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Publication: Globe and Mail, The add link
Issue: 19 October 2012, page S8
Title: Martha Linnea Barber (Lives Lived)
Web Link: link

Martha Linnea Barber

Teacher, wife, mother, steward of the land, faithful servant of God. Born April 1, 1908, near Earl Grey, Sask., died March 26, 2012, in Strasbourg, Sask., of old age, at 103


October 19, 2012

Linnea Olson was the third child of six born to Swedish immigrants Alma and Olaf Olson. She was delivered by a midwife in the family's first Prairie home, the gum stuga, a one-room log-and-stone hut in the Eastmount district near Earl Grey, Sask.

Linnea remembered her childhood with much fondness.

Olaf was not formally educated, but he had a great passion for knowledge and was determined to give his children the advantage of a good education despite the general opinion of the time that this was a waste of resources. All the Olson children, including the girls, completed high school and went on to post-secondary institutions.

Linnea completed a teaching certificate in Regina. She taught school in rural Saskatchewan long enough to save money to go back to college, her lifelong dream. At Brandon College she not only did well in her studies, but joined the equestrian team, the women's hockey team, the college band and its debating club.

Linnea was petite and blond, with an angelic face and very proper manners. But underneath the veneer of propriety she was a real firecracker.

While teaching at Ravineside School, she met Herb Barber, a farmer. They married in 1933, had six children of their own and added a foster daughter.

The years of drought and depression were difficult, but family, cherished neighbours, innovative determination, discipline and faith sustained them.

Herb and Linnea loved God, and were generous with the blessings they received. They shared all they had, which sometimes wasn't much more than a meal harvested from their farm, a warm, dry place to rest and a welcome to visitors, all wrapped up in stories, laughter, prayer and, very often, singing.

They built Barber's Grove into a haven for friends and strangers alike, and carved a joyous life out of the stubborn Prairie.

It was in their yard, supported by the resources of the farm, that Strasbourg Bible Camp was born. It was a place where children of families suffering the deprivations of depression and drought could come for a spell of summer fun and Christian learning, a legacy that continues even now.

Linnea loved her garden, and was proud of the bounty she could coax from the soil even in hostile seasons. Though gardening was a matter of survival, Linnea also used it to express her flamboyant nature. Her ridiculously large and lavish flower gardens were testament to this endearing quality.

Also an accomplished musician, she gave piano lessons at home, accompanied singers and played just for pleasure.

She and Herb served God with unabashed zeal and, in the process, changed the landscape around them.

The last of her generation, Linnea died peacefully with family around her just days before her 104th birthday.

Rita Hudym is Linnea's granddaughter. Douglas and June Barber are her son and daughter-in-law.