Sarah Esther Gillette Smith Barbour, known as Queen to all she met, slipped quietly away February 4, 2015 from the earthly bonds of today and into the peaceful rest of forever, at her home in Garner, NC. Her loving husband, Jerry, was at her side.
Queen was born in Orson, Iowa, August 11, 1924 to Walter and Mabel Gillette. The last of 8 children, she was raised in Missouri Valley, Iowa and graduated from the Missouri Valley High School in 1941. Queen was a champion swimmer and was a devotee of water sports all her life. She got the nickname Queen when she was chosen as Queen Esther by the Missouri Valley Chapter of the Eastern Star. She was a proud trombone player in her high school’s national championship year and was a starting player on their basketball team that placed second in the Iowa state championships of 1940-41.
Shortly after the beginning of WWII, Queen joined the FBI and moved to Washington, D.C. where she was a Dictaphone operator transcribing classified conversations for that agency. The birth of a daughter, Susan Jane, in 1944 brought Queen great and everlasting joy.
She met the late Merl Dare Smith, Jr. in St. Louis, Missouri in 1945, fell in love and married the “love of her life” 7 days later. That life and marriage then took Queen to Waterloo, NY and the birth of a son, Leland Dare, in 1946. She and Dare moved to Florida in 1948 and bought the El Patio drive-in restaurant in Bradenton. In 1954, having sold the restaurant, she and her family moved to Cherry Creek, NY.
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In Cherry Creek, Queen was active in village activities ranging from organizing church bake sales and ice cream socials, to teaching swimming at the local high school. She was known throughout the area as always smiling and always having fun.
When Queen’s husband, Dare, went to work for IBM, they moved to Lancaster, NY where, again, she was active in local activities and most prominently in Eastern Star. Always active in Eastern Star, she mentored countless young women and is today known throughout the country by many who she counseled and advised.
In 1975, IBM moved Queen and Dare to Research Triangle Park and Cary, NC. The following years saw Queen do as she always had done, namely participate in the community as a volunteer and friend to all she met. Her volunteer service at Wake Medical Center was counted in the thousands of hours and she became a fixture in the family waiting room of the hospital comforting and guiding the countless families she encountered. When he retired, Dare joined her and they volunteered at Wake Medical as a team for several years. She was devoted and constantly by his side until his death on February 6, 1992.
Following Dare’s death, Queen and her new dog, Fritz, travelled the country visiting family and friends for nearly 2 years while she decided her next move in life. Returning to her home in Raleigh she and the family’s hospice volunteer, Thelma Medlin, became dear friends and companions. Soon thereafter, Thelma introduced Queen to Jerry Barbour of Garner. It was a new and wonderful love and even though Jerry swore, in his own inimitable way, that he had no interest in “anything serious”, the two of them were thoroughly smitten and were married the following year.
For the next 20 years, Queen and Jerry roamed the United States from coast to coast and everything in-between visiting family, friends and never passing a slot machine without dropping a nickle. They were inseparable and saw nearly all there was to see. While all of the traveling was wonderful, what Queen loved more than anything was fishing. Be it a lake, a pond, a river, the ocean or a puddle, Queen wanted to drop a line and see what she could catch. She and Jerry, who is an avid fisherman as well, would travel as far as Florida, South Carolina, Virginia and of course the lakes and rivers of North Carolina in search of the next big catch. She never seemed to tire. When Jerry would suggest they head home, Queen would invariably say, “One more throw, just one more.” Often this would go on for another hour.
Her church family was very important to Queen and Hocutt Baptist Church in Clayton saw her in her usual role as volunteer and teacher. She and her dear friend, Debra Benson taught pre-schoolers for over 15 years and it is not an overstatement to say that none of those children will ever forget ‘Miss Baba’. To other church family she was the lady in the hats with the ever-present smile. No one will ever forget her ongoing joy and generosity.
Her son sums up Queen’s life by telling what she repeatedly told him she wanted on her headstone. She’d say, “I don’t want any of the usual stuff; I only want 3 words: She Had Fun!” And for Queen, the glass was always half-full, it was easier to smile than to frown and she had fun.
Queen is survived by her loving husband, Jerry; her devoted son, Leland; her dearest daughter, Susan; grandchildren, Eric, Brett, Timothy, Nathan and Sarah and great grandchildren, Sydney, Ethan, Harvey, Margaret and Meredith. She will be deeply missed by all.
A memorial service is scheduled for the 21st of February at 11a.m. at Hocutt Baptist Church in Clayton, NC.
In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to Hocutt Baptist Church, 314 W. Horne St., Clayton, NC 27520 or to Liberty Hospice of Raleigh, 3200 Spring Forest Road, Ste. 201, Raleigh, NC 27616
Condolences to bryan-leefuneralhome.com.