Laura Vivian Sumpter Raley Barnhart
1924 - 2021
Laura Vivian Sumpter Raley Barnhart

September 7, 1924 - April 20, 2021

On Tuesday, April 20, 2021, Laura Vivian Sumpter Raley Barnhart, of Roanoke, Virginia, loving wife and mother of three daughters, passed away at the age of 96.

Laura was born on September 7, 1924, in Floyd County, Va., to Frank Clyde Sumpter and Nora Della Akers Sumpter. She had four brothers and three sisters, Delmas Sumpter, Bonnie Vaught, Sam Sumpter, Daisy Mae Minton, Wise Sumpter, Virginia Hutchins, and Frank Carl Sumpter, all deceased.

Laura graduated from Pearisburg High School where she was a shy student plus an amazing majorette. Her daughters were always enchanted to see Mama twirl that baton, throw it so high, and actually catch it.

Raised a country girl, she bravely went to secretarial school in the big city of Roanoke, Va., and continued on to work at the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., during World War II. She met and married a soldier, Charles William Raley. They had three daughters, Vivian Lee Whorley, Janice Virginia Ayres, and Nora Ella Sarver.

She spent the years her children were growing up in Lynchburg, Va., and Brookneal, Va., as an attentive stay-at-home mother, active in the Methodist church, Girl Scouts, and every aspect of any interest of her children. She was an exceptional mother who believed in good home training, education, and good manners for her girls. Her devotion to family was phenomenal and included allowing her kids every pet, hobby and enthusiasm that crossed their imagination, even though some of them (like cats and chameleons) terrified her.

The second half of Laura's life was spent in Roanoke, Va. She started working for the Girl Scout office when her kids were almost grown. She went on to work as office administrator and medical assistant to Dr. Olin R. Melchionna for over 20 years where she met Edsel Ward (Barney) Barnhart. They fell deeply in love and married on August 4, 1973, and were happily married until his death on April 22, 2010. With this marriage, she gained a new daughter, Ruth Frye, (who is deceased) and her husband, Wesley Frye, (who is also deceased) and a much-loved granddaughter, Pam Frye Allison and her husband, Jake Allison.

Laura has spent the years since Barney died still interested in and working to take care of her girls and their families. Her devotion to family was her towering strength and crowning glory. Nothing was too great an obstacle to surmount when it came to caring about her family. Her life has defined a "Mother's Devotion."

Laura is survived by her daughters, Vivian Lee Whorley, Janice Virginia Ayres, (husband, Warren "Spec" Ayres, deceased) and Nora Ella Sarver (husband, Larry B. Sarver). Her grandchildren are Laura Vivian Clemmons Williams (deceased), Cinnamon Clemmons Buelk, (husband, John Buelk), Graham Marshall Whorley, Jason Quinn Sarver, Matthew Ward Sarver (wife, Jessica Byrd Sarver), and Sarah Christina Sarver (husband, Stephen Smith Jr.). Her great-grandchildren are Isaac Williams, Maxwell Buelk, Amara Buelk, Raven Lee Whorley, Taylor Hayes Kizer, Damein Axel Sarver, Archer Maximus Sarver, Roman Arlo Sarver, Juliet Evelyn Sarver, Isaac Ward Sarver, Harleigh Madison Smith, Mariella Jane Smith, Isabella Maria Smith, and Jessie Emma Smith; and numerous loved nieces and nephews.

Laura has wanted to be with her beloved Barney for a long time. She will be dearly missed by her family and friends. We are rejoicing to think of her in Heaven with God and Barney by her side.

A private graveside service for immediate family was held on Saturday, April 24, 2021, at Sherwood Memorial Park in Salem. The service was led by the Reverend Jeff Wilson.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to her church, Huntington Court United Methodist Church at 3333 Williamson Road, Roanoke, VA 24012. She loved this church and spent many happy hours with her church family.

A Celebration of Life Memorial Service will be held for family and friends in September, close to Laura's birthday. Hopefully, some of the COVID-19 restrictions will be removed/relaxed by September. More information will be forthcoming as the plans develop for the memorial service.

Thank you to Huntington Court United Methodist Church for their visits, cards, and prayers. Thank you to the excellent caregivers from Visiting Angels and Amedisys Hospice Care. A special thank you to so many who, wished her well, prayed for her, and helped her during her illness. Online condolences may be shared with the family by visiting

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Published by Roanoke Times on Apr. 25, 2021.
No memorial events are currently scheduled.
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Funeral services provided by:
Oakey's Funeral Home & Crematory - North Chapel
Sponsored by Oakey's Funeral Home & Crematory - North Chapel.
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Laura and Barney were two of the sweetest, most generous people we knew. It was always fun to see how much laughter they brought when the HCUM friends got together and shared stories of their many travels together. Their friendship meant so much to my parents. Hugs and Prayers to the Family!
Susan and Mike Bower
April 25, 2021