Mrs. Townes said that her sister was able to help nurse their parents at Mrs. Townes’ home before they died. “She was here and by their side when they died,” Mrs. Townes said. Mrs. Barnes died in the same room at Mrs. Townes’ house. “I’m calling it the gateway to heaven,” Mrs. Townes said.
The oldest daughter of Briarwood Presbyterian Church’s founding Pastor Frank Barker has died, within two months of the death of her parents.
Anita Barker Barnes died Friday, Feb. 18, after battling brain cancer, said her sister, Peggy Barker Townes. She was 59.
Mrs. Barnes had been diagnosed with lymphoma in August 2020, Mrs. Townes said.
Mrs. Townes said that her sister was able to help nurse their parents at Mrs. Townes’ home before they died. “She was here and by their side when they died,” Mrs. Townes said. Mrs. Barnes died in the same room at Mrs. Townes’ house.
“I’m calling it the gateway to heaven,” Mrs. Townes said.
Pastor Frank Barker had founded Briarwood Presbyterian Church in a storefront in 1960 and led it to become one of Birmingham’s first megachurches. Barker retired from the 4,100-member church in 1999 after 39 years in the pulpit. Mrs. Barker, who studied musical theater at Northwestern University and danced with a professional company in Chicago, had founded the Briarwood Ballet School in 1980 and it now has more than 400 students.
Their oldest daughter Anita attended Briarwood Christian School from kindergarten through high school, graduated from Auburn University, where she was a cheerleader, and then worked on staff at Briarwood Presbyterian Church leading a ministry for high school students. She was also known for teaching dance and exercise classes.
Her husband, Billy Barnes, is an ordained Presbyterian minister. The couple moved to Arizona in 1998 to start Covenant Community Church in Scottsdale and lived there about 14 years before moving in 2013 to Nashville, where Barnes was an assistant pastor at Covenant Presbyterian Church. He’s now on staff at the Center for Executive Leadership in Birmingham.
The family returned to Birmingham after Mrs. Barnes was diagnosed with cancer.
“We had the privilege of her being back here after 22 years away,” Mrs. Townes said.