Earl Lee Barkley, 92, of Newton, NC, died peacefully at Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC, on Thursday, October 24, 2013.
Visitation will be held at the First Methodist Church, Newton, NC, Sunday, October 27, 2:00 pm, followed by the funeral service at 3:00 pm, and interment at Southside Cemetery, in Newton and will be officiated by Rev. Dr. David Greene.
He is survived by Louise Bowen Barkley, his wife of 67 years, and children, Patrick Lee Barkley and wife, Peggy, of Raleigh; Charles Timothy Barkley and wife, Miriam, of Greensboro, John Phillip Barkley and wife, Cindy, of Raleigh. His grandchildren are Philip Jason Barkley and wife, Rebecca, of Fuquay-Varina, and John Coleridge Barkley of Raleigh. His great grandchildren are Eva Louise Barkley and Joseph Costner Barkley of Fuquay-Varina.
His parents, who predeceased him, were Lee Costner Barkley and Eunice Ellen Starnes of Gastonia. His grandparents were Charles Augustus Barkley and Sally Manona Farrar of Lincolnton; Rufus Starnes and Melinda Ellen Mills of Gastonia.
Earl was born in Gastonia, NC, on October 10, 1921. He was the oldest of seven siblings, all of whom preceded him in death: brothers Richard M. Barkley, Ernest N. Barkley, Eugene A. Barkley, all of Gastonia, T. Neal Barkley of Belmont; sisters Darlene Barkley Dooley of Ranlo, and Linda Barkley Ramsey of Gastonia.
Earl graduated from the Gastonia City Schools and attended Wingate College. He took special courses on NC tax policies at UNC-Chapel Hill, and he held an NC Real Estate Broker's License,1980-2011.
Earl joined the Army Air Force in 1942, serving in the Pacific Theater 33 months as an Aerial Gunner and as a Photographic Gunner. His plane was the A-20 with a crew of three, a light bomber flying at treetop level, island-hopping from Australia to Japan as the American forces gained control over the islands of the Pacific. He flew 32 missions. His plane flew a mission over Japan on August 6, 1945, the same day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima and again on August 9, the day of the second drop, on Nagasaki.
His was the first Air Force unit in Japan following the Seabees, and he was there until the Peace Treaty was signed, viewing it from a tall building overlooking the battleship Missouri. He served overseas for 24 months, was awarded an array of combat medals, and was discharged as a Staff Sergeant on Christmas Eve 1945.
Earl married Louise Bowen Barkley on July 6, 1946, in Dallas, NC. The couple lived for a short time in Kings Mountain, NC, but moved to Newton in 1947 when he was transferred as Manager of the Catawba County and the Alexander County North Carolina Department of Revenue. His office was in the Catawba County Courthouse until 1965, when it was moved to the Haupt Building. One of his main duties in the Catawba District was settling inheritance tax cases, a service provided by very few other managers in North Carolina. Well known in Western North Carolina, he was chairman of the Bylaws Committee for the State Employees Association of North Carolina, and he remained active afterward. In 1983, after retirement from the Revenue Department, he opened Barkley Enterprises which handled real estate, chiefly commercial and industrial sites.. Early on he assisted with inheritance taxes until that tax was repealed (except for very large estates). Semi-retired, he continued to work part-time, allowing him to divide his time between his commercial interests with headquarters in the South Square building in Newton and his Lake Norman residence.
As a young man in Newton, Earl was very active in civic clubs and projects. He served as President of the Newton Lions Club, chaired the annual Lions Horse Show and other Lions projects. He served as President of the Interclub Council and as President of both Elementary and High School Parent Teachers Associations. He chaired numerous fundraisers, among them the March of Dimes and its Platter Parties. He headed the drives of The American Cancer Society, American Heart Association, and the Red Cross with its early Bloodmobile. He was a Cub Scout Advisor and a member of Masonic Lodge in Newton. He worked with professionals to build a swimming pool on the Elks Club grounds. He was a member of American Legion Post # 48. In 1952 Earl Barkley was selected as Newton's Man of the Year.
A member of the Newton First United Methodist Church, he served as Chair of its Administrative Board and President of the Men's Bible Class for 28 years. In 1948 he assisted radio broadcaster Earl Holder and teacher Andrew Warlick in starting a live radio broadcast of this Bible Class, today the oldest continuous broadcast of its kind in the United States. He was Church Treasurer for 25 years, Finance Chairman, Member of the Renovation Committee, Financial Manager of the Odum Scholarship Fund, and a faithful and loyal member for 65 years.
Memorials may be made in Earl Barkley's name to the First Methodist Church Men's Bible Class Radio Broadcast, P.O. Box 926, Newton, NC 28658 or to the Odum Scholarship Fund, P.O. Box 926, Newton, NC 28658, or to a charity of one's choice.