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Rodney Barker: 1933-2017 (1952, Law)

We are sad to announce the death of Rodney Barker, who died on 2 October 2017. Below is an obituary from Rodney's family.

 

Rodney M Barker, former City of Newton (Massachusetts, USA) Alderman, member of the School Committee, and long-time civic activist, died on Tuesday, October 2. He was 84.

Rodney was born in London, England in 1933 of Geoffrey Mylne Barker and Joyce Hickman Barker. He was moved to the suburb of Gerrards Cross to escape the bombing of London during WWII. There he was raised by his father, taking vacations in the hills of Wales and developing lifelong friendships. He attended the Westminster School, then Trinity Hall, where he attained a Master of Arts in History and Law, before training as a solicitor to work in his father’s London firm. While in London, he met Elizabeth (Betsy) Hines, an American student studying at London University on a junior year abroad program. After a short cross-Atlantic courtship, they married in London in 1958. For the first few years of their marriage, they moved between England and the United States, while having three children: Mary Penelope, Gregory and Christopher. Eventually settling in the United States, Rodney attained an MAT degree at Oberlin College, Ohio and began a career as a High School History Teacher.

In 1968, Rodney and Betsy moved the family to Newton Highlands Massachusetts, finding a lifelong community. In Newton, Rodney taught at the Beaver Country Day School, then became the Chair of the History Dept at Thayer Academy. In the middle 1970s, he studied for the Massachusetts Bar Exam, and returned to a career as an attorney. He specialized in immigration law, forming a private practice, and eventually partnered with his son-in-law John J Loscocco, in Boston. However, he continued as a teacher and mentor, helping to found the Mt. Ida College Paralegal program and teaching at Suffolk Law School.

In his law career, he served as the Chapter Chair of the New England American Immigration Lawyers Association and as secretary of the board for the Tibetan U.S. Resettlement Project. He was instrumental in the drafting and passage of the Section 134, Tibetan Provisions of the Immigration Act of 1990 which allowed the immigration of 1000 Tibetan Refugees to the United States per year from 1991-1994. While in pursuit of the of the resettlement project, he travelled to India where he was granted an audience with the Dalai Lama, who pronounced that Rodney was “a decisive man”.

Rodney was naturalized as a United States Citizen in 1973, when he began a lifetime of public service in his adopted country. He began a political career in the PTA of the Hyde School, going on to help form the Newton Highlands Neighborhood Area Council, and then running for and serving on Board of Alderman, and later the Newton School Committee. Newton reciprocated, naming a portion of Newton Highlands in his honor: Rodney Barker Square off Lincoln Street in June 2012. In his later years, partially disabled by a degenerative muscular disease, Rodney became an important advocate for making Newton accessible to all citizens through improved pedestrian access ramps and other civic improvements. While on the Board of Aldermen Rodney helped rewrite Newton’s ordinances that control land development, serving as the first Chair of its Zoning and Planning Committee. He was one of the founders and President of the Newton-San Juan del Sur Sister city project.

In addition to his formal civic roles, Rodney was an active member of the community, serving as moderator for the Newton Highlands Congregational Church, and leading the annual tradition of making genuine English Marmalade with the Highlands Marmalade Makers. Rodney was an avid gardener, cultivating many rare and unusual plants from seed in his beloved greenhouse, and serving as Chair of the Northeast division of the New England Primrose Society. He greatly enjoyed walking the hills of Wales and in Maine, where he and Betsy owned a summer cabin. Rodney also had a great love of books, and was a prolific reader, especially of British history.

Mr Barker is survived by his wife, Elizabeth (Betsy) Hatfield Barker, his daughter, Mary Penelope Loscocco, her husband John Loscocco, his sons Gregory Mylne Barker, Christopher Hemingway Barker, and their spouses Cynthia Crouch and Donna Lohmann Barker, and grandchildren Nicholas Loscocco, Bianca Loscocco, and Emma Lohmann Barker.

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