PORTLAND – Barbara Adrian was all about the little things in life.

On Saturday, her husband of 35 years, Larry Adrian, remembered how she taught him to slow down and pay attention to those little things.

She also taught their children, Michela and Alex, and numerous students to appreciate not only the big picture, but the smallest plants, rocks or the tiny creatures hiding under those rocks, too.

Mrs. Adrian, a former biology and chemistry teacher, died Thursday of breast cancer. She was 58.

“She had a contagious love of outdoors and science,” her husband said.

In the 10 years she taught at Portland and Deering high schools, she brought with her the unending intrigue she had for science.

“I think she felt she could infect people with the enthusiasm she had, and she did,” he said.

Mrs. Adrian went on sabbatical during the 2008-2009 school year, and the couple traveled to northwestern Tanzania. Larry Adrian worked in the village’s hospital, while Mrs. Adrian taught high school-aged boys at a local seminary.

They brought two microscopes with them on the flight halfway across the world and rumbling down a dirt road for six hours in a Jeep to get to that village.

“(The students and teachers) had never seen a microscope before,” her husband said. “It was a learning experience on both sides.”

That same year, she also taught conversational English to Buddhist monks in Bangkok.

“It was an incredible culture gap,” her husband said. “They respect teachers very much. (Teachers) are a very highly ranked person, but it’s rare for them to have a woman teaching.”

As the couple traveled, Mrs. Adrian gathered samples of sand from around the world. Family and friends contributed to her collection as well. It was a collection she was very proud of, and it spoke to her love of little things.

“Sand is very interesting. There’s literally a sand cycle,” her husband said.

He explained: As rocks erode, the sand runs into streams and rivers into the ocean, crustaceans pick up the sand to make their shells, then when a crustacean dies, the shell breaks down into sand again.

“It’s an incredible thing to learn about the sand cycle. From the bottom of the ocean to the top of mountains, it puts everything into perspective about the stuff you’re walking on,” her husband said.

“I never would have looked at a grain of sand,” he said, but his wife did. “She was definitely obsessed with the little things, and all those little things tell a story.”

Staff Writer Emma Bouthillette can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

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