After visiting one afternoon recently with our guest this week, my husband, Jim, summed-up Frank Barr’s life with this comment, “He is rebuilding the stairway to Heaven through a lifetime of service.”
Frank most assuredly says that his strong work ethics were cultured while growing-up on a farm in central Ohio. Literally, Frank was from the geographical center of Ohio in a town called Centerburg Early on, he lived with his grandparents and had many interesting memories, including taking Queenie and Dixie, their horses, down to the creek each evening for their drink of water. He rode one and guided the other and noted that he usually got dumped but would always be invited back-up for the ride home He also said he learned the hard way which way gee (right) and haw (left) was by getting thrown off. Frank has been thrown-off his chosen path several times, but jumps right back-up in the saddle, so to speak.
When he was 14, our country boy went to Springfield, Ohio to live with an aunt and uncle. Although he wasn’t much for the big city, he enjoyed his education there and playing the sousaphone in the marching band, although he admitted he was a bit jealous of the flute player though as all she had to do was stick that flute in her pocket while he lugged that big instrument around. It was his plan after high school to go to Ohio State where he had a full-ride; however, his mother had a good friend here in Crawfordsville who pushed Wabash so he headed this direction. Trouble was, after a year he had no money so he went back to Ohio where he took a couple of semesters and finally returned to C’ville as he really liked it here. He rented a room from Mel and Mary Kate Hutson, got a job as bus driver for St. Bernard’s and became involved in our little town.
Frank stated how good Hutson’s were to him. If he couldn’t pay them, they’d not care, never asking him for the money. Always seeming to back him, once when Frank was dating a gal in the Alamo area and had a flat tire, Mel went down and got him, very late one night. Frank did let me know that he eventually got paid up. Frank was raised Methodist but joined the Catholic Church when he lived with Hutsons. He enjoyed helping them with various church functions and remained active in St. Bernard’s.
Early on, Frank also worked for Harold Froedge and was privileged to drive Froedge’s very first wrecker. He also subbed on three school bus routes and helped Mr. Brown, the St. Bernard’s janitor with the school and church.
Another Crawfordsville family Frank became involved with via having some of the children on the St. Bernard bus, was the Stouts, getting to know them all well. One day, he was supposed to go to a dance with one of the girls. They had lost their father when they were young and their mother was a crossing guard raising these children on her own. Kate paid $1 each week to Hunt’s for her husband, Clarence’s funeral. (Later, when Kate passed, she only had a $500 policy and when Frank talked to Bob and Tom Hunt about it, and Tom asked his father if they could do a funeral for that, Bob said, “Yes, for Kate, we can!” – what a lady and what a businessman).
So, the night of the school dance, there was one dress for the two teenaged Stout girls and when Frank got there, Janet was hiding, deciding she didn’t want to go to the dance with him. Frank told Sherry to get that dress on because they were going to go and have a good time. That they did and that first date is still lasting after almost 61 years of marriage.
Frank joined Guards April 7th, 1959 and it was when he returned from basic that he and Sherry Stout were wed on November 14th in 1959 at St. Bernard’s Church. They first lived in the Ivy Hills addition and then Sherry found a house that blossomed into far beyond a family home. The house likely dates back 150 years or more, as it shows-up on old maps, and when they purchased it, the plaster was coming off the walls, plus pigeons and bugs had been living everywhere. “When the telephone man came in to hook-up the phone, he came out shaking his head and wishing us luck!”
Well, with Frank’s wood-working talents, and Sherry’s great ideas and hard work, the home and yard are simply heavenly! Perfect for what the couple did for five decades, fostering children, beginning with babies as Bev Bashia who ran the Welfare office (husband principal at Ladoga) knew Sherry loved the little ones so she asked if they’d be interested in babysitting their child when Bev wanted to return to work. Of course! Mike McCormick asked next. Of course! These babysitting jobs began their long life of fostering over 500 area children.
Obviously, with that many, they needed organization and it centered on putting everything on the kitchen calendar. One evening, one of the girls had a ball game at the Boys & Girls Club. In the middle of it, here comes Bev looking for them. “How did you find us?” (before cell phones of course) and she said, “I went in your house and looked on the calendar!” Too funny!
Frank has one sister, Myrt who lives in Ohio and “Sis” (Claudia) in Scottsdale, Arizona. To round-out the family, they remained close to some of their foster children (Chuck Knee in particular) and their own children are: Danielle, a paralegal for a large law firm in Chicago. Teresa is a mail carrier, has a beauty shop and is an amazing worker. Tony is in the shipping department of LSC and Tracey is at the South Plant too. Eric lives in Texas, works for NAPA Auto and is an acoustic guitar player in a band. Also, he proudly noted CJ, who “adopted us! She is one of ours, her kids are ours and beyond!” They also adopted Tara who moved away a couple of years ago. They tally about ten grands and a whole lot of greats, as well.
Through all of this, Frank as many reading this article will know, was not only in the weekend Guards but also worked with the Civil Service in a military capacity. He retired after almost 38 years, obtaining the rank of CW-4. Particularly, he enjoyed his last five years as an instructor of personnel in Little Rock, Arkansas.
As we sat on the porch with Frank, he explained his love of woodworking. The whole effect is a child’s play dream, with areas for the small ones and older ones. The yard is gorgeous, Sherry asking him to put railroad ties (even hashed to prevent falling) out and having a pump that was one set of grandparents and a light made from a wagon wheel of the other grands. Also, we got to enjoy some paintings he created (actually on an hilarious bet) and to discover that he also loves fishing. One very talented man!
Sadly, Sherry is currently fighting Parkinson’s in a local facility, but he goes to feed her every day. Yet, when I asked Frank if there was anything he’d change, he answered, “No, we worked hard and have had a pretty good life!”
Jim explained his notation of Frank this way: “He was constantly rebuilding the lives of damaged children, refurbishing a home, strengthening his and Sherry’s marriage. All that should lead to his stairway to Heaven.” Well, I say, bless you, Frank and thanks for letting me share your story!

Karen Zach is the editor of Montgomery Memories, our monthly magazine all about Montgomery County. Her column, Around the County, appears each Thursday in The Paper of Montgomery County.