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Helen Barron

1922 - 2016

Helen Barron, 94, peacefully passed away December 5, 2016, at Valle Verde, having lived in Santa Barbara for 66 years. Born January 19, 1922 in Pasco, Washington, Helen was the eldest of three daughters of Margaret and Eugene Hurley.

Helen graduated in 1944 from Whitman College in Walla Walla, Washington. She later attended Columbia University, where she met her husband, J. Roy Barron. They moved to Santa Barbara in 1950, when, having just obtained his doctorate at USC, he was hired as an administrator in the Santa Barbara school system.

When San Marcos High School opened the Riviera campus in 1958, Helen applied for a teaching position, and with her degree in economics, was hired to teach business skills, i.e., typing. A year later she moved to the new La Colina Jr. High. She became well-known as a popular typing teacher, instructing more than 3,000 students over a career spanning more than 23 years. There was a perennial wait list for Mrs. Barron’s class. She had the then-novel idea that boys as well as girls should learn to type; and that the process should be noisy, competitive, and fun. Faced with roomfuls of teenagers in the ‘60s and ‘70s, she played Beatles and Beach Boys music in class, so the kids could practice to the 4:4 beat of rock and roll. She organized speed contests for which she awarded Life-Saver candies, and assigned creative writing projects to apply the repetitive skills. Since she had thrown out the texts in favor of her innovative program, she assembled her lesson plans and published those materials as Type Right. It became a bestseller. As she approached retirement, personal computers were replacing typewriters. When she discovered that PCs would retain the QWERTY keyboard, she engaged software developers to convert Type Right to a digital format, ultimately selling over 50,000 copies of the program out of her home. A firm believer in independent learning, she also served on the California State Board of Business Education.

Hearing of this success, her alma mater, Whitman College, named Helen to its Board of Overseers, on which she served for fifteen years.

As a Whitman co-ed during WWII, Helen had played on the varsity tennis team, held a coveted position on the debate team, and joined Delta Delta Delta sorority, where she met lifelong friends. She was a member of the Santa Barbara Tri-Delt alumni chapter well into her nineties, supporting the UCSB actives.

Helen’s beloved husband Roy predeceased her in 1991. A decade later she married Lester Liebel, a childhood friend. Mr. Liebel predeceased her in 2010.

Helen was a loving and caring mother, grandmother and great-grandmother. She is survived by her sister, Gene Slater, also a current resident of Valle Verde; her children, John Barron of Buellton (Dennise), Nancy Barron Kemnitzer of Belvedere, California (Bryan), and Kathleen Barron Sawyer of Santa Barbara (Richard); grandchildren Michael Barron, Richard Barron Sawyer, Holly Misic, Kristin Kemnitzer McNeile, and Chris Kemnitzer; as well as seven great-grandchildren.

In lieu of flowers, friends may wish to contribute to Whitman College Memorial Scholarship Endowment, In Memory of Helen Barron, Office of Development, 345 Boyer Ave, Walla Walla, WA 99362.

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