|Birth: ||Mar. 3, 1922|
|Death: ||Feb. 2, 2009|
Willie Lee Barton, whose voice and touch comforted hundreds of children in Sonoma State University's Child Development foster grandparent program, died of lung cancer at her Santa Rosa home Feb. 2.
She was 86.
Barton's love of music was a vehicle for her ability to comfort others and her high singing voice swelled with nursery rhymes, gospel music, blues and the works of BB King and Nat King Cole, her family said.
She was member of several singing groups, including the Freeman Harminetts Gospel Group in the late 1950s. She sang most recently with the Community Baptist Church Choir.
But her most memorable songs were personal.
"She'd call and sing 'Happy Birthday' to you in her high-pitched voice," her daughter Christine Davis said. "For each one of our birthdays."
Barton was born in McBride, Miss., in 1922. She moved with her family several times in the 1940s before landing in San Francisco and marrying Oliver J. Barton.
But Barton missed the rural life she had grown up in and the couple moved to Sonoma County in 1961 to raise their children, Davis said.
With two acres of land, Barton filled her days gardening and harvesting the foods of her youth. Collard greens, mustard greens, turnips, onions, tomatoes, cabbage, corn, watermelon and apples filled her kitchen and her pantry.
Barton sold fresh eggs from her chickens out of the family's Santa Rosa home, but the produce also found other ways to neighbors' homes. Barton was never one to keep something she had that someone else needed, and her produce was handed out liberally.
"If she had it, she was sharing," Davis said. "She had a great love for everybody."
Barton shared that love with adults and children alike at home, church and volunteer programs like the foster grandparent program at Sonoma State's Child Development Center.
Barton volunteered for several years as a grandparent, doing what she did best: loving people, Davis said.
"She would talk and sing to them and tell them stories and keep them relaxed," Davis said of Barton's volunteer work with the children. "She was there every day to feed them breakfast."
Barton's sharing made her an inspiration to many, Davis said.
"A lot of people looked up to her. She was a good mentor. They came to her garden to get vegetables, they learned her cooking style. She was a good mother to us and everybody tagged on also," she said.
In addition to Davis, Barton is survived by her children Robbie Wyatt of Mesa, Ariz., Demitres D. Hopkins of Apache Junction, Ariz., and Oliver J. Barton Jr., Razal D. Barton and Antonio W. Barton, all of Santa Rosa.
She is also survived by 15 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.
Oliver Jackson Barton (1922 - 2008)
Santa Rosa Memorial Park
Plot: Veteran's Lawn 223-2
Created by: Linda Holder
Record added: Feb 09, 2009
Find A Grave Memorial# 33678086
You are your family's shining star. You will always be loved and never forgotten.|
Added: Feb. 9, 2009