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Published: Friday, 7/11/2003

Active area teacher had 56-year career

Helen M. Barnhart, a longtime teacher who found great pleasure in helping others, died Tuesday in St. Luke's Hospital. She was 86 and had suffered from cancer and a stroke.

Born in New Carlisle, Ohio, Ms. Barnhart earned a bachelor's degree from Manchester College in North Manchester, Ind., and began her 56-year teaching career in Springfield, Ohio, in 1938.

After moving to Toledo in 1947, she taught at Scott High School and then Whitney Vocational High School, where she taught diet and nutrition, according to Dorothy Simpson, a friend for 43 years.

Her main hobbies were helping people and reading the Bible, Mrs. Simpson said.

“She was a busy woman. She was always doing something,” she said. “If somebody needed to go to the grocery store or to the doctor, she took them. If somebody needed medicine, even at night, she would take them to the pharmacy. She would house-sit for people who were on vacation.”

In 1967, Ms. Barnhart enrolled at the University of Toledo and earned a degree in education, developmental and special needs, then taught mentally disabled children at Larc Lane School until retiring in 1994.

She decided to teach mentally disabled children because she had many friends whose children were disabled, Mrs. Simpson said.

“She found it very rewarding. And she was very busy when she went back to school because she was working during the day and going to school at night. And she never missed church.”

A member of Heatherdowns Church of the Brethren, Ms. Barnhart was active in the choir and taught adult Sunday school classes.

“She would go to the library and take out three or four books on the subject she was going to teach on,” Mrs. Simpson said. “Plus she had an awful lot of books that she had bought. She would work for a week when she was going to teach a Sunday school class.”

Even though she retired from teaching in 1994, Ms. Barnhart was very active until she became ill in May, Mrs. Simpson said.

“There was hardly a day when she was not in the car, taking people to the grocery store.”

Surviving is her brother, Galen Barnhart.

A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 24 at Heatherdowns Church of the Brethren, with a potluck dinner to follow.

The family requests tributes to the church.

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