Barry Franks Morehead: Enjoyed Music, Old Movies, Travel, Camping, Fishing and Hunting

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Barry Franks Morehead 5/20/1937 – 9/7/2022

Born during a sandstorm in Kermit, Texas on May 20, 1937 to Foy Roland Morehead and Connie Marie (Franks) Morehead, Barry grew up in the aftermath of the Depression. He talked fondly of those times, saying that while they worked hard to put food on the table, they played lots of games and dominos, shared good-hearted laughter and stories. When his little sister Judy Beth (Dickey) was born in 1944, he was surprised and remembered humbly: “I hadn’t even noticed my mom was pregnant! I never was very observant.”

At age 16 he worked hauling goods and selling watermelons.  One night, being overtired, he fell asleep at the wheel and sideswiped another vehicle before overturning his.  When he woke up in the hospital, his arm was gone.  His mom said he never complained, as his attitude was “what good is it to worry about something if you can’t do anything to change it.”  He never let this loss define him and the experience also helped build empathy for others, which made him “the nicest guy you will ever meet.”

His sense of humor made him popular with his classmates, who laughingly recalled him pinching them with his hook on the school bus. He liked to tell jokes, which he got from his mother – who played a few good ones on him growing up: “Touch this wire? Why are you so eager for me to do it, Barry? I don’t feel a thing” [Little Barry couldn’t help but then grab a shocking hold of the electric fence].

After losing his arm, he was not allowed to play on the school teams. Nevertheless, he helped coach Varsity and Junior basketball teams – both girls and boys teams, until he graduated Paradise High School in 1955 with a class of 16.  He attended Texas Christian University in 1956, but spent more time partying than studying (his words) and so he left Texas with a friend and headed for San Francisco in 1957.

He was told at the employment agency that the Bureau of Public Roads (BPR) was hiring, which led him to an office where he received an assignment to a place called Happy Camp. He asked the hiring official to point it out on a map of California, and after registering his excitement, the woman looked at him in wonder: She’d never seen anyone eager to be sent there and asked him why. He responded, “Just look at all that green!”

His first stop: the verdant mountains of the middle Klamath River Basin. There he met the love of his life, Janet Gale Wilder, whom he wedded in 1959.

Barry signed on for the BPR’s 3-year Engineering Training program, which moved trainees around different geographical locations within the United States. His ambition and career led him to work on roads in San Francisco, Navajo Reservation in Arizona and Yosemite in California, where he finished the training program and received his B.A. in Engineering from Fresno State University in 1967. He later achieved a Masters in Engineers in 1979 from the University of Southern California.

In the early days, the family relocations were frequently made in a 33-foot house trailer pulled by the old blue goose pickup.  There were many On the Road Again trips (think Barry’s melodious voice with the Texan accent), and his fondest memories were of family cross-country road-trips to countless National Parks and historic sites.

He was happily posted in Austin, Texas, where many weekends were spent in Boyd with his family. He was stationed in Washington, D.C. (twice), Denver, Colorado (also twice), Boise, Idaho, Juneau, Alaska and Olympia, Washington over the course of his 37-year career at the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA formerly BPR), where he made many fine friends, and some who consider him a mentor and the “best boss ever.”  He was known to let everyone in the office go home on rare sunny days in Juneau, while he stayed and manned the phones. Some days he was out “On Business” which is what he named his fishing boat.  He retired as Washington State Division Administrator in 1994 and moved to Orleans, California, in 1999.

After retirement, the family worked together to build a garage and house that burned down in 2002, and then they started over and rebuilt another house that was filled year-after-year with family dinners and “a party every night at the Moreheads.”

As Transportation Consultant for the Metlakatla Indian Community for the Walden Point Road Project (2002-2009), Barry enjoyed working with a variety of entities to complete projects of great magnitude including roads, bridges and a ferry terminal in Alaska’s remote and challenging landscape.

Throughout Barry’s life, he enjoyed music (mostly country), old movies (mostly westerns), travel, camping, fishing and hunting.  He played basketball on intramural teams for physically challenged adults. His softball game was fun to watch, too, as he caught the ball with his mitt, then threw his mitt in the air, caught the ball in his bare hand again and threw with accuracy and speed. He also coached his four children in a variety of sports (softball, football, etc.), and was a Boy Scout leader. Most of all, he enjoyed time with his family, friends and community.  Civic-minded, he served on the PTA, countless boards, including ARC in Juneau (now SAIL), a group helping persons with mental difficulties to become independent.  He also volunteered for the Orleans Community Services District, Computer Center, Broadband Initiative, and math tutoring at Orleans Elementary.  He and brother-in-law, Werner Rentz, shared the spotlight as Grand Marshals in Orleans Oldtimers Father’s Day Parade in 2014.

Last words were to encourage his granddaughter who was heading back to law school to “knock ‘em dead.” His last breath came after another granddaughter told him, “Don’t worry grandpa. We’ll take good care of grandma.” Barry navigated his life with love, compassion and appreciation, and left this world a better place for his having been here.  As he would have said: “Can’t do any better than that.”

He is survived by his wife of 63 years, Janet; his four children, Jeff, Bari (Curt) Talley, Lisa (Leaf) Hillman and Jennifer (Thomas) Malace; 13 grandchildren, Sophie (Chris) Weinstein, Lena Neuner (Simon Hutzler), Sinéad Talley, Annie Neuner, Geena Talley (Crisoforo Gomez), Josa Talley (Thomas Mosier), Luis Neuner, Jackson Malace (Morgan Hagfors), Noah, Lillian Malace, Avery Malace, Sam Morehead and Jacob Morehead; 2 great-grandchildren Louis George, Jr., and Leland Weinstein and one more due in November (Aleena Mosier).  He thought all of his kids/grandkids were talented, “and smart,” and supported them in every way he could.

His extended family includes his brother-in-law Werner Rentz and LeRoy (Doni) Wilder; sisters-in-law Pat Johnson, Lillian Rentz and Aileen Wilder; many beloved nephews, Tommy Dickey (Stacy), Barry (Kerri) Dickey, Matt Johnson, Fred (Jill) Wilder; nieces, Cindy Dickey, Stacie (Mark) Romine, Pam Rentz (Bob Hughes), Erin Rentz (Tim Burnett), Kathy (Steve) Lommen, Ruth Johnson; numerous nieces, nephews, and other family.

He was preceded in death by his parents Foy and Connie Morehead and sister, Judy (Allen) Dickey; mother-in-law, Eleanor Wilder; father-in-law, Fred Wilder; brother-in-law Will Johnson; cousins Randall Morehead and Joe (Betty) Wattam.

A memorial will be held November 19, 2022, in Orleans, California.  For more information, please contact [email protected]


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