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Mary Ann Barkey: Historic conservationist, world traveler

Mary Ann Barkey, who was Claremont’s 2002 Honored Citizen, died peacefully in her home on June 3, 2016 with family by her side. She was 81.

Mrs. Barkey, a resident of Claremont for 40-plus years, was for many years an active fixture on the local scene, from leading the volunteer effort at Claremont Heritage to founding the Friends of Oak Park Cemetery. Many might remember her for the citrus label quilt project, a much-coveted jewel raffled off each year at Village Venture to help fund Heritage efforts.

For more than 20 years Mrs. Barkey led a team of volunteers, each sewing one of 16 squares around a theme using historical citrus labels as their guide. One of her crowning achievements was the “Las Posadas” production at Padua Hills Theatre. She had a gift for organization and getting others involved. She made many friends along the way and could be seen regularly at Village restaurants with her Claremont Heritage Lunch Bunch.

She was born on June 13, 1934 in central Illinois to Harry and Eva Schutte, the second youngest of five siblings. Young Mary Ann was raised on a farm, an upbringing that showed in her indomitable work ethic and perseverance in whatever obstacle she faced. She struggled early as a single mother with two children, finding work in a library to support her family. This is where she met and married Patrick Barkey, a librarian, and soon another child was added to the family.

While raising three children, Mrs. Barkey went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology and master’s degree in social work, while on the move from Kingsville, Texas to Toledo, Ohio and eventually landing in Claremont in 1974 when her husband was appointed director of libraries for the Claremont Colleges.

After her late husband’s death in 1988, Mary Ann became an itinerant traveller, logging over 40 countries in her journeys. From camel rides in Morocco to attendance at Bulgaria’s annual rose festival to an adventure as an invited guest at a Russian dacha, she not only sought travel but enjoyed places not often found in guidebooks. She had an eye and flair for collecting art objects from her travels and enjoyed decorating her home.

Mrs. Barkey’s bright and inquisitive spirit was always on display as she was an avid reader and lover of nature. Her home was the hub of all family gatherings and her signature enchiladas were a Christmas Eve tradition. While she had a fiercely independent streak, she remained steadfastly committed to helping others. Despite her many aches and pains in the final years, she continued to garden and kept her hummingbird feeders filled, providing her with much joy and tranquility.

Mary Ann is survived by three children, Brian (Janice), Leslie and Daniel (Heidi); her brother John and sister Dolores; her four grandchildren, Rachel, Jason, Charlie and Elyse, and a great-grandson, Mauro, aka Mister.

Memorial services will be held on Wednesday, July 20 at 2 p.m. in the Garner House at Memorial Park, located at 840 N. Indian Hill Blvd. in Claremont.