Children’s book author and Princeton University Library Communications Director Barbara Hess Valenza dies at 63

Barbara Hess Valenza of Hopewell Borough passed away in her home surrounded by her loving family on Tuesday, February 27, shortly after one last screening of one of her favorite movies, Moonstruck. She was 63.

Born in Columbus, Ohio, Barbara has called Hopewell home since November of 1999. It had to be November of 1999—the big move from a small apartment in Piscataway to the old yellow craftsman in the small town. It had to be November because Barbara was determined to have everyone over for Thanksgiving as soon as she saw the cheery yellow dining room with the big bay window. And like most things Barbara set as her goal, she achieved it, this time with the help of mismatched chairs and a series of patched-together tables pushing the limits of the room. And so Barbara began building a safe, homey, and artistic sanctuary that would harbor her family and many visitors over the years. The determination and vision that brought about the first Hopewell holiday season not only motivated Barbara in her personal life but also drove her throughout her career.

From the art department at Jim Henson Productions (the makers of the Muppets) to her most recent position as the inaugural director of library communications at Princeton University, Barbara could regale a crowd with tales of her varied and ever-evolving career. A devoted believer in the philosophy of laughter as the best medicine, those stories were as often embarrassing as they were impressive.

The secret to Barbara’s successes, both personal and professional, was passion. She imbued every job with passion, and she was constantly looking for opportunities to use her creativity to its fullest potential. Her spirituality made her a generous and sage advisor, and few things made her feel more accomplished than knowing her hard work had inspired someone else to seek meaning and to fight for the life they dreamed of. An artist and entrepreneur at heart, her true passion was storytelling because she had faith in the power of stories to spread love and joy. She was a three-time national award-winning children’s book author for Little Lovedog’s Long Walk Home, a story about a journey to an epic party full of friends, family, and love—much like that first Hopewell Thanksgiving.

Despite having so many more dreams yet to be fulfilled, Barbara, ever true to her persevering nature, lived centuries in her far too brief 63 years. Here’s to Barbara, and, in the spirit of Moonstruck, “Alla famiglia!”

Predeceased by her parents, John M. and Janet A. Hess, she is survived by her devoted husband of 33 years, Mark; two cherished children, Laura Jane Valenza and Nathaniel Valenza; 2 brothers, David Hess and his wife Gretchen and Phillip Hess and his wife Sandy. Barbara is also survived by her feline companion, Clyde, and predeceased by beloved pets, Maple, Tati, and Lady. She is also survived by extended family members, friends near and far, and colleagues.

Funeral Services for Barbara were held privately for her immediate family.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to Memorial Sloan Kettering Kids to support childhood cancer research and care.