Carl Barringer: ‘Titan’ community and civic leader passes at 90
By Peggy Kelly
Santa Paula News
Published: January 16, 2013
Carl Barringer has been described as a Titan, community leader, a man who made a difference and one who epitomized the Greatest Generation, just as renowned for his ready smile and gentle nature.
Carl, a longtime Santa Paula resident who served the community as mayor, councilman, Planning commissioner, VFW Post commander and stalwart Rotarian, among other efforts that to Carl were always effortless, passed Saturday. He was 90 years old.
Although the Stanford graduate and World War II veteran was extremely unassuming and modest, Carl sparked affection and loyalty among his legion of friends.
“It hurts my heart,” said Arnold “Arnie” Dowdy, the city’s former city manager and former longtime neighbor of Carl and Cathy Barringer, whose Oaks home was a favorite community gathering spot for decades. Now a resident of Grover Beach, Dowdy said when he was hired by the city in 1991: “It was right after the cusp of the new council... Carl wasn’t on the council when I was hired,” having opted not to run for reelection. “But,” noted Dowdy, “I would have loved that.”
All who served with Carl - whether on the committee to widen Highway 126 or create Veterans Park Memorial - always noted his dedication to cause, knowledge, and quiet determination to see things through to the end.
Past Rotary President and Historian Nils Rueckert wrote a profile of Carl years ago, noting, “He has long been the ‘go-to’ man in town and in the club. If anyone wants an answer as to who, what, when or why, just ask Carl.”
That role Carl “earned... through many years of community activism and involvement. As a local businessman, he’s been the mayor, city councilman, Chamber president, VFW post commander, Rotary Club president, chairman of the Highway 126 Improvement Committee, ad infinitum.”
Born August 9, 1922 as James Carlisle Barringer in St. Louis, by the time Carl was 3 years old he was living in Glendale where he graduated from Hoover High School and entered Stanford University in 1940. Carl became a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and enlisted in the Army Reserve program.
His studies were interrupted by duty in the Army during World War II and Carl was shipped to Europe in 1944 and, as an infantry squad leader with the 104th Timberwolf Division, fought in Belgium, Holland and the German Rhineland, participating in meeting the Russians above Leipzig in April 1945.
Carl earned three battle stars, the Bronze Star and the combat rifleman badge before being discharged at war’s end and returning to Stanford to get his degree in economics. There in 1946 he met Catherine “Cathy” Morris, and said it was “love at first sight.”
They married in 1948 and shortly thereafter moved to Santa Paula, where Carl was co-owner of Barringer & Botke Construction. He also became a Realtor/Broker and property manager.
Although busy with a growing family and business, Carl and Cathy were active in the community from the start. Carl joined Rotary in 1952, obtained his private pilot’s license two years later, and was president of the Chamber of Commerce 1980-1981. Named Citizen of the Year in 1981, Carl was elected to the City Council twice (1982-1990) and served two terms as mayor. Carl instigated the Santa Paula Redevelopment Agency and was chairman (1982-1992) of the Highway 126 Improvement Committee, which greatly improved safety on the thoroughfare.
Carl was a founding (1984) and continuing member of the Blanchard Community Library Endowment Committee and Past Commander of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Mercer-Prieto Post #2043.
“He was a true gentleman, respectful of others, sensitive to the opinions and concerns of others,” said Scott Rushing. Carl “had a positive outlook, uncomplaining when life’s challenges arose,” and Rushing said he was “honored” when Carl joined his real estate broker team at Rushing Real Estate.
“Even after Carl’s debilitating stroke, about 11 years ago, he was anxious to get back to the office and help me out!” Rushing said Carl “was a tireless community activist, along with Cathy; not for financial gain or personal recognition, but because he saw a need and worked to fill that need with the ‘can do’ attitude that the job must get done!”
The stroke required months of hospitalization and therapy and left Carl physically handicapped, but did nothing to dim his enormous intellect and devotion to others. “Carl was on the go all the time,” and Rushing used Carl’s work on the Highway 126 committee as an example of Carl’s never flagging devotion to cause:
“He spent countless hours fighting Cal Trans and politicians, but he coalesced the stakeholders as only he could do with his calming and confident approach to problem solving. Carl was ethical, polite, fun loving, and had a gift of conversation as well as strong listening skills.”
Rushing said, “Carl had an excellent memory and recalled many important events and the people involved in the history of Santa Paula. He was, in my opinion, a Titan, larger then life man who survived WWII and came back to make a difference... he succeeded and will be missed but not forgotten by family and many close friends. I loved the man!”
Robert “Bob” Borrego agreed: a co-founder of Latino Town Hall, Borrego said, “I knew Carl quite well going back many, many years” when as an aide to State Senator Gary K. Hart Borrego served with Carl on the Highway 126 Improvement Committee. Years later they also served on the Santa Paula Family Resource Center Advisory Committee.
Over the years, “I also saw Carl at many events where he would represent Rep. Bob Largomarsino,” a longtime family friend. Borrego said Carl was “very highly respected by the people that knew him, always very straightforward, very honest, very dedicated with impeccable integrity... just a wonderful guy.”
“Carl was to me two things,” said Dowdy. First, he was “a Rotarian that I just absolutely respected and admired beyond belief,” who during his 60-year club membership created the Junior Achievement Program. The program said Dowdy, a past Rotary Governor, “was absolutely great; I don’t know anyone that has done something like that telling high school kids in a unique way I honor you and your efforts.”
Carl and Cathy, said Dowdy, were “great neighbors, every letter capitalized... no matter how tough it was for him he always had this great smile,” and loved to converse about “Stanford, the community, things in the neighborhood. He was one of those Rotary ‘godfather’ types,” with his contemporaries and friends, now gone, “that taught me so many different ways of doing things, and Carl was one of those.”
Carl and Cathy always were “the pillars in the community who made all they did seem rather easy... you just don’t find people like that; you can name them on one hand.” Said Dowdy, “It breaks my heart to see we’ve lost Carl, lost someone of that stature.”
Past Rotary President Maria Bombara remembered at her second club meeting 15 years ago, “There was a very tall and influential man, Mr. Barringer. I took a deep breath, tried to appear as professional as I could and not look scared, extended my hand and said hello Mr. Barringer. He looked at me with the warmest eyes and the kindest smile, gently took my hand and said hello Maria, please call me Carl, welcome to Rotary.”
Carl, said Bombara, set the benchmark for kindness and concern. And the Barringers were a true love story: “I loved being around Cathy and Carl,” said Bombara. “He was so strong, smart, influential and yet he held her hand, looked at her lovingly, spoke to her as his best friend and equal, and spoke of her with absolute admiration, gratitude and love. He loved his family, his friends and Rotary. He served his country. He served Santa Paula.”
And Santa Paulans: “They both offered such care for Elias (Valdes),” Bombara’s companion who has had challenges of his own. Carl was a close friend of Elias’ father Chino, who died in an automobile accident decades ago, and remained close to the family. Said Bombara, “Elias emotionally speaks about Carl and how he treated his father and respected his father as a good businessman and an equal, rather than an immigrant.”
There were many things that were important to Carl, who had such a wide circle of friends and admirers it was hard to tell if there was anyone who would not welcome seeing the tall, rangy handsome man with the gentle smile come into view. Family always came first, were always uppermost in his thoughts and actions, even those so subtle they would be easy to miss.
Cathy and son Rick Barringer were both polio victims, and Carl, who shunned jewelry, always wore his Rotary Polio Plus pin to show his support for the world eradication effort. “When I think about the things that meant a lot to him certainly it was family, friends, Rotary,” said Cathy Barringer.
Carl, said Cathy, “exemplified the Rotary Four Way Test,” a living example of the tenets of the club: Is it the Truth? Is it Fair to all concerned? Will it build Goodwill and Better Friendships? Will it be Beneficial to all concerned? Carl lived that way, that was the way he was.”
Carl’s war experience defined much of his life: “It was a real war for Carl. He never ever articulated anything about it, but he was here... a lot of his outfit wasn’t.”
A good listener, Cathy said Carl was “non-judgmental, another wonderful quality. He loved history, he loved sports - all sports, especially football,” and had attended the Rose Bowl January 1 to cheer Stanford on to victory.
Cathy said Carl was “a reader of the newspapers... he always was up to date on current news, very interested in what was going on locally. He was always reading, loved books,” preferring nonfiction.
There were many interests: “Carl was very inquisitive, he was interested in a lot of things” that his “wonderful” memory retained, including those he met. Carl, said Cathy, was “wonderful” with names, a probable offshoot of his interest and the great natural warmth he felt for other human beings.
Carl loved animals, loved music, and melded the two affections with two cats Artie (Shaw) and Benny (Goodman).
“He was a wonderful dancer” and, Cathy said, although “we weren’t able to dance anymore or take trips to Europe, we still had a very good life. He kept me up to date on the movies, we would go to the movies a lot and have a bite to eat.”
Carl, she added, “never complained, no depression or self-pity.... He was really an upbeat type of person, saw the positive things in people... he was always looking for the good part” of others.
And he loved Santa Paula: “It meant a lot to him, it was like hometown to both of us,” the place where they created a rose garden at Santa Paula Hospital to honor Cathy’s late mother and created a life that included the community. Being married to Carl, said Cathy, “was a lot of fun... and we were still having a whole lot of fun.”
Carl is survived by his wife of 64 years, Cathy; daughter Christine Early (Jeffrey); sons Richard (Carol), William, and Robert (Elizabeth); grandchildren, Robert Early (Kris), Cathi Fortner (Kris), Alisa Fisher (Greg), Heather McClamroch (Dan), Caitlin Workman (Jay), and Brett and Kristen Barringer; and five great-granddaughters.
Services will be held Friday, January 18, 11 a.m. at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 117 N. 7th St. in Santa Paula.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in Carl’s name to Santa Clara Valley Hospice/Home Support Group, P.O. Box 365, Santa Paula, CA 93061; St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, 117 N. 7th St., Santa Paula, CA 93060; or the Frank Albert Memorial Scholarship Fund, Stanford University, 326 Galvez St., Stanford, CA 94305.