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Featured Memorial | Effi Barry

Effi Barry Obituary

WASHINGTON (AP) - Effi Barry, the District of Columbia's stoic former first lady who endured her husband's drug abuse and unfaithfulness during his years as the city's mayor, died Thursday. She was 63.

Barry died of leukemia at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis, Md., said Justin Paquette, a spokesman for the hospital.

Effi Barry separated from Marion Barry in 1990, shortly after he was caught on videotape at a downtown hotel smoking crack cocaine with an ex-model and asking her to have sex with him.

Throughout her husband's three-month trial - during which federal prosecutors played the grainy 83-minute tape of the FBI sting - Barry sat in the front row of the courtroom with a hook and yarn.

"For certain our years have not been without controversy, have not been without difficulty," she said in an interview at the time. "But you take everything in stride. And getting through the trial is just something else to do. It doesn't sidetrack you."

Marion Barry was sentenced to six months in prison.

Shortly after the trial, Effi Barry moved to Virginia to teach health and sex education at Hampton University, her alma mater. The Barrys divorced in 1993, but she returned to Washington and supported him in his successful bid for a city council seat in 2004.

Barry praised his former wife in a news release Thursday, citing her success at securing city funding for AIDS awareness programs for the poor.

"The city is better off because of the great work she did in bringing hope to our neighborhoods," Barry said. "Effi was D.C.; we will all miss her."

A native of Toledo, Ohio, she met Marion Barry in 1976 when he was still married to his second wife and married him two years later, a few months before he was elected to his first term as mayor. She was divorced from jazz pianist Stanley Cowell.

A former model and school teacher, she actively supported various causes and was arrested during an anti-apartheid protest outside the South African Embassy in 1985.

She acknowledged over the years that she knew of her husband's problems with substance abuse and philandering from the start of their marriage.

"There are - there is - a caliber of female in this world ... (who) tend to gravitate towards a power figure. This kind of involvement is a necessary nuisance that the wife of a power figure has to deal with," she said in an interview with WRC-TV in 1987.

Barry learned she had leukemia last year and soon started campaigning for more black Americans to join the registry for bone marrow transplants.

She is survived by her and Barry's son, Christopher Barry, and her mother, Polly Lee Harris, both of Washington.

Copyright © 2007 The Associated Press

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Published in The Washington Post on September 12, 2007
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