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Happy 80th Birthday Merle Barrett (aka, Dad)!

Dad and Us Girls!

By Susan Barrett-Hensel; Janet Barrett-Pallett; Jacqui Barrett-Poindexter; and Katherine Barrett-De Boer

My dad, Merle Barrett, turns 80 years old today! Thankfully, he still is a youthful, healthy, strong and hard-working man.

Ten  years ago, when he celebrated his 70th birthday, my three sisters and I reflected on our memories with him. As we’re all grown and married and some of us now have our own children (and grandchildren), we not only cherish the many memories, but also aspire to integrate Dad’s influence into our own behaviors—his thoughtfulness, patience, tolerance, responsible attitude, good nature and wisdom.

The following musings and memories about our father were written by Susan Barrett Hensel, Janet Barrett Pallett, Jacqui Barrett Poindexter and Katherine Barrett De Boer.


  • Swimming in the ‘backyard pool’ in our underpants.
  • Dad helping the little neighbor girl with her leg brace so she could swim, too.
  • Going to Western Auto to look at tires.
  • Sinclair gas station.
  • Washing the car in the driveway … getting our own rag.
  • Engraved bracelets and clover pendant.
  • Getting the camera ready Christmas morning … home movies and popcorn.
  • Practicing pitching.
  • Playing a little catch after dinner.
  • Where are you going, Dad?” “To the Moon.”
  • “Oh when the saints …” being whistled.
  • Branson trips … cabins … swimming.
  • Learning to drive the mower … the tractor … then the car.
  • Green Falcon Station Wagon … need I say more? Glad to have it, Dad!
  • Packing up to go to SMSU.
  • Graduation
  • Marriage … You’re still our daughter and this will always be your home.
  • Grandson.
  • Granddaughter.


  • He took care of the ‘manly’ things, such as changing/checking the oil in my car without even telling me or looking for any praise.
  • Shoveling the snow in the driveway all by himself late at night or early the next or both, if the wind blew it back over in the middle of the night, and he’d come in with icicles dangling from his mustache.
  • Putting in a big garden each year.
  • Dad always carefully changed into his old work clothes before getting dirty.
  • He was careful to give us girls the privacy we needed in ‘our’ hallway by just avoiding it altogether, and he was very tolerant of our often neurotic behavior as we obsessed over our appearance.
  • He would always tease us when our boyfriends were on the way to the door and threaten to make them put their hand on the Bible.
  • On Sunday morning when we were little, he polished our Sunday shoes for us.
  • He always appreciated our homemade baked goods.
  • In retirement, he enjoys making his own baked goods.
  • I like that he collects little toys, not because of their great value or age, but because he likes them. It allows us to see the kid in him.
  • I liked lying down on the couch next to him, and he would often put his big, rough, warm hand across my eyes, and it was very comforting.
  • I like that he is thoughtful and not overly quick to offer his opinion. He will consider all sides of what is being said.
  • I like that he enjoys professional sports and can carry on an informed conversation about them.
  • It demonstrated a love and respect for Mom when he helped her clean the kitchen after a long day.
  • I smile when I think of the chalkboard under the Christmas tree on Christmas morning.
  • The birthday spankings he delivered each year always brought a good laugh and welcome attention.
  • We were taught the value of a dollar from Dad, especially when he tore the paper napkins in half when setting the table for a meal that wasn’t very messy.
  • Playing catch with the softball.
  • Being resourceful/creative with items around the house, turning junk into treasure, expressing himself creatively.
  • Humbly and willingly cleaning the church for years.


  • Standing on Dad’s steel-toed shoes and ‘walking’ with him, after he came home from work.
  • His steel lunch pail, filled with Mom’s leftover steak sandwiches and homemade chocolate chip cookies.
  • 747 jet planes and 1st class trips to Europe (because of Dad’s years of service at TWA).
  • Playing catch in the backyard—then going to my softball games together.
  • Rubbing my back as I lay in his lap in the brown plaid recliner.
  • Eating Dad’s homemade vanilla ice cream with chocolate syrup.
  • How Mom always said my ears are shaped like Dad’s—made me feel special.
  • Meticulously wrapping thick tape around the tops of our snow boots so the snow wouldn’t seep in when we played outside.
  • Building an igloo in the front yard, patiently, one snow block at a time.
  • Munching single- and double-dip ice cream cones or malts right before bedtime.
  • Never raising his voice–quietly expecting the best from us; when he was upset with us, his disappointed words hurt far worse than any angry barbs he could have flung.
  • Always fixing things and solving problems. “Would you untangle my necklace, Dad?”
  • Simply assuring, “Tomorrow is a new day; after a good night’s sleep, you’ll feel better.” He was always right.
  • Packing and moving me from apartment to apartment in my 20s, telling me I really needed to get rid of some stuff.
  • Escorting me down the aisle to get married.
  • Providing solace when I divorced and solutions to starting my new life and home.
  • Fixing dryer tubes and shower heads, hanging pictures, solving car problems … quietly assuring me I am not alone.
  • Warmly accepting my new husband and treating him like family.
  • Still being there; providing a quiet calm, despite life’s storms.


I admire how you are:






A wonderful


I am thankful you taught me to:

Love nature

Be compassionate

Be spiritual

Put family first

Memories of Time With Our Mother


On behalf of our mother’s birthday today, my 3 sisters and I took a stroll down memory lane about our lifetime relationship with the matriarch of our family, Ann Kathryn Barrett. Happy Birthday, Mom!


After we were all tucked into bed, creeping out to the living room and Mom letting me watch Johnny Carson with her.

Dressing up in Mom’s slips and listening to her The Sound of Music Album while I danced in front of her mirror.

Mom discovering me, and I think my victim in crime Janet, as we covered our faces with her makeup.

Mom taking us all to the Library, both in Antioch and then later in Kearney, and passing on her love of reading. 

Scrambling to find all of the 10 books that we had each checked out before we could leave for the library.

Mom singing happily in the kitchen.

Yummy birthday cakes year after year.

Yummy homemade desserts to look forward to.

Counting down the minutes until the “end of the day school bell” so I could get home and see Mom and relax in the kitchen chatting and having one or two of those yummy cookies while mom was getting dinner going.  It was nice to have her there to come home to each day.

Shared back rubs when I got to crawl into bed with her when Dad worked nights.

Lunches made with love each day at school.

Mom patiently walking throughout the mall to find that “perfect” outfit or dress for a special occasion.

Mom washing my hair as I leaned over the tub.

Mom getting a kick out of something we said or did…it made me feel special and loved.

Mom encouraging and showing appreciation for my love of art.

4-H classes taught by Mom.

Mom’s “fearless?” 😉 patience as I learned to drive.

Kisses goodnight and wake up calls in the morning.

Mom watching for the bus and bringing me glasses of chocolate milk before school.

Her smiling face as she held my babies.

Comfort and encouragement when we found out about Hannah’s CF and many other tough times.

“Your Mom writes the best notes on cards” <– that one’s from Jim.

I have always been proud of how far mom has come … I always thought of her as someone with gumption and intelligence.


Making cakes, triple layer chocolate, chocolate chip, Bonnie Bell, pick which one you want for your birthday….all from scratch.

Butter creme frosting.

Brownies, with frosting … for Dad.

 Sugar cookies, with frosting….for Dad.

8 pie crusts in the freezer, ready to go.

Paring apples, peaches, the smell of cinnamon.

Snapping beans on the plastic tablecloth on the floor in front of the TV.

Mom picking beans early while it’s cooler.

“Girls, why don’t you go help pick beans this morning.”

Girls picking beans in the middle of the day in skimpy clothes to get a tan.

Canning on a hot summer day while 4 girls watch.

Hanging clothes on the clothesline.

Ironing little cotton dresses and blouses on a hot summer day in Gladstone.

Walking us to school in Gladstone.

Taking me to school in Gladstone, crying, after two weeks of “stomach aches,” per doctor’s orders.

Walking to Antioch.

Warm robe and slippers, making our lunches with steak sandwiches, chips and 2 homemade cookies.

Singing in the house.

Can you pick me up at my friend’s house off hwy 92 to hwy D to hwy C past the curve on the right after the red barn?

Buying basketball shoes, pom pon uniforms, homecoming and prom dresses.

Yummy picnic lunches at the hwy rest stop on our way to the Ozarks 

Picking out cloth at the fabric store, blue with red flocking, so mom could make a “cool top with flared sleeves”

Teaching 4-H Cooking

“You make cookies and I’ll clean up.”

Smiling and enjoying her girls deeply involved in imaginative play, “little people,” art projects, Barbies, board games, sewing doll clothes all over the living and dining rooms.

Picking us up from school at all hours of the early morning and late at night in the Ford LTD.

Long talks while cooking dinner.

 Ham and beans, steak and gravy, chicken in the electric skillet and gravy.

“Almost everything on the dinner table came from our garden.”

Perms at home at the kitchen table.

Reading books, Kearney Library, Smithville library

New recipe books with handwritten recipes.

Dying eggs for Easter.

Waiting for me to come home from work late because we had a water fight: “You should have called.”

“Merle, do you want to split a beer?”

Planting flowers, picking weeds, mowing.

Visiting SMS on parent day, meeting Don, “I can tell he likes her.”

Bowling and surprising everyone and beating Don every time.

4th of July parties, baked beans, pies and potato salad.

Taking grandma to the grocery store.

Having a “talk” with the teachers about senior skip day.

Encouraging Elyce to hand out candy with Grandpa on Halloween. Elyce saying, “I’m going to tell my mom,” “You know that I am your mom’s mom?”

Always having a pie ready when we visit, eating it for breakfast.

“I have some homemade cookies.”

“I taught your dad to make cookies.”

Pictures on the refrigerator.

The Matriarch of the family.


Smaks for hamburgers, fries and walking around Northtown.

Some guy ‘whistling’ at you while we walked around North Kansas City, after eating our Smaks hamburgers; you laughed and made a cute remark (you were in your 20s – what a hot Mom-ma)

Teaching me fun tunes like “Chickerey Chick Cha-La Cha-La”… while we drove down A-Highway.

Singing in the kitchen … your fondness for Tom Jones, Placido Domingo and other classics! Your singing always lightened up my mood.

Braiding my hair.

Meeting me at the front door ever day after the Kindergarten bus dropped me off; letting me check the mail. Fluffing it off when the bus driver scolded me for going to the mailbox too soon after she discharged me.

Tuning into Captain Kangaroo after Susan/Janet went to school.

Letting me help you with your perms; rinsing your hair for you; putting rollers in my doll, Patricia’s hair to give her a perm, too.

Encouraging me to sit on the couch, with you sitting on the floor in front, so I could comb and fix your hair—it felt good for you, and I loved playing hairdresser!

Bringing Kathy to my 1st grade class for show-and-tell!

Planting marigolds.

“Encouraging us girls” to pick green beans or strawberries; or snap beans when you brought them inside.

Colorado and Branson trips … then trekking all over Europe.

Canning dill pickles … everyone loved them.

Always, always encouraging me to write.

Fried chicken and mashed potatoes … preparing my favorite meal for me even after I moved out and came home for visits.

Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and a robust glass of milk for lunch several days a week when I worked in Liberty at In Plant Management Association.

Having the tough conversations with your daughters (particularly me) because you care about us.

Introducing us to The Sound of Music … and having that wonderful album, along with several other melodious tunes always available to inspire on the HiFi.

Laughing it up, expressing your unique humor and sipping on wine with your daughters one Christmas while we made jewelry with Kathy’s jewelry making stash.

Recipes for salmon patties (now Rob’s favorite) and vegetable pizza.

Red lipstick.

Never saying ‘no’ to babysitting Louie – letting him jump up into your chair.

Always making me feel welcome, any time, through the ‘thick and thin’ of life.

Worrying about me.

Letting me worry about you, at least a little bit.

Cheering me on as a business woman, “You are worth the premium investment by any customer.”

Encouraging me to grow my mind and my confidence.

You’re a Leo, and Dad’s a Virgo; Rob’s a Leo, and I’m a Virgo – this somehow makes things make more sense to me – via you, I feel I ‘get’ Rob’s personality a little more, and vice versa : )

Your mother always seems to be very lady like. She’s always very proper to make sure everything is ‘just so,’ and when she speaks her opinion she is never disrespectful. <– This one’s from Rob

Saying, “You just need a hug,” and embracing me with your love one day, when I was single and feeling a bit lost.

Your intelligence and wit … and your willingness to weather the storms and inspire hope. You gave me the gift of hope; that’s the greatest gift of all to me. Love you.


When I think of my mom many memories come to mind:  baking cookies, her waiting up without fail until I came home at night…no matter how late, the fact that she suffered through shopping with me during my teen years, home-cooked meals, working in the garden, sharing her love of reading, modeling a good marriage and setting my standards high for my future spouse.

While all of those things are wonderful and I appreciate the time and sacrifice that she gave; the one prevalent thought that I keep going back to is that when I think of my mom I instantly feel loved.  Without fail her eyes light up when I enter the room and she always makes it clear that she is proud of me. I can’t think of a greater gift that one person can give another.  From time to time she will fret over small things that maybe she could have done differently as a mother. Being a mother now myself, I know how easy it is to get caught up in wanting to do everything perfectly for my child.  But what really matters most and is my greatest prayer is that my son feels as much love and acceptance as I experienced and still experience from my mother.


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