Monday, September 20, 2010

Jim McRae Barker

Jim McRae Barker, the only child of Lilla and Grover McRae, was born on January 8, 1927, in Sebring, Florida, where her parents owned the "5,10, and 25-Cent Store." From first through twelfth grade, Jim attended Sebring's only public schoolhouse, where she enjoyed playing clarinet in the award-winning high school band, cheer leading, and attending Beta Club. Jim was named valedictorian of her graduating class in 1944, and won a scholarship which allowed her to continue her education at Duke University, where she earned a Bachelor's Degree in English i n1948.

Upon graduation, Jim married Mark Barker, a broadcast communications major at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. While her husband finished school, Jim worked as Secretary to the Dean of General College, where she met and befriended notables including theater director James Hammerstein (son of musical lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II) and film director Larry Peerce (son of operatic tenor Jan Peerce).

In 1950, the Barkers began their nomadic years as Mark sought experience in a new medium: television. The couple moved from Greensboro, N.C., to Deland, Florida, back to Greensboro (where son Kent was born in 1952) and eventually to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Mark worked as a station production manager. In 1954, Mark eagerly accepted a job as production manger at WDBO television (now WKMG) in Orlando, Son Bruce was born in 1956.

Jim devoted most of her time to raising her sons. Her days were spent transporting young surfers to nearby beaches and charting laps as Bruce raced quarter-midgets. When Kent excelled at diving, Jim was in demand as a diving judge at local swim meets. And when she took in a foster son, Don Geving, Jim added football fan to her resume.

A tireless community volunteer, Jim served as chair of Orange County Mother's march of Dimes; answered crisis calls at the We Care hotline; served on the board of Goodwill Industries; and was a proud founding board member of the West Orange Farmworker Health Association (now Community Health Centers, Inc.). A passionate music fan, Jim volunteered for Civic Music, the Florida Symphony Orchestra, and the Ballet Royal, of which her son Kent was a member.

When the boys were older, Jim rejoined the work force as a copywriter for WKIS Radio. After her divorce in 1974, Jim embarked on a career as a social worker until she fund her dream job -- Administrative Assistant to the Manager of the Florida Symphony Orchestra, where she handled negotiations with visiting guest artists and rubbed shoulders with famous names of the era, including Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler and ballet dancer and choreographer Edward Villella.

After leaving the symphony, Jim accepted a part-time job in a friend's travel agency and fell in love with the business. In 1985 she bought Phillips International Travel in College Park, which she ran for 11 years. Jim prided herself on pampering her beloved clients and especially enjoyed organizing the Orlando Sentinel's London Theater Tour, among other group adventures. her greatest pleasure was traveling; the British Isles, Europe, the Caribbean, Mexico, Australia, and Egypt were favored destinations.

Jim is survived by her sons, Kent and Bruce (Diana); her grandsons, Graham, Weston, and Amon; her foster son, don Geving (Patricia) and foster granddaughters, Shannon and Colleen; and her goddaughters, Judith Eyman and Mimi Waddell.

Due to the large response of her many friends, the family will have a Memorial Celebration of her life at 1:30 p.m. on October 24th, 2010 at the Winter Park Civic Center located at 1050 West Morse Boulevard, Winter Park, Florida 32789. Please call Jim's home phone number for additional information (407-425-0040) for a recorded messge. Donations in her name may be made to Second Harvest Food Bank, 2008 Brengle Ave., Orlando, FL 32808 or the Hope Community Center, 1016 N. Park Ave., Apopka, FL 32712.


Anonymous said...

Jim was an amazing lady -- generous, funny and unforgetable. We'll miss her.
Rafi Ellis & Ron Nickolas

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