Vernon Barr was a World War II veteran with a passion for the earth

Thursday, March 27, 2014 | 2:54 p.m. CDT; updated 7:45 a.m. CDT, Friday, March 28, 2014

COLUMBIA — Vernon Charles Barr was a man of the earth.

Daughter Bonnie Morgan remembers him as a gardener. After moving away from the family farm in Hartville, he took to working in his yard — planting Irish eyes and lilies and shrubs, anything that would grow.

"He planted tons of tomatoes, and blessed the neighborhood with them," Morgan said.

Vernon Charles Barr of Columbia died Sunday, March 23, 2014. He was 97.

He was born June 16, 1916, near Hartville, to Archie Alvin Barr and Lillian Addie Pownall Barr. He graduated from Hartville High School and earned a bachelor's degree in vocational agriculture from MU.

Mr. Barr also served in World War II veteran. In 1943, he joined the Army Air Corps in the air transport unit. He served until 1945.

He tried to become a pilot, Morgan said, but so many people had applied for the position that there wasn't a need. So Mr. Barr and a couple of others learned how to become air transport clerks.

"He balanced the airplanes so that they could get up there and fly," she said.

On July 6, 1944, Mr. Barr married his college sweetheart, Jeanne Taylor, and they raised four children.

Mr. Barr's love of the earth went beyond gardening.

When his son, David, got involved with the Columbia Rock and Lapidary Club, Mr. Barr found a passion. He would bring rocks in to show to the earth and life science classes he taught all over Missouri, and travel the country with his wife looking for new ones.

They would hop into the car, canoe strapped to the roof, and drive around the nation panning for gold, Morgan said. He would take rocks that were native to Missouri and take them out to other states and trade them for crystals and other rocks.

Mr. Barr would pack rocks in the car — under the seats, in the trunk, in the engine — everywhere, Morgan said. Once, when the Barrs were on a trip out West, their car broke down, and they had to buy a new one. This meant reshuffling belongings, packing up the rocks they had hidden and shipping them back home. Sadly, not every one made it back, and Mr. Barr was not happy.

"Who would guess that someone would be traveling with that many rocks?" Morgan said.

Mr. Barr also had a love for rock jewelry. He bought equipment that would polish rocks and made them into things like belt buckles. His specialty was taking Missouri's state rock, mozarkite, cutting it into the shape of Missouri and fashioning it into the centerpiece for a bolo tie.

Mr. Barr helped start up the Katy Trail and was a member of the Audubon Society, Central Missouri Rock and Lapidary Club and Friends of Rock Bridge State Park. He was also a lifetime deacon of the First Baptist Church.

"He was always up for adventure," Morgan said.

Mr. Barr is survived by his wife, Jeanne; four children, Carolyn (Barr) VanSciver, Bonnie (Barr) Morgan, David Barr and Jayme (Barr) Nobles; three grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Visitation will be held at 12:30 p.m. Friday at Memorial Funeral Home, 1217 Business Loop 70 W. Services will follow at 1:30 p.m. at the funeral home, and burial will be in Memorial Park Cemetery. A reception will be held from 3 to 5 p.m. at Tiger Place, 2910 Bluff Creek Drive.

Memorial donations can be made to Central Missouri Rock and Lapidary Club, 1601 N. Earthland Road, Columbia, MO 65202, or other charity. Tributes can be posted at

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