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Ray Barger Sr. - He fixes up, donates used computers

April 19, 2006|by KAREN HANNA

His snow-white beard and twinkling eyes might remind some of a more familiar child-loving presenter of gifts, but Ray Barger Sr. makes all of his deliveries on four wheels.

And the packages come in computer boxes and shopping bags.

A 43-year veteran of Fairchild Corp. in Frederick, Md., where he worked as an electronics engineer, Barger has spent retirement playing Santa Claus, fixing up and delivering dozens of computers to elementary-school children and their families in the Hagerstown area.

"Just to see their faces is gratitude enough," Barger said.

In a tidy, bright workshop attached to Barger's garage, replica old-fashioned radios share shelf space with computer parts. In the orderly garage sit Barger's ride - a red truck, not a sleigh - and neat piles of computers bound for new homes.

"I think eventually if you're not computer literate, you're going to be lost, you know?" Barger said.

Barger said he gets donations of old computers from Fairchild and people who have heard about his work.

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Barger, 76, needs something to keep his mind occupied, said his wife, Marlene. Fixing computers has been the perfect outlet.

"It keeps him busy, all day, every day," she said. "Being an engineer all his life, his mind never stops."

Former neighbor Archie van Norden, a principal at Potomac Heights Elementary School, said Barger's donations have helped both parents and students. About 15 families from the Potomac Heights area received computers he rebuilt, van Norden said.

"He's truly a remarkable person," van Norden said.

Marlene Barger said van Norden has helped her husband find students at Potomac Heights and other schools who need computers. He helps set up the computers at students' homes, although because of privacy concerns, he has no further contact with the families, both he and van Norden said.

The Potomac Heights families received their computers in the summer, van Norden said.

"One parent specifically told me she was able to secure a job by going online," he said.

The children can practice academic skills on the computers or use them to do word processing or find information on the Internet, Barger said.

He recalled how one person questioned whether children would be able to use machines someone else already had discarded.

His response: "Well, I said, 'To you, it's an old, slow computer, but to someone who never had one, like a child, it's a new, fast computer.'"

After retiring in 1991, Ray built furniture and worked on old radios. Then, though he had never used computers at work, Barger said he got interested in computers.

"I bought some things at a yard sale that kind of got me started," he said.

He said he took classes at Hagerstown Community College and delivered his first computers about four or five years ago.

They come complete with modems, speakers and clean hard drives, Barger said.

Some of the equipment Ray buys himself, his wife said.

"But, you know, that's a small price to pay for what he gets out of doing it," she said.




Q&A

Name - Ray Barger Sr.

Address - 123 Grand Oak Drive, Hagerstown

Date of birth - Feb. 26, 1930

Occupation - Retired manufacturing/electronics engineer with 43 years at Fairchild Corp.

Most notable achievement - Supervising the installation of a tracking station for the U.S. Air Force in Thule, Greenland, while working at Fairchild.

Your proudest moment - When our son Ray Jr. graduated from college with a master's in theology and became a minister.

Who is the person you most admire and why? - My dad. His wise advice made me a better person.

What is the best piece of advice you ever received? Who gave it to you? - Always look for the good in people. Treat others the way you would want to be treated. My dad.

What is the next goal you would like to achieve? - Take some painting classes at Hagerstown Community College.

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