AFTER SPENDING MUCH TIME AS A DEVOTED VOLUNTEER, JANET BARNES HAS HELPED TEXARKANA BECOME A BETTER PLACE TO LIVE
by LINDSEY MCMILLAN
Throughout her many years living in Texarkana, there aren’t many volunteer avenues that Janet Barnes hasn’t traveled upon. Her list of contributions and service to the community is quite extensive and there are countless people who recall Janet with a smile and a story to share. Her dedication toward helping others comes naturally, and she continues such service without expecting anything in return. She exudes energy as she recalls her many years helping Texarkana become a better place to live.
Born in Kilgore, Texas, Janet grew up the oldest of seven children. Her father worked with the Atlantic Pipeline Company, and the family moved frequently across the central part of Texas throughout her childhood. After graduating from Evant High School, Janet was living in Marshall when she met her husband, Melvin. At the time he was a student at East Texas Baptist University, and she was working in a five & dime store downtown. She and Melvin shared 59 years of marriage before his passing in 2011. They made their home in Shreveport and Bossier City where he was completing his education at Centenary College, and she was enrolled in business school.
The year 1957 brought the couple to Fouke, Arkansas, where Melvin accepted a teaching position. A year later, they moved to Texarkana, and Melvin began his long career with the Texarkana Independent School District serving as a history teacher for many years. He served as the first principal of Kennedy Elementary School, and after retirement, continued teaching history on campuses in the Texarkana Arkansas School District. They had one daughter, Carolyn Walker, who still lives in Texarkana, and Janet enjoys three grown grandchildren and three great- grandchildren. Photos of her smiling family adorn many frames in her house, alongside her many awards and other achievements.
After nine years working with a public accountant, Janet began her career with the Texarkana Gazette in 1966. Throughout her almost 48 years there, she served as their Office Manager and head of Accounting. She witnessed many changes and happy times during her tenure at the paper, including a close friendship she had with the owners, the Palmer and Hussman families. She remains in touch still with many former coworkers and shares many happy memories of being part of a paper which serves as the heartbeat of the Texarkana community.
Much of her volunteering first stemmed from the Gazette and its outreach into many nonprofit organizations. One in particular is the United Way of Greater Texarkana and the Walk America events benefitting the March of Dimes that Janet and friends participated in for many years. For several years, she was the Walk’s top participant recruiter and raised the most money for the Gazette’s team. She remained involved serving on March of Dimes committees for 15 years. Other organizations Janet became involved in included the American Red Cross, Bowie-Cass Adult Cooperative Advisory Council, Leadership Texarkana, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Texarkana Museums System. In fact, Janet is a recipient of the Texarkana Chamber’s Golden Scissors Award for 10 consecutive years and was a nominee in 1993 for the prestigious Wilbur Award. In 1996, she was awarded the Idalee Hawkins Leader of the Year award given annually to a Leadership Texarkana graduate exemplifying service to others. Her longtime service to the YWCA on the board of directors and as president brought valuable speakers and attention to women in the Texarkana community.
Janet was very proud to complete her Bachelor of Applied Arts & Science degree in 1986 from East Texas State University, now Texas A&M University- Texarkana. She was involved in the Alumni Association from the very beginning, serving on their first board of directors in 1991 and is the 2018 recipient of the Pioneer Award in which TAMU-T recognizes its alumni involvement in civic service.
The list of her volunteer awards and
accolades is quite long and is notably
intertwined with her many years as a
Gazette employee. One of her most
proud accomplishments was helping
to design and build the Gazette’s float
for the annual Christmas parade where
they earned first place for two years.
Janet’s involvement with the parade
extended to her subsequently serving
on the Christmas Float Committee.
She was honored as the 1994 Texarkana Gazette Employee of the Year, and more recently in 2017, received the Gazette’s Reader’s Choice Award for Volunteer of the Year. Janet was an honored member of International Newspaper Financial Executives (INFE) since 1980 and very active on different committees before joining their board of directors in 1991. She was in fact only one of two women on the INFE board at that time. When asked about her many years spent at the Gazette she recalls being a part of something special and innovative: “I always enjoyed doing something to help the morale of the employees.”
Retirement in 2014 did not slow her down. In fact, she remains as active as ever in her volunteer efforts working in the CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System gift shop several days a week and continuing her longtime service to her congregation at Apostolic Tabernacle as both Secretary/Treasurer and Sunday school teacher. As if she doesn’t stay busy enough with enjoying family and reconnecting with friends, Janet also is quite accomplished at crochet, embroidery, and ceramics.
Janet is a living example of how dedication and service to others keeps one young at heart.