A Story of Two Lives:
Paul Barnett and Ruth Meyer Barnett
(Long Lives, Long Story!)
Paul Cosby Barnett was the first child born to Rev. Roy E. and Clara (Cosby) Barnett in Goodland, Indiana on June 22, 1921. The years to follow brought siblings Robert, Martha, and Ruth, and a move to Hastings, Nebraska, where they lived for several years. Paul attended school in Hastings through 8th grade. He found his first camera in a trash bin, and was delighted to find that it worked: it was the beginning of a lifelong career in photography. As a youngster, he collected tools and loved to build and fix things -- activities that also became lifelong passions.
In the midwest in the 1930s, the Great Depression was compounded by the Dust Bowl, making it difficult for a pastor and his family to make ends meet. The Barnetts decided to move west, and accepted a new pastorate at the First Baptist Church in Twin Falls, Idaho . . .
Ruth Minelle Meyer was born to James E. and Vivian (Bouchelle) Meyer in Buhl, Idaho on November 25, 1922, third daughter after Wanda and Wilda (Deeda). Her brother, Jim, followed 12 years later. Ruth attended elementary and high school in Buhl, also during the Depression years. She was active in tumbling, drama, and other school activities — and she often spoke of the many hours she spent after school in her aunt’s beauty shop, listening to conversations and dashing out to the dime store for treats. The Meyers were very involved with the Northern Baptist Church family — including the regional summer youth camp in Ketchum, in the foothills of the Sawtooth Mountains, which she attended during her high school years. It was here that she met Paul Barnett — son of Pastor Roy Barnett, whose family had moved to Twin Falls from the midwest.
Living in different towns in Idaho, Paul and Ruth dated other people during these years, often going on the same regional youth group outings but with different partners. It was during those occasions that they recognized that they shared the same quirky sense of humor . . . and that they saw something special in each other.
When Paul went off to Linfield in 1939, he asked Ruth if she would write to him (she was still in high school). She answered, Yes, if you’ll write back to me! They corresponded that year and the next. Paul became Linfield’s school photographer and worked on the yearbook, the Oak Leaves. In 1942 it won a prize — national recognition for small colleges in the U.S. — because of the photography. It was a great honor for him. Ruth entered Linfield in 1941 — and for that one academic year, Ruth and Paul “went steady.” Ruth majored in home economics and had visions of having her own interior design business one day . . .
But World War II intervened in 1942, cutting short the formal education years for both of them and altering the course of their relationship. That summer, awaiting military duty, Paul got a job with Photo Art Studios. Ruth found work as a secretary for the war effort — at Willamette Ironworks, a Portland shipyard — and in November of 1942, the young couple announced their engagement. Paul had joined the Navy’s Construction Battalion as a Photographer’s Mate, but was later accepted for officer’s training and in 1943 was sent to Northwestern University in Evanston, IL. Ruth got a job transfer from her Portland company to Evanston, where she lived in a YWCA with a roommate. She and Paul talked by phone every day and got together on weekends, taking the train to Chicago to shop and walk along Lake Michigan. It was there that Ruth planned their wedding for May 9, 1944, three days after Paul would be commissioned as an officer. Travel was very difficult in wartime; her parents could not come out from Idaho, but Paul’s father, Pastor Roy, took the train from Butte, Montana to marry them at the Methodist Chapel at Northwestern. Paul’s next assignment was in Providence — but with a surprise 10-day leave, they took a serendipitous honeymoon to Niagara Falls. Their first home was an apartment in Providence, where they lived for three months before his orders took the couple to California to await active duty. But the “duty” didn’t materialize for a year! So even amidst a World War, the newlyweds had a relatively calm first year together. Paul’s battalion shipped out to Okinawa in June of 1945, but by the time it arrived, The Bomb and the Japanese surrender had happened, and the War was over.
While Paul remained on Okinawa as Personnel Officer, discharging other men and taking hundreds of photos of the evidence of war, the landscapes, the people, and the occasional tornadoes, Ruth went back to Portland and found the couple an apartment on SE Knight Street — the first of their three homes and 72 years in Portland. When Paul returned, he went back to work for Photo Art Studios, working on commercial, industrial, and retail advertising sets. Ruth set up housekeeping, and they began their post-war life together. It was during these years that they became members of First Baptist Church, and were among the founding members of the Christian Homemakers Class. In 1949 Linda was born, and in 1952 they bought a house on SW Texas Street. Eric was born in 1956 and the kids attended Maplewood School. Paul set up a full shop in the basement at Texas St., teaching 4-H woodworking classes. He also pursued his lifelong passion for high fidelity audio equipment, building his “system” from the best components he could afford and surrounding it with hand-made cabinetry. Ruth, meanwhile, put her home economics training to good use, beautifying the home environment, planting trees and flowers in their new yard, preparing household budgets and weekly menus and meals, sewing all of Linda’s clothes and teaching her the ways of fabric, and attending to the
dizzying concerns of child-rearing day in and day out.
In 1962, when Linda and Eric were 12 and 5, the Barnetts moved to a larger home on Lobelia Street in the Multnomah district. This would become the couple’s home of 50 years — a place that was so much more than just a home. It was their joy to repair, remodel and improve its many features as they could afford each new project; the large corner lot became a personal park to landscape with trees, shrubs and flowers, new walkways and fences, and food for the birds and the squirrels of the giant maple; a place to adorn at Christmas with lights and at Halloween with spookiness. It was spacious enough for holiday family gatherings, for Paul’s expanding woodshop and elaborate
sound system; for Ruth’s sewing and cooking and decorating flair; a secure and loving place for the whole family. The sounds of news and music from the kitchen radio and TV, and of jazz, classical and choral music from Dad’s big speakers filled the environment daily. Ruth’s green thumb (and ceaseless weeding!) turned the big yard at Lobelia Street into a lush and magnificent landscape of green lawns, multi-colored azaleas and rhodies,
roses and dogwood and maples, backed by the stately old birch and fir trees behind the
house. Annuals and ferns adorned every unpopulated niche.
Paul worked for Photo Art Studios for 31 years, and in the 1970s was invited to join the Viewmaster staff. He worked as a stereo photographer and became involved with helping the artists build sets for the stories, and later created some stereo-art drawings using his own system — no software! Every day he rode his bicycle the eight hilly miles to and from the Viewmaster building in Tigard. He retired in 1991. Family was always primary for both Paul and Ruth: visits, vacations and holidays, correspondence and communications with parents, brothers and sisters and cousins and all the kids were a matter of daily priority. “Family” always meant “best friends” for the Barnetts. Their church life was also a foundation of their lives together: Paul and Ruth were both very active at First Baptist and lifelong members of the Christian Homemakers. They attended
services three times a week and participated in a variety of other ways: Paul sang in the choir, provided photography for various projects, recorded services and concerts, and offered his wood-craftmanship whenever possible. Ruth was active in several circles,
groups and committees, serving as secretary for the Missions Committee, and was ever-vigilant in the Prayer Chain. The Church was their home away from home; the foundation of their spiritual lives and social activities, their first resource for help and guidance in all matters of daily life. Their faith was unwavering throughout their many years.
They left their Lobelia Street home in 2013 when they moved to Markham House for their final years. They are dearly loved and will be greatly missed — today we celebrate their lives as models of goodness, creativity, humor, and love.
* Amen! *