Larry Barker

Published 4:07 am Sunday, April 24, 2011

Larry Barker, who passed away on Thursday and will be buried on Monday, was remembered by Picayune citizens this week as a man who loved life, loved children and spent his life trying to make the world a better place in which to live.

He was a long-time Picayune businessman, civic promoter and insuranceman. He was 72 years old.

When he was named Picayune’s Citizen of the Year in 1988, partly because of his work with disadvantaged children with the Shriners, he told those attending, with tears in his eyes, “I don’t deserve it, but I appreciate the honor. What I have done, I have done because I wanted to do it and not for any glory to be honored like this. I love children, these kids, and I have a chance to help them. . .I am fortunate be in a position to help them, so I just want to do it; that’s all.”

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

Those who remembered Barker this week, remembered that he had a soft heart and cried easily.

Said friend and Picayune attorney Buddy McDonald, “He was a great man. He was in business in Picayune for a long time. There is no way to number the hours that he spent raising money for causes in Picayune, especially crippled children through the Shriners.”

Added McDonald, “Anytime someone came to him on behalf of a child, he would take care of it. He had one of the best senses of humor of anyone I ever knew. He was full of life and fun. His family is a reflection of the man he was. They have the same sense of humor and presence.”

Said his daughter, Susan Spiers, wife of former Picayune Mayor Woody Spiers, “I know he did a lot of things for the community, but I remember him just as the best dad in the universe.”

In trying to help kids, he invented the clown “Potsy”, which eventually made him a local celebrity in parades and festivities here. He developed it to an art form for entertaining sick and disadvantaged children, mostly representing the Shriners. He was honored by the Shriners for his work, and was once head of all Shriner clowns for the entire Southeastern region.

He was a charter member of Shriners here, and the Kiwanis Club, and as a member of the Kiwanis Club, he helped get the Special Olympics here off the ground.

A native of McNeill and a graduate of the old McNeill High School, and later PRCC, Barker always joked that when he was born on Nov. 30, 1938, at his grandma’s house in McNeill, his father paid the doctor with a Prince Albert can full of silver dimes that amounted to about $25.

“That’s the best $25 my dad ever spent,” he told friends. He was an only child.

He worked at his father-in-laws auto body shop for 10 years in Picayune and then moved to Gulfport where he joined State Farm. He would work over four decades with the company. He moved back to Picayune in 1973 and established Barker Insurance Agency here on Main Street.

In 1988, besides being named Citizen of the Year, State Farm named him its Agent of the Year, and he also received a number of other honors from civic groups that he had helped. He was a member of State Farm’s Million Dollar Club.

He told the Item in an interview then after being named the Chamber’s Citizen of the Year for 1988, that, “I consider 1988 as one of my best years; I just turned 50, and got all these honors. I am on top of the world right now.” He was also named the Grand Marshal of the Civic Women’s Club Christmas Parade.

Funeral services will be held on Monday at 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church, Picayune. Barker was 72 years old. He passed away on Thursday in Orange Beach, Ala.

Burial will be in New Palestine Cemetery under the direction of McDonald Funeral Home. Rev. Bill Matthews will officiate at the services.

Survivors include his wife, Sandra Walker Barker; his daughters, Amy Hensarling, Susan Spiers and Angela Ware; his grandchildren, Lane Hensarling, Katie Hensarling, Alan Spiers, Jeremy Spiers, Dustin Spiers, Anders Gjertsen, Laura Frances Gjertsen, Zachary Ware and Zoe Ware; and his sisters-in-law Sheila Smith and Sharon Field.

Visitation will be Monday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church. Obituary, register book and driving directions can be found on the Internet page

In lieu of flowers donations can be made to Trinity United Methodist Church, the family said.