Barnes retiring from Jeff. County Extension Service after 47 years

by Dennis Sharkey

For more than 47 years Betty Barnes has been a part of the Jefferson County Extension Service District. Barnes’, who is retiring, last day was Friday.

Barnes never thought she would be with the district, now known as the Meadowlark Extension, 47 years later when she arrived on her first day July 1, 1964.

Betty Barnes 4-H

Betty Barnes sits at her desk where she has answered phones and helped 4-H families for more than 47 years. Photo by Dennis Sharkey

“The only difference is back then we were called secretaries,” Barnes said. “Now we’re called office professionals.”

Barnes is a self-described “farm-girl” and grew up on a farm about 10 miles north of Holton. Her parents were leaders in the Jackson County 4-H groups. The competition and lifestyle were ingrained in her early.

1964 was also the year that Barnes got married and an opening at the Oskaloosa district office seemed like a good fit. She was hired by former extension agent Art Johnson whom she learned a lot from.

“I always said I would never be here longer than Art,” Barnes said about her first boss who spent nearly 40 years with the district. “I surpassed him.”

Barnes has worked with only a handful of agents over the years because most people who come to work for the district do not leave. She believes the relationships she was able to develop led to her longevity.

Working close to home has its advantages and Barnes says the district office has always let her off when she needed time with her family.

“I had a good working relationship with Art and the other agents,” Barnes said. “It’s not always about the money.”

Barnes said those who work within 4-H spend so much time together they become close.

“They’re really kind of like your family,” Barnes said. “You probably spend more time with them.”

Barnes has seen many transformations throughout the years from the days of manual typewriters and Dictaphones to computers and the Internet.

“It was a delight when we got electric typewriters,” she said.

Although computers have made life easier and nearly everyone knows how to use one, Barnes says in the early days of computers that was not the case. She said every program had to be manually entered into the computers and was very cumbersome.

“I would not want to go back to them,” she said. “That was a nightmare.”

Barnes believes her 47 plus years with the district have been a learning experience that she probably would not have gotten at other jobs.

“You get an education here without realizing it or having to pay the tuition,” she said. “You learn a little bit of everything.”

Her best memories from her time in 4-H is the hot August days and nights at the Jefferson County Fair and getting to visit with friends and 4-H families.

“Seeing the kids come running up and saying, ‘I got a blue (ribbon),’ I’m going to miss that,” she said. “There’s a lot of great 4-H families that you become friends with.”

Barnes will also see some changes in her personal life. For the first time she is moving to town. Currently she lives east of Valley Falls but she and her husband have purchased a home in Valley Falls. She expects renovations at the new home will keep her busy along with quilting and scrap-booking.

Barnes is also looking forward to spending more time with her family that is spread out across the country. Her daughter and 10-year-old granddaughter both live in Maryland. Her son, Chad, is expecting a boy this coming year and lives in California.

A reception is being held for Barnes from 2-4 p.m. this Sunday, Jan. 8, at the Kendall State Bank Community Hall in Valley Falls.

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