James William Barker, 95, died on Aug. 5, 2021. Born on June 14, 1926, in Oak Park Hospital to William Russell Barker and Mary Wilhelmina Heidelbach, he was baptized at St. John Lutheran Church in Forest Park and attended elementary school there as did his future wife, one grade behind him. She wasn’t on his radar then. He graduated from Proviso East High School in 1944 and promptly enlisted in the Navy, figuring he’d have a bunk to sleep in. He served through World War II on the West Coast. Although he felt he didn’t deserve credit for serving in the war because he never fired a gun, he served honorably.
He returned from the Navy back to his home in Forest Park, a few blocks over from Ruth’s home, and found a job at Illinois Bell where his father worked as well. He started as a lineman and eventually worked his way up to management. He finally caught Ruth’s eye in the choir loft at St. John and they married on Feb. 3, 1951. They moved into a bungalow in Forest Park and started a family.
They moved to their home in River Forest in 1964, and remained there for 65 years. At first he was the young guy who blew the snow for the block and helped his older neighbors, and at the end became the elder statesman on the block, with a twinkle in his eye and a firecracker at the ready on July 4th.
He loved to play. In his younger years he took his kids ice skating, and later took up roller-blading. He was in the water playing with his children on every vacation. He golfed in a league while he was working, and as often as he could with his friends after that. He was a wiz at pinochle, and would play almost any game offered. He taught the ladies at Belmont Village Rumicube and did such a good job that they mostly beat him. His best hobby was counted cross-stitch sewing which he continued until he went into the hospital in July. He kept his sense of humor up to the very end.
When Ruth could no longer live at home, he moved with her onto the memory ward because he couldn’t fathom living apart. He tried to find joy after she was gone, and he did, but it wasn’t enough to sustain him without her. They were just shy of 70 years of marriage when Ruth died on Christmas Day, 2020.
Jim Barker is survived by his sons, Lloyd (Mary Kay), James Jr. (Suzanne); his daughter, Jane (Melinda Haag); his granddaughters, Melissa Bobinski (Josh), Julie Lietz (Greg), and Anne Barker; and his great-granddaughters Kherington Bobinski and Lindsey Jo Bobinski. He leaves many nieces and nephews with very fond memories of their uncle, and hoards of neighbors and friends to whom he extended his kindness over the years.
Visitation will be held on Wednesday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. until time of service, 11 a.m., at Grace Lutheran Church, 7300 Division St., River Forest, followed by burial at Concordia Cemetery in Forest Park to follow.
In lieu of flowers, donations to Grace Lutheran Church (graceriverforest.org) are appreciated.
Arrangements were handled by Drechsler, Brown & Williams Funeral Home.