Known affectionately simply as “Betty” to her wide circle of devoted friends and family, Elizabeth Mary Gardiner Barker of South Deerfield, who passed away peacefully on Jan. 25, 2021 at the age of 93, was “modest but mighty,” a local philanthropist who quietly shared her good fortune with countless organizations doing the work she believed in; and with the many individuals she met along the way who needed a helping hand.
A passionate believer in the importance of community, Betty was particularly devoted to the work of Tilton Library, Dakin Humane Society, Franklin Land Trust, Pioneer Valley Hospice, The Food Bank of Western Massachusetts, and the Greenfield Community College Foundation, in support of the Nursing and Community Access Programs. She gave generous support, including countless volunteer hours, to numerous Franklin County organizations including the Girl Scouts, Board of Organized Work at Franklin Medical Center, and Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts.
A caring and eminently decent woman, Betty lived a life filled with love and integrity. Humble and observant, yet adamant in her opinions, including the importance of kindness and compassion in day-to-day life, only Betty’s closest friends and family were fully aware of the numerous individuals who she encountered and quietly helped through times of need.
Betty was born April 18, 1927, in Toronto, Canada, the daughter of Elizabeth Pringle Gardiner and James Gardiner. Her parents immigrated from Scotland to Canada following World War I, ultimately settling in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, where a relative was working at the time, at Miss Hall’s School. Betty graduated from Pittsfield High School in 1945 and Becker Junior College in 1947, with training as a medical secretary.
In the fall of 1956, Betty met Charles Barker on a double-date at Tanglewood in Lenox, Massachusetts, with Jean Cressy and her fiancé Elliott Barker III, Charles’ brother, where the two discovered, among other things, their mutual love of a wide range of music, from classical to 1940s big band, and Dixieland to jazz. They would return to Tanglewood over the years for several performances, and attend productions of the Pioneer Valley Symphony and Valley Light Opera.
Betty and Charles were engaged just months after that first date, in January, 1957, and married in March of the same year at the home of Charles’ parents. The couple resided in Los Angeles until the early 1960s before relocating to Deerfield, Massachusetts, where Charles joined the family business, Deerfield Plastics Company. They celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary in 2017. Charles Barker passed away in 2018.
Betty was a good sport and supported Charles in his many passions - sailing off the Massachusetts and Maine coasts; hiking in the Sierras and White Mountains; and downhill skiing on New England and Western slopes. She and Charles shared many happy days traveling the world and summering on the Maine coast. Throughout her life, Betty provided love and nurturing to many dogs and cats who eagerly joined her in the kitchen for the special treats she prepared for them. She was a talented knitter and enjoyed a good crossword and jigsaw puzzle. Among Betty’s greatest pleasures were lunches out with friends, sitting around a table, enjoying good food, a hearty laugh and lively conversation. Most of all, Betty is being remembered as a loving wife and mother and a loyal friend to many, all of whom felt her warm embrace.
Betty is predeceased by her loving husband Charles P. Barker; her parents, Elizabeth Pringle Gardiner and James Gardiner; and her brother, William. Left to cherish her memory are her daughter Ann of Whately, Massachusetts; sister-in-law Jean Cressy Barker of Boothbay, Maine; nieces, Sue Barker of Freeport, Maine and Mary Tanzi of New Canaan, Connecticut; nephew James Gardiner, MD of Winchester, Virginia and nieces Jane Midnight of Christiansburg, Virginia and Joan Baker of Fredericksburg, Virginia; and her cousin Irene Pringle of Scotland.
Those wishing to honor Betty’s memory with a charitable donation are asked to consider supporting your local library, food bank, land trust, hospice or humane society. A memorial service in celebration of Betty’s life will be held when it is safe to gather.