MEET THE VOLUNTEER
When the Thrift Shop contingent was marching in this year’s Ypsi Fourth of July parade, we had to slow down several times as spectators of all ages ran into the street to hug one of our members. That was Marlene Barr, who has been a volunteer at the shop since 1969 and who has been involved in numerous other area charities for decades. That’s Marlene on the right, in the tie-dyed dress.
In fact, Marlene’s many years of service to our community was honored in June with the Community Service Award from Ypsilanti Kiwanis.
Even a partial list of organizations that Marlene has served—and, in many cases, continues to serve—is enough to make those of us with normal energy levels want to take a nap: Ladies Literary Club (13 years on the board, past president), Boy Scout troop 290 (committee member, treasurer), Beta Zeta chapter of the educational sorority Alpha Delta Kappa (founding member, past president), DL Chapter of the philanthropic organization PEO Sisterhood (past president, program chair), American Association of University Women (life member), Ypsilanti Heritage Festival (committee member), fundraising for the Ypsilanti District Library, Ypsilanti Senior Center, and Gilbert Residence. And nearly half a century as a Thrift Shop volunteer; she has served as the volunteer staffing coordinator for us since 2001.
And she still has time to sing in both the Ypsilanti Community Choir (she’s a charter member) and the choir of Emmanuel Lutheran Church, where she has also served on various boards, including the organ committee that raised more than $50,000.
Oh—and she raised three children and worked too!
She Loved Math, But…
Born and raised on the east side of Detroit, Marlene learned the value of community early. “I grew up on a beautiful, elm-lined street, with aunts and cousins on the same street.” It was a different world in more ways than one. “After I took an aptitude test in high school, the counselor said to me, ‘If you were a boy, I’d recommend that you go into engineering, but since you’re not, I’d recommend education or nursing.’” Two of her aunts were teachers, so she majored in elementary education at Michigan State.
Along Came John
In her second year at MSU, she met a student named John Barr in a social science class. “We were seated alphabetically, and John was seated between a redhead and a blonde. I was the blonde,” she said. They were married at the end of their sophomore year. After graduation, John enrolled in the University of Michigan Law School, which meant they would move to either Ann Arbor or Ypsilanti. With her elementary ed degree in hand, Marlene applied to teach in both, and was offered jobs in both school systems. “It was so much nicer in Ypsilanti,” she said. “It was a new school, just being built, and Ypsilanti was paying beginning teachers $300 more!” She and John bought a house on South Grove, and she was able to walk to Erickson School, where she taught for 10 years. Later, she worked as a legal assistant in John’s law firm.
Beginning Her Charity Work, Almost by Accident
Before her first child was born, Marlene had been asked to join a professional sorority, ADK, for women educators. A new local chapter was being organized. She joined, and before she knew it, she had been elected president of the new chapter. “I’d never done anything like that before,” she said. “I had to get the whole thing started. So that was my first experience with leadership.” One of the original 10 chapter members was a Thrift Shop volunteer and encouraged Marlene to join that group too.
And then she just kept getting involved in more and more activities, some inspired by her children, others by her love of literature and music, all by devotion to her community. With two sons—John Jr., now a writer, and Karl, an attorney—she became involved in Boy Scouts. The Barrs also have a daughter, Elizabeth, who followed her mother into teaching. She and John, now the city attorney for Ypsilanti, have also established a fund that supports music programs in the Ypsilanti schools and community.
So What Does She Do with All Her Spare Time?
Sounds like a joke, doesn’t it? How could Marlene possibly have any spare time?
But somehow, she does. Marlene is an avid cyclist and downhill skier. In fact, even though she didn’t start skiing until she was in her 40s, she won a NASTAR gold medal, and in the winter she skis once a month at Boyne. She has biked across Michigan, up and down both shorelines, and from Coco Beach to Key West. She is also the treasurer and an enthusiastic member of the Ann Arbor Power Sail and Power Squadron.
If you can’t find her on the slopes, on a bike, on the water, or on a community board, you can find her in Who’s Who in American Women. The Thrift Shop is so fortunate to have Marlene Barr among our volunteers.
About the Thrift Shop
We are happy to accept donations of items for resale during regular business hours. Please see the DONATE page for more details.
Board of Directors
President June Gordon
Vice President Ann Thomas
Recording Secretary Kalyn Sterzik
Treasurer Nancy Good
Dispersing Treasurer Deborah White
Corresponding Secretary Nancy Hamilton
Scheduling Marlene Barr
Membership Jenean Carter
Social Service Marcia Sylvester
Housekeeping Priscilla Kulback
Building Nancy Yapp
Donations Vivian Phillips
Publicity Pamela Erbe
Telephone/Email Nina Homel
Historian Margo Myers