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Former Times Reporter Mary Barber Dead at 69 : Obituary: She spent 21 years in the suburban bureaus, writing with style and wit on everyday slices of life.


PASADENA — Mary Barber, a former Times suburban reporter who spent 21 years covering hometown news ranging from a rainy local visit by Queen Elizabeth II to a Pasadena bird-watcher's obsessed search for a rare harlequin duck, has died. She was 69.

Barber, a South Pasadena resident, died Sept. 17 at Huntington Memorial Hospital in Pasadena following a two-year struggle with breast cancer, said her son, Davis Barber, 34.

Friends, colleagues and family members described her as a lively, spiritual woman who was a voracious reader of Jane Austen, an avid bird-watcher and a regular symphony-goer. She spent her last years, after retiring from The Times in February, 1989, reading the works of the Dalai Lama and relaxing in her 1910 craftsman home that was filled with books, brass knickknacks and Indian needlework. Barber had raised three children while covering local news for The Times in the San Gabriel Valley, Southeast and Long Beach sections.

Born in Mountain View, Calif., Barber majored in journalism at San Jose State College, where she was a homecoming queen. Her first job was at the Sacramento Bee, from 1949 to 1954, where she covered society news and met her husband, Carter Barber, whom she divorced in 1967. She also worked as a women's page editor at the San Jose Mercury and the Sacramento Bee before joining the Los Angeles Herald Examiner in 1964. She spent three years at the Herald Examiner before joining The Times in January, 1968, at a time when few women were hired as reporters.

"She was pretty tough," said her daughter, Grayson Barber, 36. "I think she told the guys, 'Make your own damn cup of coffee.' "

Grayson Barber recalled a favorite opening paragraph of her mother's, one that she either wrote herself or talked about so much that people thought she had written it. The story was written for The Times' Southeast edition in the early 1970s, about a regular at a local tattoo parlor:

"(A local resident) has tattoos over 95% of his body. Yes, even there."

Barber, a winner of The Times' 1977 award for best suburban reporter, wrote with style and wit on everyday slices of life. She worked in San Gabriel Valley from 1968-71, then moved to the Southeast edition until 1982. She returned to the San Gabriel Valley until her retirement.

Barber is also survived by son Carl Barber, 38.

Memorial services were Wednesday. Donations in Barber's memory may be made to The Wellness Community-Foothills, 200 E. Del Mar Blvd., Pasadena 91105.

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