Here’s the most important thing we want you to know: Carolyn Barber lived out her faith in Jesus through her relationships with her family and her neighbors.
On December 29, 1944, Doc and Erma Carter welcomed their fifth of six children, Carolyn Ann Carter Barber. Among the daughters, she was the youngest, and she was the baby of the family for eight years, until her baby brother was born. Carolyn grew up in Lake City, specifically on Cane Island, a place rooted in family, farming, and faith. Her father was a deacon at Bethabara Baptist Church. Several of the families in the small country church were related to her family, and the Carters were very faithful in the church’s activities. Carolyn was a student of God’s Word, and by the time she was in high school, the church’s pastor was taking her and others from the church to Blytheville to compete in regional Bible Drill competitions.
Carolyn attended Lake City Public Schools, where she was an excellent student and cheerleader. While she was cheering at a high school basketball game, a young man in the stands asked who the pretty girl with dark hair was. After finding out who she was and where she lived, he revealed his identity and his interest in her by placing a box of Valentine’s Day candy in her family’s mailbox. Unacquainted with this bold young man, Carolyn initially made no reply, but Jimmy Barber would not be dissuaded. Carolyn finally said yes to a date, and a whirlwind romance began during her senior year of high school. They married in the summer of 1962, and Jim often referred to that box of candy as the best investment he ever made.
God blessed their home with children in two batches. Traci was the firstborn in 1963. Blake followed closely in 1964. Two children less than a year apart—Whew! After a five-year respite, Bart was born in 1969. With Ashley’s birth in 1973, the family was complete. Carolyn viewed her children as both a gift from God and a responsibility to God. You’re familiar, perhaps, with the Postman’s Creed—“neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” It also serves as an apt description of Carolyn’s determination to have her children in church on Sundays and Wednesday nights. Her faith in Jesus gave her confidence that bad weather, busy schedules, and that stomach bug making its way through the school were all matters that the Lord could manage just fine without her having to keep her babies home from church.
Carolyn had an early career in banking, to which she returned when her children were grown, but her work outside her home served as mere bookends for the most significant impact she had on her community: She served her family, she served her church, and she served neighbors she encountered who needed a little extra love. These are the ways she put Jesus first in her life.
We’ve already discussed how Carolyn prioritized faith in the upbringing of her children. She also lived out her faith in her relationship with her husband. She and Dad had a lot of adventures! Jim Barber was an ambitious man with big ideas, a keen business sense, and a strong work ethic. Dad was talented and eager to advance his career, and he worked his way up through a lot of different jobs. At various times, he was a factory worker, academic administrator, political aide, salesman, securities broker, or entrepreneur. That’s an exciting life, but it is also a life that took the risks inherent to entrepreneurship. When Dad proposed starting a new business to manufacture lamps, Mom was initially skeptical, but from start to finish, she was faithful and encouraging as a wife and a partner. In the end, her faith in Jim was rewarded. His career instincts and God’s blessing upon their efforts provided for Carolyn’s needs long after she was no longer able to do so herself.
Our home was a place where Mom served us well, but it was also a place where we got a front-row seat to watch Mom serve other people beyond our family. The door to our house was open. We have so many memories of that place! Don’t imagine a palace. She had four children with a wide range of ages growing up in that house, and they were all constantly bringing home friends, so the house was well[ 1 ]used. The furniture consisted of whatever they could afford after all of the other needs were met. Something was always broken—sometimes as many as ten things on a “to repair” list—and some of the best stories involve the occasional dog making its way inside among the people. It was a clean home, but it was not a pristine showpiece. Nevertheless, Carolyn opened her door, her heart, and her kitchen to others. Her table was a gathering place for pastors, music ministers, evangelists, missionaries and a host of family and friends. I’ll promise you this—nobody ever complained about the food!
Later she poured her life into her grandchildren, teaching them to ride a bike, baking with them, being present at their special events, and most of all teaching them about the love of Jesus. Carolyn showed compassion for people who were hurting. Always on the lookout for the ostracized child, the beleaguered single mother, the lonely senior citizen, or the impoverished family, Carolyn made it her mission to share what she had. I’m not just talking about food, clothing, or money, although Carolyn was not stingy with any of those things. I’m talking about things far more necessary: hope, joy, confidence, and love. Many who received these things from Carolyn decades ago bear witness today to how much of a difference it made. Most of all, above all other things, Carolyn sought to share the love of Jesus with people. To help people know about God’s love for them, she traveled across the globe on mission trips. Toward the same end, she packed 14 kids into a Volkswagen Beetle and took them to Vacation Bible School. Toward the end of her life, when Alzheimer’s Disease had stolen away so much, among all of that murkiness, there remained one thing that she could express clearly and with urgency: “We have to tell them about Jesus!”
Carolyn was preceded in death by her parents, Doc and Erma Carter, her loving husband, Jim Barber, and her brother, Max Carter. She is survived by her four children: Traci Smith and husband Ron of Jonesboro, Arkansas; Blake Barber and wife Shawna of Jonesboro, Arkansas; Bart Barber and wife Tracy of Farmersville, Texas; and Ashley Warrick and husband Greg of Boerne, Texas. She is survived by seven grandchildren: Alex Smith and his wife Amanda, Allison Smith, Jim Barber, Sarah Barber, Mary Caroline Warrick, Benton Warrick, and Brooks Warrick. She is also survived by her sisters, Minnie Kathryn Long and Martha Carter, and her brothers, Marl Carter and Rick Carter.
Visitation will be held 5:00-7:00 p.m. Thursday at Emerson Funeral Home in Jonesboro. Funeral services will be 2:00 p.m. Friday at First Baptist Church in Lake City with Emerson Funeral Home in charge of arrangements. Private burial will precede the funeral service. Active Pallbearers are her sons, Blake and Bart, her sons-in-law, Ronnie Smith and Greg Warrick, and her grandsons, Alex, Jim, Benton, and Brooks. Honorary pallbearers are Jim and Carolyn’s Sunday School class at First Baptist Lake City, and special lifelong friends, Kenny Griffin, Joan Baker and Hulene Pierce.
Carolyn was called to heaven by her Lord and Savior on June 11, 2023. She left the temporary home of this world for her eternal home in Heaven. The family asks that in lieu of flowers those who wish to honor her memory would visit a neighbor, encourage someone who needs it, or invite your pastor into your home for a meal and fellowship. For lasting memorials the family asks that consideration be given to the Lottie Moon Christmas offering or the Annie Armstrong Easter offering at email@example.com, or the SBC Cooperative Program, International Mission Board, 3806 Monument Ave., Richmond, VA 23230.