January 15, 2013

Feature obituary: John Barker, 82, accountant who gave back generously

By Melanie Creamer mcreamer@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – John Barker, who spent his career in finance and accounting at S.D. Warren Paper Co. and headed numerous boards for organizations such as Maine Medical Center, United Way of Greater Portland, and Woodfords Congregational Church, died early Sunday after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. He was 82.

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John and Roberta Barker


Each day the newsroom selects one obituary and seeks to learn more about the life of a person who has lived and worked in Maine. We look for a person who has made a mark on the community or the person's family and friends in lasting ways.

Mr. Barker was a longtime accountant for S.D. Warren, now known as Sappi Fine Paper North America. He worked there for 38 years and retired as financial accounting manager in 1991.

He was remembered by his family on Tuesday as a respected, organized and hard-working guy, who thrived on pressure in the workplace.

"Financial management was right up his alley," said his wife, Roberta Barker, of Portland. "He enjoyed the work. He was a very precise man. Everything went as he planned it. He even wrote his own obituary."

Mr. Barker grew up in Portland and graduated from Deering High School in 1948.

He attended Bowdoin College and graduated in 1952. He received his master's degree in business administration in 1954.

Mr. Barker used his knowledge in finance to contribute to numerous organizations and nonprofits in the Portland area. He was a corporator and president of the board of trustees of the former Children's Hospital. He served as an ex-officio trustee at Maine Medical Center from 1970 to 1982. He was a corporator of MaineHealth.

In the 1970s, Mr. Barker chaired the budget and allocations committee for United Way of Greater Portland and served on its board of directors and executive committee.

In 1979, he was appointed to the Portland Planning Board, where he served for 11 years.

He was also a longtime member of Woodfords Congregational Church, where he served on the board of trustees and other committees.

His daughter, Anne MacConnell of Scarborough, said he was dedicated to the church and his community.

"He always believed in giving back," MacConnell said. "He was always very dedicated. He believed in doing the right thing. ... Whatever he focused on was always in the forefront."

Though his volunteer work was a big part of his life, nothing overshadowed his love for his family.

He was married to his wife for 50 years. The couple raised three children.

His wife reminisced Tuesday about their vacations in Florida and Arizona, and the excursions they made throughout New England.

A highlight of their lives was spending summers at the family camp on Sebago Lake. His wife talked about the eight-hole golf course they built there, complete with holes made of empty cans of cat food and tuna fish.

"Whenever we had company, that was the top of activity," his wife said. "We had a lot of fun with it."

Mr. Barker had a 10-year battle with Parkinson's. Of late, he was living at The Cedars in Portland. A few weeks ago, he developed pneumonia.

His wife expressed her appreciation for the care he received there, giving special recognition to Misty Seeley and Jeanne Swett.


Staff Writer Melanie Creamer can be contacted at 791-6361 or at:



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