Tahlequah Daily Press


March 6, 2014

Betty Starr Barker

STILWELL — Betty Starr Barker moved on to heaven on Tuesday, March 4, at the age of 85. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, March 8, at the First Baptist Church in Stilwell, with the assistance of Roberts Funeral Home.

A native and life-long resident of Stilwell, Betty was the daughter Floyd and Ada Barnett Starr. Betty, the youngest of 12 children, was born in 1929 on her father’s Cherokee allotment and was raised there as well. She was a 1945 graduate of Stilwell High School and completed the requirements for a Bachelor of Science Degree in Education from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah in 1949 and later returned to NSU to obtain her Master’s Degree. She and Bill Barker were married in 1950 and were the parents of a daughter, Dianne Barker, and a son, William Lee (Billy) Barker.

Betty was preceded in death by her husband, Bill Barker; and son, Billy Barker; her parents, Floyd and Ada Starr; eight brothers; three sisters; a number of nieces and nephews; and her in-laws, Floyd and Ethel Barker. She is survived by her daughter, Dianne Barker Harrold and husband, Dale; three  granddaughters, Angela Jones and husband Steve, MeLinda Cookson and husband Reece, and Leah Pickett and husband Tyler; as well as 13 great-grandchildren: Lindsey Risenhoover, Spencer Risenhoover, Foster Hackworth, Wyatt Jones, Logan Hackworth, Mackenzie Hackworth, Piper, Perry and Porter Pickett, Amanda, Sarah, Brooklynn, and Hannah Cookson; one great-great-granddaughter, Natalie Cookson Qualls; and a large number of nieces and nephews. Betty was definitely the matriarch of her family.

Betty was an educator for almost 40 years, of which the last 31 and a half years were at Stilwell Elementary School. Although she retired in 1989, she continued to teach adult literacy and GED classes for several years and taught Sunday School, AWANAS and directed vacation Bible school at Stilwell First Baptist Church. She had a nursing home ministry where she visited nursing home residents at least once a week and organized monthly birthday parties for all of the residents.

 Betty believed that God intended for her to be a participant of life not a spectator.

After her husband, Bill, died she began even more active participation in various civic and community organizations which included Adair County Retired Educators, Stilwell Area Chamber of Commerce, Stilwell Kiwanis Club, and was honored as a 50-year member of the Alpha Delta Kappa teacher’s sorority. She was privileged to chair the committee that published the History of Adair County in 1991, and was a member of the Adair Family Reunion Book Committee that, in 2003, published The Cherokee Adairs, a family history.

In addition to the various activities above, she was collaborating on a another book, titled the “History of Education in Adair County.” So proud and honored to be an enrolled citizen of the Cherokee Nation, Betty constantly promoted Cherokee history in many ways. Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker appointed her to serve on the tribe’s Registration Committee. In September 2012, she was honored as an Elder Statesman of the Cherokee Nation and in October 2013 she was one of the Oklahoma AARP Indian Elder honorees.

She was a member of the National Trail of Tears Society, the Goingsnake Historical Society, and the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association. She served in a number of offices in those organizations. In addition, as a descendent of Nancy Ward, beloved Woman of the Cherokees, Betty was an active member of the Nancy Ward Society. Also, as a descendant of Nancy Ward who was recognized as an American Patriot, Barker was a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution. Betty was one of the group that conducted the Strawberry Festival Queen contest each year along with the Junior Miss and Mister Strawberry Festival royalty. She accompanied the queens on many of the appearances they made throughout the years, which included trips to the State Capitol and hosted strawberry shortcakes for state legislators.

The project of which she was most proud was the restoration of the Kansas City Southern Railroad Depot, a joint effort of the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association and the City of Stilwell. With an Oklahoma Department of Transportation grant and matching funds from other sources, the five-year project was completed and the depot was dedicated on May 7, 2004. Today it houses the offices of Stilwell Area Chamber of Commerce and the Adair County Historical and Genealogical Association, along with a museum and historical archives.  Betty was at the Depot several days a week and considered it her home away from home.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests donations to the Stilwell Depot Project or Stilwell Public Schools Scholarship Fund.

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