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Janet Jerdine (Hellie) Barth was born on her parent's farm in Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota on March 22nd, 1928, the youngest of four children born to Henry E. Hellie and Clara (Loe) Hellie. She graduated from Cottonwood High School in 1946 and headed off to Luther College. There she met the love of her life, Norman Barth who she married at First Lutheran Church in Decorah, Iowa on December 27, 1950. The low temperature was -36 degrees that day.
She graduated from Luther in May 1950 with majors in English and Elementary Education. While at Luther, she also continued her music pursuits, singing in the first Nordic Choir in 1946 and the balance of her years at Luther. She was also an accomplished pianist.
After graduating from Luther, she spent the summer going to school in London and visiting Norway. She loved to travel. She taught school until her first child, Jeffrey was born in late 1951. Her husband joined the U.S. Foreign Service in 1957 and the family, then numbering five, began their life abroad with the foreign service.
First living in Reykjavik, Iceland, then Frankfurt, Germany followed by Brussels, Belgium; Port Elizabeth, South Africa; Maseru, Lesotho; Bonn, Germany and Pretoria, South Africa. As a diplomat's wife she needed to entertain often. On one weekend she had dinner for twelve on Friday with another dinner for sixteen on Saturday. This was not unusual. Invitees would include the King of Lesotho, visiting state department officials, members of parliament, ship captains, an Olympic gold medalist, a concert pianist and many ambassadors. After Norman retired from the foreign service and became the Executive Director with Lutheran World Relief, she went on trips with him, visiting Africa, South America and Asia. Moving to Pennsylvania with Norman in 1991 they lived a comfortable retired life until 2008 when health issues caused them to move to South Dakota to be close to family.
Her music gave her much joy and she pursued it her whole life. She sang in many choirs after college including the National Cathedral Choral Society under Paul Galloway, The Mass Area Lutheran Choir, The Choral Arts Society of Washington, American Women's Clubs in different countries, Mercersburg Chorus, and numerous church choirs. She sang solos in Constitution Hall, The U.S. Naval Academy, The Grand Place in Brussels , Belgium and in many churches throughout the world.
Through it all she was a great mom and good to everyone. You could surely say that "goodness and mercy followed her all the days of her life."
The family requests that memorials be directed to the Luther College, Janet and Norman E. Barth Scholarship Fund, 700 College Drive, Decorah, IA, 52101.
Visitation will begin at 8 am with the family present from 4 to 6 pm on Friday, April 11, 2014, at Miller Funeral Home, 13th and Main. A memorial service will be held at 11:30 am on Saturday, April 12, 2014, at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church.
Miller Funeral Home
507 South Main Avenue Sioux Falls, SD 57104
Published in The Argus Leader on Apr. 6, 2014