Harold Wayne Barr, 92, of Blountville, died at home on Thursday, February 21, 2019. In a family history he completed some six years ago, he summarized his life’s occupations as: high school teacher, church organist, farmer, and genealogist. Those few words only hint at how his service, work, and study touched lives in his community and beyond.
Born on April 9, 1926 in Oildale, California, he was the third child of Sullivan County natives Mellye Frances and Clarence W. Barr, Sr. The family moved back to Tennessee soon after he was born, and he grew up on his family’s farm. He was educated at Blountville Grammar School and High School. In 1944, his salutatory address at his high school graduation was “The Value of Education,” and that sentiment suffused his entire life.
In July 1945 he enlisted in the US Army Air Forces and was in the Pacific theater as World War II ended and Allied occupation and reconstruction began. He was honorably discharged at the rank of sergeant, returned to the US, and enrolled at Davidson College where he completed a bachelor’s degree in English.
During the 1950s he pursued graduate education at Vanderbilt University and earned a master’s degree. He taught high school in the Sullivan County system. In 1957 he married Sara Anderson of Kingsport, and they began a family at his home place in Blountville.
From the 1950s through the 1980s, he taught at Blountville High School and later Sullivan Central High School. There he taught and influenced thousands of students who studied English and French with him. His love of language—from speaking and handwriting to the plays of Shakespeare and the New England transcendentalists—was complete. He strived to bring that love to his students, and to help many others appreciate that English is not the only language spoken on earth. Sullivan County residents who had him as a teacher still speak of his caring, humor, and rigor in the classroom.
For some thirty years, Harold was the organist at Blountville Presbyterian Church. His love of musical language was knit up with a faith shaped by biblical study and strengthened by his readings about and encounters with people of other faiths. He served as an elder in the church. He underscored the practicality of this faith by giving to the church—whether it was the monthly check in the collection plate or sacks of potatoes donated to an orphanage.
Throughout his life he combined the work of teacher and musician with that of farmer. Alongside Sara, he ran a subsistence farm that produced livestock and vegetables. They and their four children worked on the farm and experienced the effort of growing food and the vagaries of weather, soil, and machinery. His love of the outdoors took the family on camping trips around the Mountain Empire.
After retiring from teaching, he took up genealogy in earnest, and worked for years on a family history that culminated in the publication of a book in 2013 From the Green Meadow. Alongside that work, he continued to run the farm, was an active member of the Blountville Ruritan (where he was honored with a lifetime membership), and sang in a church choir. He and Sara square danced and cleared and blazed trails as members of the Mount Rogers Appalachian Trail Club. In 2007, they traveled to Scotland, a magnificent adventure.
Over the past four years, the progression of Harold’s Alzheimer’s dementia made life increasingly difficult. During this time, his caregiver Willie Duffy provided care, support, and love for “Chief” and the whole family. The family is deeply grateful for Willie and has been blessed by his wonderful spirit and wisdom.
Dementia could not completely undercut Harold’s mind, and as late as January 2019 at the conclusion of a FaceTime call, in a little island of lucidity, he bade his son “au revoir.”
Harold Barr is predeceased by his parents Mellye Frances (nee Foust) Barr and Clarence William Barr, Senior, brothers Clarence William Barr, Jr. and Graham Wright Barr, sister Evelyn Eleanor (nee Barr) Goad, and a niece.
He is survived by his wife Sara Rebecca Anderson Barr of Blountville, sister Frances Pauline Barr Morgan of Port Haywood, Virginia; children Thomas Harold Barr (Kathryn) of Providence, Rhode Island, Margaret Rebecca Barr Myers (Richard) of Memphis, Tennessee, Clarence William Barr, III (Amy Lee) of Birmingham, Alabama, and Andrew Anderson Barr (Hillary) of Seattle, Washington; grandchildren Rebecca Woodson Barr, Elizabeth Suzanna Barr, Thomas Anderson Barr, Samuel Ralph Martin Myers, James Foust Myers, Mary Margaret Barr, Virginia Lee Barr, Clarence William Barr, IV, Sydney Jane Barr, and Griffin Matthew Barr; eight nieces and nephews, eight great-nieces and great-nephews, and one great-great-nephew.
Visitation will be 1:30 – 3:30 on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at Blountville Presbyterian Church, and following that a service of celebration will be led by Rev. Marshall Steinle. Following the service, interment will be at Gunnings Cemetery, with military graveside rites conducted the American Legion 3/265.
Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation, 3152 Little Road, Suite 146, Trinity, FL, 34655 or Blountville Presbyterian Church, 3400 Hwy 126, Blountville, TN 37617.