In September of 1949 Barbara Lake dropped off her son for his first day of kindergarten at the newly-completed Coffin School, then immediately began her 61-year career in real estate.
As a depression-era child and World War Two industrial worker, she was used to hard work and quickly became one of Marblehead's first women entrepreneurs. She died Saturday from the complications of Waldenström macroglobulinemia, a rare form of blood cancer. She was 91.
Known for her independence and plain speaking, she worked tirelessly as Marblehead transformed from a stodgy, Yankee town with dairy and poultry farms, rickety antique buildings and large, drafty summer houses into the integrated, year-round, modern community it is today.
Her real estate career began in 1949 when she brokered her first sale with Atlantic Real Estate, located at the corner of Atlantic Avenue and Central Street, and ended with her last sale, in 2010. During that time she sold hundreds of houses in Marblehead and Swampscott, including more than 115 - one-third the total - on Marblehead Neck, including "The Castle" four times.
She sold nearly all the lots in the "Cliffs", off West Shore Drive, often in conflict with the restrictive covenants of the developers, put in place before equal housing laws made such practices illegal. She was named a Realtor Emeritus by the National Association of Realtors in 2007.
For relaxation she enjoyed lecturing about real estate to her Norwich terriers and swam often in the ocean. She was a 50-year member of the Corinthian Yacht Club.
Born in Salem, the daughter of Stanley and Wanda Cecelski, she worked at Sylvania Electric during World War 2, where she met and married Wendell Lake of Boston, who later founded The Marblehead Reporter. They divorced in 1965.
She's survived by her son, Peter, a Realtor in Marblehead and by four nieces and nephews, Elizabeth Cecelski Axmann of Chapel Hill, NC; Elaine Cecelski-Ayala of Charlottesville, Va.; David Cecelski of Durham, NC; and Richard Cecelski, of Carolina Beach, NC; and seven grandnephews. Her brothers Stanley Cecelski, Jr., and John Cecelski and her sister Lucille died before her.
Donations in her name can be made to the , 44 Village St. She will be recognized at a memorial mass at at 4 p.m. Saturday and a celebration of her life will be held in the future.