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A penny for his thoughts forever linked Irene and Arval Barrett

May 13, 2007|By MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Irene Elizabeth Barrett, who died April 30 at the age of 86. Her obituary appeared in the May 1 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

A penny postcard - just a simple penny postcard sent in 1941 that first introduced Arval Barrett to Irene Evans changed their lives for the next 6 1/2 decades.

"The postcard came from Springfield, Mo., introducing me to her," Arval said.

Then a young pastor of a small Assembly of God church in Doniphan, Mo., Arval was told a Miss Irene Evans was relocating to the town where he was pastoring and would need a church.

Nearly 65 years later, Arval looked back over all those years and wondered how he could have gotten along without Irene, who was his wife and companion in all things from 1943 until she passed away April 30 on her 86th birthday.

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"After I graduated from Central Bible College in Missouri in 1941, my district superintendent invited me to start a church in Doniphan," Arval said. "The population then was about 1,600 ... when everyone was home, that is."

When Irene arrived in town, she was working as a stenographer in a loan office for farmers.

"She not only needed a church, she needed transportation to that church," Arval said. "So I gave her a ride."

Before long, Arval and Irene had formed a singing trio with Arval's sister, Hazel.

"We laughed and carried on and practiced our singing," he said fondly.

Arval credits their youthful zeal, high spirits and love of God for attracting young people to the new Assembly of God church in Doniphan, which was built within a year.

Arval, Irene and Hazel had become fast friends. But it wasn't long before Arval said he began seeing Irene through different eyes.

"Irene had auburn hair and brown eyes ... she was so beautiful," he said.

It took another penny postcard to seal their lifelong partnership.

"I wrote to Irene that I was taking my sister Hazel to California and asked her to come along," Arval said. He hopped into his Model A Ford and went to see Irene to get things all straightened out.

They did make the trip and got married as a result.

"It would have been 65 years in October," Arval said. "She was at my side throughout, my partner in everything."

There were seven churches during those years including a 21-year stint at Bethel Assembly of God in Hagerstown. The Barretts returned to Hagerstown in 1984 from their last church in Hopewell, Va.

"Irene would play piano, teach Sunday school - whatever was needed, she did it," Arval said.

Thirteen years after they were married, the couple's only child, Warren Keith, was born.

"I can't imagine what life would have been like without that little boy around," Arval said. "I would teach him and correct him and take him on my knees and pray with him."

Warren, who now is the principal of Hancock Middle-Senior High School, sat at the dining room table in his parents' home, thumbing through scrapbooks containing pictures of his mother and father, family and friends through the years.

Growing up in his parents' household, Warren said his mother always was proud of her family and her home.

"There were always three meals a day," he said. "And on Sundays, it was either a homemade pie or cake."

Despite the fact that everything had to be "just so" in the Barrett house, Warren said his mother always had time for him.

"I played sports year around and she always coordinated that with things at church," he said. "It was her loyalty ... she was always there for dad, too."

Never calling attention to herself, Irene had a reputation for being there whenever anyone needed her for anything, surely but quietly. And she had other traits that her family and friends admired.

"She never gossiped and she never preached ... well, maybe just a little at me in the kitchen," Arval said.

Warren said his mother probably would have been uncomfortable being in the spotlight.

"But she needs to be recognized like this," he insisted.

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