By Linda Dillman
Donald Barrett never let “one person’s opinion” stop him from succeeding in life, which he lived to the fullest until he passed away last year on Nov. 11 at age 69.
He was born on Nov. 22, 1951, and graduated from Groveport Madison High School in 1970 where he played basketball and was a member of the track team. At college he was a speech and secondary education major at Muskingum College.
“For student teaching, he was sent to a small school where he taught only one class,” recalled his wife Joyce, who met her future husband when he was looking for someone to share a $30 math book. “He was told that he would not be successful and ‘never make it’ in his choice of a speech major.”
Barrett turned the challenge into a successful life and career after graduating from Muskingum in 1974, but not before he dabbled in reader’s theatre at college and took up residence in a unique form of housing.
“He and two other classmates built a geodesic dome at a campground outside of New Concord,” said Joyce. “They lived in it two years and then sold it. He sang and led worship at the Presbyterian Church. So, when John Glenn came home to New Concord, Don was there and sang a solo. He was in the college choir and toured with the choir.”
Singing was one of Barrett’s passions that took him to the stage of Vaudvillities and German Village at Christmas in full Victorian regalia. His talents benefitted attendees of Veterans of Foreign War parties at nursing homes where he sang older tunes and military songs to resident veterans.
VFW Post 10523 Commander Rick Williams met Barrett after a quilt presentation by Joyce where Don served as a photographer chronicling the event. Following a conversation, Williams said Barrett volunteered to accompany VFW members to the facilities and provide musical entertainment.
“He’d come with the full set up and sing for the residents,” said Williams. “We told him we’d pay him for his time, but he didn’t want to take a dime. We finally convinced him to take a little for gas. He was a great individual.”
Barrett also entertained VFW members during their annual Christmas party by singing carols.
“He sang with Cornerstone Gospel for three years at the Canal Winchester Labor Day Festival, Ashville Fourth of July, Fairfield County Fair and other festivals,” said Joyce. “He had a deep love for Southern gospel as well as Frank Sinatra and the “crooners’ of that era. He always said he was born in the wrong time for that kind of music.”
Barrett’s love of older music and theatre extended back to Shakespeare’s time, but on the other side of the stage. According to Joyce, Don helped plan and prepare five-course dinners for the Canal Winchester High School Madrigals for seven years, which helped raise funds for the school’s music program.
When two of their children, Emily and Daniel, participated in the flag guard and on the football team, Don could be found working the concession stand during football games. Daughter Katie passed away in 1983.
Barrett was an adjunct professor at Columbus State in the Hospitality Management Department and was awarded Educator of the Year in 2006 by the Ohio Restaurant Association. In addition, Don served on the inspection team for the Columbus Health Department—which inspected food services at all the Ohio State football games—and taught ServSafe, a food and alcohol safety training certification program, to thousands of food service workers.
When he retired from the health department after a career spanning 32 years, he worked for Giant Eagle as a Food Safety Specialist for seven years.
“We were married 47 years,” said Joyce. “Don was the father of three children, was my best friend and a good, good man.”