Kevin Wallace Barker, 86, of Lenox, passed away peacefully Monday, May 4, 2020, at the Greater Regional Hospice Home in Creston.
Kevin Wallace Barker was born Oct. 30, 1933, in rural Prescott, to Kenneth F. and Doris M. (Crowell) Barker. He had four siblings: Elene, Justine, Lonnie, and Bill. He was an adventurous young lad jumping out of a tree while sporting a Superman cape, falling upside down in a stock watering tank, and coming home from an afternoon’s muddy river escapade minus his new shoes. He attended Lenox Community Schools where he participated in sport activities — football being his favorite. He also sang in the choir. It was once noted by a classmate “this can be said when Kev was in school, it was never dead.”
After high school, Kevin began his higher education at Iowa State University majoring in agriculture education. After sustaining a serious farm injury, he finished his education closer to home at Northwest Missouri State University. Kevin’s passion was biology and zoology science courses.
On Dec. 26, 1954, he married his sweetheart Mildred E. Melvin (“Millie”). To this union, two children were born: Steven W. and Lynn L. During this time, he taught high school science in Bedford. Later he taught high school sciences in Carson, Iowa, while attending night school to obtain his master’s degree in biology at University of Nebraska at Omaha.
An opportunity arose for him to instruct at a teacher training college in Marangu, Tanzania. He accepted this opportunity as an adventure for himself and his family to experience. In the two years he worked there, they traveled throughout East Africa and Europe. A peak experience was climbing Mount Kilimanjaro not once, not twice, but three times. After teaching in Africa, Kevin accepted a rare mid-contract high school science teaching position at Batavia, New York, and later moved to Attica, New York, as a middle school biology teacher. Kevin and his family lived in rural western New York for twenty years, enjoying living in the woods between two bubbling streams which provided year-round beauty, adventure and never ending wood cutting to teach self-sufficiency and the importance of work and play balance to his kids.
He continued his passion for sports, attending all of Steve and Lynn’s sporting events. Kevin was locally famous for his “Score One More!” rally cry for all his team’s athletes as he paced the sports venue, always positive and uplifting. You could hear this same chant at his grandchildren’s sporting events and extracurricular activities, which he never missed. Later, he and Millie were awarded the Creston Panther Booster Award.
After 20 years of teaching, Kevin and Millie returned to Lenox to work in his family’s business — Barker Farms/Barker Implement. He thoroughly enjoyed farming, implementing soil conservation practices and working with the land and animals. Another passion of his involved rounding up his grandchildren to make his landmark homemade ice cream with the old John Deere Model H tractor, either for a birthday, special event or fundraiser in the community. He retired at the age of 80 years old. However, he continued to work the land. Throughout his many years of living in Lenox, he served on various committees and boards:
Lenox City Council – several terms, Lenox Depot Restoration Committee, Rotary Committee, planting trees along the walking trail and on the east/south side of the school property, ice cream for the Lenox Rodeo as well as many other community events, Taylor County Extension Council – several terms, represented Taylor County as a director of the Wallace Foundation — one year as president, raised money to buy a 400 acre farm which ISU used as a research farm (Armstrong Farm), raised money to build a million dollar education center on the Armstrong Farm in Lewis, he received a 160 acre farm as a gift. This farm was turned over to ISU to use as an additional research farm —Nealy-Kinyon Farm at Greenfield, he was also a director representing Taylor County on a state board which established the first ever research farm in CRP Land (Corning), Taylor County Historical Society with a keen interest preserving historic landmarks.
Kevin also volunteered many countless hours, supplies, and knowledge for 11 years at the Lenox Community School, K-12, with much focus on appreciating science, nature and its beauty and “gifts,” free to all who will mindfully receive them. His favorite lesson seemed to be encouraging kids to take time to listen to the wind in the trees and its calming and grounding effects. In 1996, Kevin and Millie received the “Friend of Extension Award” for their many hours of generosity and service.
Kevin was a beloved member in his community with a humble servant’s heart and was a powerful cornerstone of strength and mentoring for his family and extended family. He created a legacy of friendship, leadership, family, community, and acceptance that transcended through generations to come. Kevin was a modern-day Johnny Appleseed, an arborist who enjoyed hearing the sway of the leaves and the brush of the wind against his face as he rode his Gator through town to get ice cream on hot days. He also was a master gardener who loved to share his garden bounty with his community. To the end he supported learning, conservation, self-sufficiency, family, togetherness, community and pioneered the spirit of fellowship.
Kevin is survived by his wife Millie Barker of Lenox; children Steven Barker of Lake City, Florida and Lynn (Bob) Irr of Creston; brothers Lonnie Barker of Lenox and Bill Barker of Creston; sisters Justine Mendenhall of Prescott, Arizona and Elene (Duane) Heeren of Huxley; grandchildren: Anne (Nate) Kavars of Iowa City, Steven (Jessie) Irr of Winterset, Greg (Emily) Irr of Blue Springs, Missouri, Kevin (Emily) Irr of Corning and Ben (special friend Olivia Nielsen) Irr of Creston; great-grandchildren: Violet Kavars, Landyn, Karleigh and Kelsie Irr, Perry and Sawyer Irr; as well as many beloved nieces, nephews, other family members, and friends.
Kevin was preceded in death by his parents Kenneth and Doris Barker, mother-in-law Wilma Melvin, brother-in-law Stuart Melvin, sister-in-law Billie Jean Barker and brother-in-law Elvis Mendenhall.
Due to current restrictions, a celebration of life will be announced later for friends and family. Condolences and memorials in Kevin’s name can be sent to his wife Millie Barker at 118 E. Kansas St., Lenox, IA 50851. Memorials will be gifted to the following organizations: Lenox Presbyterian Church, Lenox Depot Fund, and The Wallace Foundation for Rural Research and Development. Kevin’s family will be personally gifting to GRMC/Hospice House for their loving and excellent care for this beloved man as he journeyed toward his eternal adventure with the Lord.