmers to find new ways to do the same jobs, while maintaining quality.

His parents were “aggressive about changing,” he said. “They started looking to the future (and) never stopped.”

The Tullars were early adopters of many new technologies from a bulk tank to a milking parlor and free stall barn.

The spirit of adaptation lives on. The Tullars’ son and grandchildren plan to install robotic milking machines this year.

Rendell Tullar said his mother was excited about the robots.

“She couldn’t wait for us to do it,” he said.

As the farm grew and changed, Tullar took on more and more of the bookkeeping tasks; tracking animals, feed, fields and finances. She faced new challenges head-on.

She did “whatever needed to be done,” said the Tullars’ veterinarian Barb LeClair, a member of the McNamara family, another Upper Valley clan with a dairy legacy.

LeClair said Tullando is “very well-managed” and that the Tullars’ approach is to focus on small details because “the big ones take care of themselves if you take care of the little ones.”

LeClair described Tullar as a “typical farm matriarch” who tended the books, drove the tractor, fed calves, and managed the farm’s affairs from her kitchen, which was known as “Ponderosa” to her family.

When the Tullars installed two-way radios in the tractors, they also placed one in Ponderosa. From there, Tullar kept everybody organized, said Rendell Tullar.

Tullar cooked, baked and canned, passing on these skills to her children and members of her 4-H groups, said her oldest child, Deb O’Brien.

There was always enough food to fill another plate, should an extra body arrive to join the family for a meal.

“No matter who showed up, there would be enough food,” said O’Brien.

Granddaughter-in-law Pinky Tullar said that Tullar welcomed her great-grandchildren into Ponderosa and invited them to mix up their own chocolate milk, ignoring whatever mess it made.

“She committed her life to her family and friends,” said Pinky Tullar.

O’Brien remembered her mother’s generosity with her time. Tullar tucked in her children at night and stayed as long as each child needed. She also made time to watch her children and grandchildren participate in sports.

“She always stopped for people,” said O’Brien.

In her quiet way, Tullar was a “nice role model to follow,” her sister Barrett said.

As a college student, Barrett recalled bringing a young man to dinner at the Tullars’ home.

The meal enabled Barrett to determine that “he was not the kind of person I wanted to be with,” she said.

This was something she suspected her sister already knew to be the case, but she invited him to dinner so that Barrett could decide for herself.

“She led so much by example (you) wanted to be the best you could.”

Later, Tullar encouraged her sister to ignore the “experts” and trust herself as a parent.

Barrett said her sister advised her to “stop reading Dr. Spock and just be with your daughter.”

Family friend and fellow Orford resident Gerald Pease, helped the Tullars harvest corn, joined them on trips to the North Haverhill Fair and the Tullars provided assistance in caring for his children.

At the time of the birth of his fifth child, they took in Pease’s older four children for a week. At the time, the Tullars had four young ones of their own.

“It made quite a scene on Route 10 with eight little children waiting for the bus,” said Pease.

He described the Tullars as “an awful nice family.”

Pease commended the Tullars for their farm management and for the way they raised their children.

“I always said that farm boys had some common sense,” said Pease. “No matter what they do they will never forget what they learn on the farm.”

In recent years, until becoming ill herself, Tullar cared for her husband as his health declined.

In addition to her husband of 64 years, she is survived by her sister Ginny, five children: Deb O’Brien, Rendell Tullar, George Tullar Jr., Steven Tullar and Nancy Fleming; 14 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

The family plans a celebration to honor Tullar’s life at 2 p.m. on Saturday, May 31 at Tullando Farm on Route 10 in Orford.

Nora Doyle-Burr can be reached at ndoyleburr@vnews.com or 603-727-3213.