Willie Ray Barber

Published 10:11 pm Thursday, April 26, 2007

By Staff
Willie Ray Barber was born on October 3, 1923, in Belhaven, North Carolina. His parents were Evelyn Barber and Harry Barnhill. An only child, Willie attended an Episcopal school in Belhaven, surrounded by family and lifelong friends.
After high school, he became a student at St. Augustine’s College in Raleigh, North Carolina, the first in his family to attend college. While a student, he was drafted into the Navy during World War II, and proudly served his country as a chef for the naval officers on the USS Botetourt and the USS Wayne in the Philippines.
At the completion of his war service, Willie returned to St. Augustine’s College and graduated with his B.S. degree in History, Class of 1949. He then taught school in Warrenton, Georgia, where he met his future wife, Maryfrances, who had the good luck to be teaching in the same area. They were married and moved to Norfolk, Virginia, where Willie began working for the federal government in the Navy Department. While in Norfolk, he became the very proud father of Kenneth and Stephanie.
Several years later, Willie came to Philadelphia, where he taught high school, but shortly thereafter returned to a distinguished career in government service with the Navy. He retired after 35 years.
Willie was very active in his church, The Church of the Savior, where he carried the cross every Sunday, and served on the Vestry Board for many years. At the same time, he taught Bible study at the Germantown Senior Center for several years. He was a devoted member of St. Augustine’s College Alumni Association and a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. for over 30 years.
Willie loved watching westerns, baseball, basketball, football, fishing and food. Also reading history books, blues (B.B. King), gospel music (Shirley Caesar), listening to and reading great sermons (Reverend C.L. Franklin). He was a great talker, great listener, and a true intellectual. Willie was loved by all … and will be missed by many … .
He leaves his devoted wife of 55 years, Maryfrances, son Kenneth of West Chester, PA; daughter, Stephanie of East Orange, NJ; granddaughter Kenyatta of Philadelphia; cousins Ralph Braddock, Ann McCollough, and Mary Barber, all of Belhaven, NC; sister-in-laws Arlethia Elliott of Norfolk, VA; Claudia Moss and Helen Cason, both of Philadelphia, PA; brother-in-law Walter Peterson, Sr. of Miramar, FL; dear friend John Miller of Erdenhein, PA, in addition to a host of wonderful nieces, nephews, family and friends.
Family and friends are invited to Willie’s Life Celebration, Sat. April 28, 2007, after 10 a.m. from John F. Givnish of Academy Road, 10975 Academy Road, Phila. PA 19154, followed by his memorial service 11 a.m. Interment will be private. www.lifecelebration.com
Paid Obituary