Wayne Barker born on August 11th, 1946 in New Bedford, MA. His parents were Ernest and Hazel Barker. Wayne attended and graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Dartmouth with a B.S. in textile science. Wayne worked briefly at Firestone before being drafted into the US Army. He served in the Republic of Vietnam from June of 1969 until being honorably discharged in August of 1970. Wayne was assigned to Company B, 3D Battalion, 21st Infantry, 196th Infantry Brigade. For valorous actions performed in a firefight on November 21st, 1969, Wayne was awarded the Bronze Star. He also received a purple heart for wounds he sustained during the same firefight. After his discharge, Wayne returned to the textile industry, holding positions at Amerbelle Textiles in CT and Vertipile in MA. In 1985, Wayne became an Assistant Professor of Textiles at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NY. Wayne was a beloved professor whose teachings included basic textiles, dyeing, printing, and finishing. Wayne worked passionately until his retirement in 2010. In 1992, Wayne married Jill Mowry. They had a son, Nathan, in 1999. Wayne was very close with his twin sister, Lynne, his mother, Hazel and stepfather Fred, and many extended family members. His life was full of family, friends, humor and love. He had a love of history, reading, crossword puzzles, travel, dancing, laughter and old cars. In December of 2016, Wayne was diagnosed with cancer caused by exposure to the chemical defoliant agent orange. Wayne passed away peacefully in his home on May 27th, 2017. He was surrounded by loved ones.
Uncle Wayne Part 2
That contrast defines what Uncle Wayne was to me. He was always smiling, he was very pragmatic, he loved giving funny cards for holidays. He was not big in stature, I don’t even think I would define him as a huge personality. He did have a great sense of humor and could be self deprecating. But he also had an underlying strength you could see. Maybe that is grit. The ability persevere through such tremendous difficulty when you can’t even define a cause, yet still have the ability to carve a out a life and even manage to laugh after seeing so much destruction.
Wayne was a true hero. Not only for his heroics on the battlefield but also for a lifetime of heroics after. The small everyday heroics that so many of us take for granted as part of normal life.
Uncle Wayne Part 1
One story I remember Wayne telling me was from his promotion to corporal. Those that do not know the military ranking structure corporal is the first non-commissioned officer rank and is the first big step up the promotion chain. It is kind of a big deal if you are looking to get promoted. Wayne told me that when he was promoted he gave back his stripes because he did not want to be promoted.
But contrast that with Wayne’s citation my sister mentioned, a Bronze Star with a “V” device. V stands for Valor and according to Wikipedia’s definition is awarded in the Army for “participation in acts of heroism involving conflict with an armed enemy.” I do not remember the details of his citation but I do remember thinking he deserved no less a citation.