Picayune Item’s Super Senior: Sandra Barker

Published 11:50 pm Saturday, August 20, 2011

Sandra Barker is the Picayune Item’s Super Senior this week because of her community contributions through leadership; her devotion to loved ones and her faith; her spirit of adventure; and bravery in times of life changing events.

Barker, the mother of three girls, nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren, recently lost her husband, Larry, of 52 years. The loss of Larry was felt throughout the community because the couple had chaired many local boards and ran a long-time insurance business in Picayune.

“I’ve had a good life,” she says, “Larry and I have traveled all over and we had figured out that we have been to every state but two; but we just never could figure out which two they were!”

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Barker was named  Chamber Citizen of the Year in 1994; her husband, Larry, claimed the honor in 1988.

“We were the only married couple to both hold the title of Citizen of the Year, that I know of,” she says.

“We were always active in the community. I think we all go through seasons in our lives and there was a season where we raised our girls, then we both became active in many civic groups.  There were many times where we would meet each other at our door, I would be leaving for a meeting and Larry would just be arriving from one.

“He loved being a Shriner clown and I would be in the women’s Shriner group that traveled with them and helped. We also worked together at the business,” she continues.

Barker began her civic “season” in Jaycettes because Larry was in Jaycees. She went on to be on the Library board for the last 20 years, serving as president for five of those years; has been a board member and president of the Chamber of Commerce; has served as chairman of the Red Cross; served in Junior Auxiliary as president; served in the Downtowners which became part of Picayune Main Street, Inc.; she has also been chairman of the United Way and has served on the Tri-County board for many years.

 In addition Barker has continued to serve on the FEMA board for the last 20 years. She is Lay Leader and Chairman of Worship at Trinity Methodist Church and past circle chair.

Katherine Furr says, “She is always been so friendly, she makes ‘real’ friends. She is an able decorator and artistic. I attend church with her where she is the overall leader of the church, under the pastor.”

Friends will tell you that Sandra is the essence of a “real friend.”

Reba Beebe says, “Sandra Barker has backbone and stands up for what she believes in. Sandra has pride and exudes class. She is beautiful on the outside but her true beauty comes from within, making her radiant. Sandra has a tender heart, and knows her faith; she lives by it. There are many words to describe Sandra Barker and here are just a few: Godly, loving, caring, giving, reverent, honest, loyal, and faithful in her endeavors. She is a positive spiritual example to other woman.”

Furr says, “I have known her since she was little, and she is the most caring, loving, inclusive person. When I say inclusive, I mean everybody is included, she doesn’t exclude anyone from her circle of friends.”

Dot Welch remembers Barker as a little girl.

Welch recalls, “Sandra lived down from the grocery on East Canal St. Sandra’s mother, Beulah Walker was a wonderful person, also. Her father, J.P., was the Sheriff, and Beulah became the first woman elected Sheriff in Mississippi.”

Barker says, “Yes, my mother was the first elected female Sheriff in Mississippi. Loretta Ford and I were also deputies. I wouldn’t say we could have gone out and arrested someone, but we sure got the badges!”

Loretta Ford says, “We have been best of friends since childhood and call each other ‘sister,’ Sandra is a beautiful person inside and out. She has always been ‘real’ about her friendship.”

Since her husband’s death, Barker has begun yet another “season.” She has moved from her home with Larry into a new home which is closer to her daughter Susan.

Barker is well known for her love of entertaining.

“Larry and I entertained forever, we loved to entertain. We had showers, birthday parties, chamber functions, (you name it) at the house. Larry always said, they were going to put on my tombstone ‘Sandra would do anything to have a party.’ It’s true, he would always ask me how many people were coming and if I would estimate 35, he would say, ‘OK, then, 100 people are coming.’ We had a saying that if 100 people were coming we might as well have 101.”

Nothing better illustrates this more than the fact that the Friday before she moved, she had a birthday dinner for her daughter. Steve McDonald’s son came to perform with his band and her house was packed with good friends. Most people would have been in the throes of packing and more than a little stressed, but not Barker.

She says, “ I have never been able to sit still. I can watch television in passing as I am going around the house doing something; it is impossible to just sit there. So now, I am moving into my new home, starting this new time, and realizing that I am probably a stronger person that I ever realized.”