PROLOGUE: CREDIT WHERE CREDIT IS DUE
Much of what is written here came from friends of Dick (Lex) Barker, the most noteworthy of which is Louise (Lou) Rawl Haberfeld, Daughter of the late Colonel William A. Rawl and the Granddaughter of the late Greenbrier Military School Treasurer, David Tay (D.T.) Moore. You may have seen the work of this exceptionally talented writer as she is the one who wrote the definitive History of Greenbrier Military School that was published in the Greenbrier Historical Society's publication on "200 Years of Education in Greenbrier County, West Virginia", and you can now see it on the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Association (GMSAA) Website (www.gmsaa.org) listed under "History" on the Main Page. Lou Haberfeld is a permanent resident of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and she and her husband, Ralph, were personal friends of Dick and Barbara Barker.
The following is a quote from Lou Haberfeld: "Oh, by the way, Dick hated the nickname 'Lex'. Maybe it was Okay at boarding school, but Dick was a serious man who had no connection to some lightweight (and second-rate) Hollywood Star. Dick was simply a first-class act: real, dedicated, stalwart, talented, and brave. I feel so honored to have known him at all."
Several others contributed including Dick's wife, Barbara, Herb Pearis, Jack DePue, Charlie Duncan, Benjamin Graham & Paul Bruun (Jackson Hole News & Guide), and John Byrne Cooke who wrote Dick's Obituary. Cooke, son of the late author and Host of Masterpiece Theatre, Alistair Cooke, had some fame in his own right as an author, photographer, musician (guitar), and singer who was a permanent resident of Jackson Hole, a friend and fellow performer with Dick, and his presence was frequently noted around town.
I express my sincere gratitude to all that contributed. You have helped bring the truly incredible life story to all of the Greenbrier Military School Alumni Association (GMSAA).
DICK BARKER: THE EARLY YEARS & GREENBRIER DAYS
Dick Barker started life in Columbus, Ohio, in 1937, 75 years before his death on July 23, 2012. Dick's mother was Jane Eleanor Dodd who was the daughter of Dr. Verne Adams Dodd, a surgeon and Chief of Staff at The Ohio State University hospital in Columbus, Ohio. His father was Richard William Barker, a British citizen, who achieved the rank of Colonel during his participation in WW II.
Dick's wife, Barbara, a very gracious lady, said the following regarding the beginning of life for Dick: "Dr. and Mrs. Dodd traveled to Wyoming with their daughter Jane when she was a teenager, camping in Yellowstone National Park and eventually along the shores of Jenny Lake here in what is now Grand Teton National Park. Following this trip, they purchased the property where we now live and the following summer they took a trip to Europe. The story I was told was that their neighbor here was bored, and decided to go ahead and hire some local carpenters, log workers, etc. to proceed and build the cabin for the Dodds while they were on their European trip, and needless to say the family was quite surprised when they were presented a bill for the house, which they hadn't realized was being built, upon their return! But, thereafter, they spent every summer here in Jackson Hole. Dick liked to say that the house "was built the same year I was" (1937). He made it his permanent, year-round home in 1960, when we were married."
Dick Barker was born in 1937, at Columbus, Ohio, and went to school there up through the 4th Grade. He then went to San Diego to live with his Mother and Stepfather until going to Greenbrier Military School in Lewisburg, West Virginia, as a Freshman in 1951/52 school year. His Father, Colonel Richard William Barker, had a successful International Travel Agency in Columbus, and he paid Dick's tuition to Greenbrier Military School. Dick demonstrated Leadership potential early at Greenbrier, and he learned well the Principle-based Leadership practiced at Greenbrier and rose through the ranks with distinction to command Company "A" in his last and senior year.
Dick bought his first guitar while at Greenbrier. He learned to play it well, and had a good singing voice. Jack DePue, Class of 1955, 2nd Lt and Second in Command of the Band and fellow Platoon Leader with Dick in 1953/54, said "Barker was always playing his guitar and singing country-western songs. He was a breath of fresh air to me. A few years ago, I put as much pressure on him as possible to get him back here (Lewisburg). He wanted to come, but his daughter had a major medical problem (she was running the River Float business at the time), and he had to tend to the business during the pre-winter shutdown." He never did come back to "The Brier".
Herb Pearis said, "During the 1954/55 school year, Joe Durrett and I roomed next door to the far corner suite on "A" stoop, occupied by Jim Lemon, Harlan Starkey, Fred Shahan, and Lex (Dick). He was "A" Company Commander and was good. He talked of Jackson Hole and we gathered to sing Hank Williams songs generally on Saturday nights. I tried to find him in 1962, but looked for Lex, rather than Dick Barker and thought he was a cattle owner rather than a River Runner. I regret not having seen him since graduation day, 1955."
Lou Haberfeld said "Dick loved the pristine beauty of Jackson Hole and the Tetons. He did everything he could to keep it wild and safe. He spent every summer with his maternal Grandparents in Jackson Hole (the property is actually in Moose, Wyoming)".
DICK BARKER: THE CREATION OF A LEGACY
In 1956, Dick's formal education went from Greenbrier Military School to Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, Colorado, about 60 miles north of Denver. It was here that his musicianship began to flourish. Demonstrating that Greenbrier Leadership ability, he organized a weekly "Ballad Club" where like-minded musicians could gather and play traditional folk songs together. The Club also put on Concerts featuring well known musicians like Pete Seeger and Sam Hinton. Dick was also active in the Denver folk-music scene where a character named Lingo the Drifter had a radio show and would invite all the music types out to his house. It was there that Dick met a young singer named Judy Collins who was just starting to play the guitar. Dick taught her how to play. She credits Dick as being "a big part of my own beginnings as a singer and performer" and remembered him as "a special, unique, and very talented man …..the real deal." After his Freshman Year, Dick worked as a fishing guide for Bob Carmichael's Tackle Shop in Moose, and he bought his first raft. After graduation in 1960, Dick married his lovely wife, Barbara, and went to serve his country in the Army for two years, then came
In 1963, Dick and Barbara began offering fishing trips and scenic float tours down the Snake River. The headlines in the July 25, 2012, issue of the Jackson Hole News & Guide stated "BARKER BLAZED RAFTING & MUSICAL TRAILS. Benjamin Graham wrote "the rafting industry he helped jumpstart will endure". In around 1967, Dick joined with Frank Ewing to found the Barker-Ewing Rafting Company. They did well and in 1985, they divided the company with Frank taking the White Water rafts down the Snake River Canyon, and Dick taking the 10-mile scenic floats that journeyed through Grand Teton National Park. They kept the name, Barker-Ewing, for both outfits. They had an incredible safety record. But there was a time in the 90s when some cocky, crazy Secret Service Agents insisted on rowing themselves down the Snake. They got in deep trouble and Dick's raft crew had to rescue them from their stupidity. Dick had little patience for fools.
Dick and Barbara were blessed with two children, daughter Leith, and son, Eric. Dick felt he needed additional funds to support the family so he started a Winter enterprise by buying a Bombardier Snow Coach and ran day tours through the Park, with Park permission, of course. Soon after, he got a fleet of snowmobiles and developed a tour based in Teton Village.
If all Dick was doing wasn't enough, during the late 70s, he got into raising Trakehner horses, a breed originally developed in East Prussia by King Friedrich Wilhelm I for use as cavalry mounts, but at the present time in high demand as sport horses. Dick stood the only Trakehner stallion in the northern Rockies, and served for several years on the national board of the American Trakehner Association. They maintained horses for 30 years. Barbara's accounting of how it all got started is interesting, and I quote:
All this activity had taken Dick away from his music for about 15 years. Barbara remedied that by going to Salt Lake City and buying Dick a 12-string Martin guitar. Dick started playing again and hosting small groups of players in his home. Seeking a venue for folk music, Dick approached Bob Dornan, the owner of a local bar and restaurant in Moose, and eventually persuaded him to try offering one night of acoustic music on a weekly basis. He teamed up with another folk musician, Bill Briggs, and together they started the "Jackson Hole Hootenanny" at Dornan's Bar in 1993. In the early winter weeks, the musicians often outnumbered the audience, but they stuck it out and 20 years later the Hootenanny stands as the legacy that Dick Barker contributed to Jackson Hole.
Well, what else should we know about this very talented old Greenbrier boy. Somewhere along the way, he became a licensed Airplane Pilot, and a skilled sailboat sailor. He took President Jimmy Carter for a sail out on Jackson Lake. The President was a former Navy Captain and nuclear submarine Commander, so I imagine he enjoyed the lake sail. Dick also took Senator / Astronaut John Glenn and wife, Annie, for a midnight float under a full moon. Quite romantic, but it didn't last. Dick got them safely to shore when a sudden storm blocked the moon and it was too dark to navigate.
Dick Barker passed away in the Moose, Wyoming, home he had lived in for more than 50 years. He was 75 years old and had battled Cancer for the last four years. In the final weeks, Dick perked up when his friends from the Hootenanny came to the house to play for him. He died knowing that his legacy would live on through his many friends at the Hootenanny.
The next Hootenanny after Dick passed was that very evening and all the musicians showed up to honor Dick Barker, including his son, Eric, whose home was in Bozeman, Montana. Eric was somewhat of a chip off the old block. He had become a musician like his Father. After the regulars had taken the stage for a set and following the Intermission, Eric took the stage, Mountain Dulcimer in hand, and said, "This is incredibly difficult and meaningful to me." He strummed the dulcimer once and went right into "Will The Circle Be Unbroken". As he finished the first verse, the other musicians joined him on stage and the audience sang along till the song ended.
Concluding Comment by the Author
Dick Barker was a man of many talents and another shining example of a Greenbrier Cadet that was successful. He was successful at Greenbrier, and successful in life after Greenbrier. He used the Principles, Values, and Leadership skills he learned at Greenbrier Military School throughout his entire life, and it enabled him to leave a legacy that will endure.
It is regrettable that Dick never returned to Lewisburg for our Reunion. Charlie Duncan, who was a Sergeant in Company B in Dick's last year, and a 2nd Lieutenant in 1956, recently said this: " I was skiing in Jackson Hole, called him and we had lunch several years ago…. He had a very successful rafting business on the Snake River… He had horses of a special breed and was President of their Association.. The GMS reunion was always a conflict with the horse convention… He said he always wanted to come to a Reunion and he would some day…….. Well, all our days will be less and less, so whatever it may be you want to do, 'today is the day to do it'."
Dick was also one of a long and distinguished list of Ohioans that were successful somewhere else. They are too numerous to mention, but that list includes such notables as actors Clark Gable (Cadiz) and Jamie Farr (Toledo), and singers Roy Rogers (Cincinnati), Dwight Yoakum (Columbus), Nancy Wilson (Chillicothe), Danny Thomas (Toledo), Teresa Brewer (Toledo), Alice Cooper (Akron), Johnny Paycheck (Greenfield), Michael Stanley (Cleveland), and Dean Martin (Steubenville).
Dick's life should serve as a meaningful example to us all. He was a man of action, a doer who, with an entrepreneurial spirit, saw needs and filled them. He was a legend in his own time, and shall remain so until the end of time. I knew him, but not well. He was a Company Commander who lived in the Quadrangle, and I was just a Sergeant in Company "D" at the other end of the school. I am very glad, and honored, to have known him. In the words of Judy Collins, he was …."the real deal".
Deak Roberts '56