Friday, December 01, 2023

Gary Barker, 75

| November 17, 2023 12:00 AM

Gary Patrick Barker, 75, completed his last earthly journey on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2023, when he entered into eternal heavenly rest, a victim of lung cancer for the last six months of his life.

He was born in Wallace, Idaho on Sept. 10, 1948 to Clifford Barker and Betty Montgomery Barker, their second child and only boy joining a sister, Vicki. Soon the family added two more sisters, Janice and Susan. 

He grew up just outside of Pinehurst, Idaho, in a small community up Pine Creek called Barkerville. The Barker family owned several houses there which were occupied by family workers of the lumber mills owned by Gary's grandfather, Robert Barker. Gary spoke often of the lumber mills, one being at Pine Creek, and the other located at Magee, Idaho. Barker Lumber Company employed many workers, and Gary especially loved to tell stories of his times at the Magee mill .

When he was a toddler he contracted polio and was hospitalized for extensive periods of time while the doctors rebuilt his leg muscles allowing him to walk. Though he had a slight limp left from the disease, he was ever grateful to the Shriner's of Spokane, Washington for sponsoring his recovery. He struggled with the effects and surgeries until his teen years. 

At eight years old his father passed away leaving him to be the man of the family. During those difficult times he leaned on the wisdom of his grandfathers and uncles for the counsel and advice he needed as he became a man. He often shared fond memories of living on his own for a summer at age 13, and working odd jobs at the lumber mill for his grandpa Barker, and fishing with his grandpa Yancy.

He attended elementary school through 9th grade in Pinehurst, and completed high school graduating from Kellogg High School. He obtained a Bachelor's Degree in Forestry from North Idaho College in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. During his college days he lived with his grandmother, Rose Jones and was forever grateful for her hospitality and loving guidance during that time. He also worked very hard to pay his own tuition for college by holding various jobs with Bunker Hill Mining Co. including being a zinc stripper in the zinc plant, which he described as a "terrible job." 

In 1970, Gary married Iona McCorkel. They settled in Pinehurst and welcomed their son James. The birth of daughter Jessica  a few years later completed their family. Sadly, the couple divorced later, but Gary took his role as a father seriously and was ever present in the rearing of his children as they spent the greater share of their childhood in his care.

Working in forestry for a short time, it became apparent to Gary that he should find a less physically demanding job for his left leg which was weak after having polio. After an invitation to look into insurance work, he became a Farmers Insurance agent, opening his own business in Pinehurst. Wanting to build his business, he made the decision in 1982 to relocate to Kalispell. There he fell in love with the wide valley, mountains, rivers and lakes. 

He was introduced to kayaking soon after moving to the Flathead valley. Unable to participate in many sports due to the polio, he quickly learned the art of whitewater kayaking, finding that it was the sport where he excelled. He made many wonderful friends and was a member of the Glacier Kayak Club through those early years.  

Though he enjoyed a variety of outdoor activities including dirt biking, ATV riding, whitewater rafting, snowmobiling, hiking and fishing, his first love was kayaking and he made use of every opportunity to do so. His kayaking took him to Chile, Costa Rica, Ecuador, the Grand Canyon, Bruneau, Flathead, Swan, and other rivers and streams in the northwest and Canada, but his all time favorites were the Lochsa River and Little North Fork of the Clearwater in Idaho. He was proud to have made his last Lochsa trip this spring at age 74 and a half.

During his high school years he fell in love with music, especially lead guitar. He practiced long and became an exceptional guitar player, and singer as well. He belonged to several bands during his years. "Justin Tyme," and "Kicks" in Idaho, and "Centerline" in Kalispell, to name a few. 

In 1996 he bought a computer background and sound system and began a new adventure in music. He edited out the guitar parts and played his own lead guitar and decided to strike out on his own on a different musical path. It was at this time that he needed a female vocalist and met Connie Hansberry Radish through her brother Randy and they began a duo, "Country RockIt." They enjoyed many venues throughout northwest Montana and Idaho. Most recently he began playing bass guitar locally with "The Banned," last playing some songs with them at his daughter's wedding in September. He would sit in with various bands when needed, and was always eager to join in a jam session.

In 2000 Gary married Connie, the love of his life. They continued to perform together musically and she joined him working in the office. He retired from Farmers Insurance in 2017, but continued his business on a smaller scale until this past October after over 50 years as an agent. He became acquainted with many fine folks during this time and will be remembered as a man of generosity, honesty and integrity, always working for his client's best interest.

He is preceded in death by his parents, Clifford and Betty Barker. 

He is survived by his wife, Connie of 23 years; son, Chief Petty Officer James (Jacqui) Barker, USN (ret.); daughter, Jessica (Brad) McManus; step-daughters, Pamela Lemer, Nicole (Pat) Cheff; grandchildren, Chelsey (Cole) Molyneaux, Bobby Murphy, Gage Handwork, Emily Lemer, Leah Telles, Jenna Barker, Matthew Lemer, Cynthia Killingsworth; and great-grandchildren, Wesley,  Aurora, Benjamin and Ellie Jo; sisters, Vicki Barker, Janice Bebee and Susan Barker; along with several cherished nieces, nephews, cousins and beloved friends.

Memorial services were held under the direction of Darlington Cremation and Burial Services, on Nov. 11, 2023.

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