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Banker ends 21-year career

As she contemplates her retirement next week, the long-time area banker embraces the future while cherishing the past.

Wednesday, October 20, 1999

As she contemplates her retirement next week, the long-time area banker embraces the future while cherishing the past.

"Al and I will both walk out on Oct. 29," she said with a wistful catch in her voice. Her husband, Al Barr, also is retiring on that same day. He has spent 35 years with the U.S. Postal Services and is retiring as postmaster of the Ironton office.

The couple has contemplated early retirement for several years, Mrs. Barr said as she leaned forward intently at her desk. She has been employed in banking in Lawrence County for the past 21 years, beginning with First National and following with that institution’s subsequent incarnations as Star Bank and Firstar. For the past seven years, she has served as manager of the bank’s Jones Street location in Ironton.

"It’s time," she said of their decision. "We both have our health, so it is time for us to get on with the next stage of our lives.

"We both have been blessed with really nice jobs. I know mine has been wonderful. Of course, I will miss everybody, especially the customers. They are my friends."

Her trademark smile and warmth fill Firstar’s Jones Street branch, with customers frequently drawn to her door just to bask in the genuine affection she offers to all.

"I’m going to miss you," said one customer as she gave Mrs. Barr a spontaneous hug. "I don’t know how I’m going to get along without you. In my time of trouble, you were there."

Another hug prolongs the moment as tears well up for the friends who began their relationship as banker and customer.

"I have a computer, so I will keep in touch with Lawrence County through The Tribune’s web page," Mrs. Barr said. "I know I will still worry about people here and wonder what has happened to them.

"This really has been more than just a job. These people are part of me and will be for the rest of my life."

The Barrs are constructing a home near U.S. 52 mid-way between Lawrence County and Cincinnati. They are doing much of the work themselves. Once they retire, they hope to have it completed within two months.

Several years ago, they purchased a motor home, which currently serves as their residence while working on the house during the weekends.

Whether construction is complete or not, the couple plan to lock the door, pack up the motor home and head to Florida for the winter. They will stay near Tampa as they begin what Mrs. Barr calls their pursuit of America.

Mr. and Mrs. Barr have long been one of the area’s staunchest supporters of The Ohio State University Buckeyes. During football season, the two spend their weekends traveling to games in Columbus as well as those much farther afield

"Because of Ohio State football, we have gotten to see much of the country, but we have flown everywhere," Mrs. Barr explained. "Now, we want to see what this beautiful country looks like from the ground."

In addition to trips across the country, she plans to spend more time with her grown children – Kevin and Lisa, who live in Cincinnati, and Chris, who lives in Lawrence County – as well as her 91-year-old mother, who lives in Mrs. Barr’s hometown of Mount Vernon. She also has a twin sister who lives in Cincinnati. The Barrs also have seven grandchildren, one of whom plays football in the Green school system.

"My mother still lives by herself, so I want to spend time with her," she said, smiling at the thought of having time to help her mother with shopping and other activities. "I have a wonderful mother – she’s really a nice person. Both of Al’s parents have passed away, so it is important for me to be with her."

While many know Mrs. Barr from her familiar spot at Firstar’s Jones Street branch, she has made her mark in the community through her volunteer work with the Ironton Business Association. She served as president of the organization for several years as well as chaired the group’s Christmas parade for eight years.

"I remember the first Christmas parade I chaired," she laughed. "It started raining from daylight through evening. We had all these floats planned, and a number of bands were scheduled to play. The rain prevented almost everything.

"The IBA figured I would never chair the parade again, but I was determined to do it again until I got it right."

One of her fondest memories is of the year she actually was able to ride in the parade instead of just watching from the sidelines with a clipboard in hand.

"That was a thrill," she said. "I just love parades of all types."

Mrs. Barr is undaunted by the changes retirement will bring. In fact, she is invigorated by the opportunity to do new things and experience new sights.

"This may not be what we like, but we want to try," she said. "I am excited, but it will be different. This will give me the opportunity to catch up on my reading, but there also is so much volunteer work out there that needs to be done. I can always do that."

For those who would like to keep in touch with Mrs. Barr, her email address is bear1@zoomnet.net.

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Firstar will hold a special reception in honor of Mrs. Barr on Thursday, Oct. 21, 4:30-6 p.m., at the Jones Street office, 2301 S. Third St. The public is invited to attend.