After 65 years of service to the Animas Valley Grange, Roberta Barr will be honored at 2 p.m. today as La Plata County’s oldest grange fetes a pioneer member.
The 99-year-old Barr will be presented with the 65-year pin, an emblem showing her participation since her teenage years. Barr said she became a member of the grange as soon as she was of age.
Barr, who lives in Hermosa, has held almost every title at the grange, was master for many years and now is a chaplain, though she doesn’t attend many meetings anymore. She also is a member of both the state and national grange.
“It is an honor to have had her a part of the grange for so long,” said Ruth Shock, master, or president, of the Animas Valley Grange.
Barr has been a faithful member, has served at the state level and in the last 65 years has done much for the community and been supportive of the grange, Shock said.
With her longtime knowledge of the happenings at the grange, members always go to her with questions, concerns or protocols, and Barr always is there with an answer, Shock said.
Times have changed drastically since Barr joined, and she sees that the grange is becoming less relevant and is consistently losing members.
The Animas Valley Grange currently has about 25 members, with the youngest being 60.
In Barr’s time, the grange hall hosted many dances and community dinners and was a gathering center for farming families around La Plata County, she said.
Farming has been a part of her life since she can remember; she gives credit to her father, a man she deeply adored, for her skills in the garden. Her family made a living harvesting an apple orchard, and she remembers her father taking a horse and wagon into Durango to peddle his crops.
Barr had no children of her own but spent more than 40 years teaching in La Plata County. She spent two years at the old Fort Lewis College, received her teaching certificate, and had her first job at Cherry Creek School west of Durango.
She taught for the simple reason that she loved it and always enjoyed going to work.
“I loved to teach little children to read because they would often come from areas where they didn’t know what a book was,” she said.
No matter what age she was teaching, she had one rule that stood strong against everyone who entered her classroom: no messing around.
“I told them we are here to learn, not to throw spitballs and mess around,” she said.
By the time kids got to middle school, they knew if they had Mrs. Barr as a teacher, they were going to really learn something, she said.
Even though she isn’t in the classroom, her love of education shines through. In 2001, the Robert M. Barr and Roberta Armstrong Barr Foundation was created. The scholarship foundation awards about a dozen scholarships a year, and Barr still chooses the winners. Since its inception, more than $300,000 has been awarded to teacher education students at Fort Lewis College.
A lifelong resident of the Animas Valley, Barr has seen a lot of change, not all of it good.
“The valley isn’t a valley anymore; it’s a town,” she said.
Even so, Barr continues living in her stone house by Hermosa Creek, smiling over her immaculate garden, and is just as spunky as she was in her teaching years.
firstname.lastname@example.org. Emily Griffin, a summer intern at The Durango Herald, is a Fort Lewis College student.