Geneva Lee Davis Barton Eulogy
Presented by Caye Smith (daughter)
Geneva Barton’s Memorial Service
September 27, 2020
Geneva Lee Davis Barton was born August 22, 1936 in Holly Springs Arkansas. Don’t consult your atlas or GPS as Holly Springs was so rural that it did not enjoy a spot on the map. Geneva’s parents farmed a small plot of land which was home to her parents, John and Myrtle, her paternal grandmother, Laura and eventually two younger siblings, Richard and Charles. She started first grade in a one room schoolhouse at the age of five and was perpetually a year younger than her peers. After many frustrating years of poor crops due to drought and lack of irrigation, Geneva’s father packed the family and household into a pickup truck when she was seven years old and headed west to the Golden State of California. Geneva recalled sleeping in the back of the truck at the side of the road and hearing coyotes howl as they smelled her mother cooking a simple meal over a wood burning fire. The family’s relocation took place during WWII when many commodities were rationed Geneva’s father bartered the family’s rationing coupons in order to obtain enough gas to make the journey. Upon arriving in Selma, John and Myrtle immediately found work in the fruit canneries which also provided housing. The entire family of six lived for a time in a one room home, part of a company owned town. Three years after settling in Selma, a youngest daughter, Janice, joined the Davis family.
Geneva’s mother described her as a lively child, a description that was apt throughout her life. She was chatty, had a quick laugh, made friends easily, enjoyed school – especially the social aspects and was active in Bible Club and her local Nazarene Church. She was taller than one would expect from medium height parents and she carried herself with confidence. Her father taught her to drive at the age of twelve and she was often the chauffeur for family and friends throughout her teen years. When asked later in life why her friends’ parents allowed them to ride with an unlicensed underaged driver, she just shrugged and laughed, ‘I don’t know, they just trusted me.’ The teen years were also foundational for Geneva’s work ethic. She babysat from a young age and started working at a soda fountain at the age of 13. Soon thereafter, she was managing her shift at the fountain. Brother Richard recently commented regarding her leadership and administrative abilities: ‘Geneva always knew how to direct the bus!’ Her family purchased a small raisin farm outside of town when she was in high school. In the hot Central Valley summers, it was considered appropriate for a young woman to wear Bermuda shorts, sleeveless blouses and open toed sandals; Geneva also spent her hard-earned money on coveted cashmere sweaters, saddle shoes, and bright lipstick. She and best friend Alma planned to attend Pasadena College after high school graduation.
The fall of 1952 found Geneva packing a heading south to Pasadena College. She studied Home Economics and earned a teaching credential. She worked full time throughout college and still graduated in four years. Between semesters she enjoyed working on the world famous Rose Parade floats. Conservative Pasadena College cramped her style a bit, as shorts, sleeveless blouses, open-toed shoes and bright lipstick were against the code of conduct. In later years, Geneva would laugh as she recounted dressing ‘against the code,’ putting on a long coat to cover her attire, and sneaking out of the dorm for an evening off campus. She and her friend often shared a single tube of bright lipstick. She thought it amusing when one or two friends would be called to the office of the Dean of Women for reprimand of the lipstick when at least half a dozen friends were all wearing the same color! A full-time academic load and full-time work did not deter Geneva’s social life; she also had time for plenty of dating and other socializing. Her dating life came to a screeching halt after she caught the eye of pre-med student Dave Barton. On their first date, he took her to see the Ice Capades. They married a year later and were inseparable in love, mission and purpose until eight days ago when Geneva passed from the embrace of her beloved husband, Dave, and into the arms of her Lord.
Geneva taught junior high home economics and supported the family while Dave attended medical school at UCLA. In Dave’s second year of medical school, a daughter, yours truly (Catherine Ann), joined the family. In those days, a woman could not teach if she was visibly pregnant, so Geneva resigned her teaching position and worked in her father-in-laws’s dental office. She increased his practice many fold by calling patients and offering the appointments. Dave’s father and Geneva always had a special relationship of love and mutual admiration. A son, Kevin David, was born a few years later. When Dave’s internship in Riverside was finished, he was afforded an opportunity to serve at a Nazarene hospital in Swaziland, Africa. The woman who had never been on a plane in her life, readily packed her three-year-old and four-month-old, boarded a plane, traveled through Europe and settled in Swaziland for a year of service and adventure.
Geneva and Dave put down roots in Riverside and developed deep friendships and ties within the Arlington Avenue Church of the Nazarene. Geneva had the heat of a servant, which came into full bloom in service to the church and to those the Lord placed within her sphere of influence. She had gifts of hospitality, administration and cleaning the church kitchen. She thought cleaning the church kitchen was actually a fruit of the spirit which she demonstrated in abundance, often conscripting others into service. Long time friend, Eula Askew recently share, ‘I tell people that all I know about church work, I learned from Geneva Barton.’ She had a special heart for missions and served many years as Missionary President of her local church. If Geneva had a life verse, it would have been, James 1:22, ‘But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only.’ She was always a doer, a person who demonstrated love through action.
This life review would not be complete without acknowledging Geneva’s unswerving commitment to her family. As a surgeon, Dave’s schedule was erratic and Geneva carried most of the responsibilities of home life for the family. She never complained when a surgical emergency interrupted family plans and she managed the complexities of family life with grace. She enjoyed her children, often commenting that she had the perfect family, complete with a ‘number one daughter and a number one son.’ Our home always welcomed our friends and hosted more youth group pool parties than one can count. When Caye and Kevin married, Geneva loved their spouses. When we started families, she was delighted and spent time in our homes after the birth of each baby. In total, she welcomed eleven grandchildren into our family and she lived to witness the birth of six great-grandchildren.
Nine and one-half years ago, Geneva suffered a brain aneurysm which left her profoundly disabled. Dave became her full-time caregiver. For five years, Geneva and Dave were on an extended honeymoon, joyful that Geneva had been given a second chance at life. For the past five years, her descent into dementia has been steady and unrelenting, eventually taking her life eight days ago. With restored body and mind, she is now in the presence of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Geneva was preceded in death by her parents, grandson Scott, and son-in-law Bruce. She is survived by her husband, children and daughter-in-law, ten grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren.
I don’t know if heaven has a kitchen, but if so, she is already busy cleaning it.