Longtime Bonne Terre civic leader and North County educator Janet Barton, 76, unexpectedly passed away on Sunday at her home.
The retired North County High School teacher had been preceded in death by her parents, a brother Gene, and her husband, former city administrator of Bonne Terre Larry Barton, who died last September. In October, they would have celebrated their 47th anniversary.
They have left behind two adult children: Lochie Jo Counts (husband, Josh), and Matt Barton (wife, Beth) and seven grandchildren: Maddie, Sydney, Josie, Brett, Sophie, Lilly and Bailey.
Visitation will be Thursday from 5-8 p.m. and 9 a.m. Friday at the C. Z. Boyer & Son Funeral Home in Bonne Terre. The funeral service will be held at 11 a.m. on Friday at C. Z. Boyer & Son Chapel in Bonne Terre, with Rev. Rick Lasley officiating. She will be buried at Bismarck Odd Fellows Cemetery next to her husband. She was a member of Bismarck United Methodist Church.
Counts said while her mother had experienced a few health problems as she’d aged, she thinks losing her husband Larry was just too much to bear.
“I think you can die of a broken heart, and I think that’s what happened to my mom,” she said. “She missed him a lot after he died. They were best friends.”
On Aug. 4, 1943, to the late Harold and Loretta (Horn) Landolt, Barton was born in the mining town she would live in and help lead for the better part of eight decades.
Counts said that long-lasting love of her hometown is what propelled her mom to participate on the community betterment committee, the senior center board, the sesquicentennial committee, the parks board, the city council and the historical society, as well as pursue dozens of activities and initiatives designed to make Bonne Terre more attractive, educational, infrastructurally strong and, well, interesting.
“She wanted to make Bonne Terre as good as it could possibly be,” Counts said. “You could always depend on her, she wouldn’t give up. You knew she’d be there for you 110%.”
Barton carried that determination and devotion to education.
She graduated from Bonne Terre High School, got an associate degree from Mineral Area College and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Murray State University, where she was also a member of the social sorority Sigma Sigma Sigma. She also studied criminal justice and world studies, and spent time in Sonoma, California, at the Women’s History Project. She spent a year studying Chinese culture and was an exchange teacher in Washington, England.
She worked for eight years at Pattonville High School in St. Louis and taught 26 years at North County High School.
State Rep. Mike Henderson worked for decades with Barton at North County High School where Barton taught civics, history and social studies. He said she sponsored multiple clubs and organizations — such as the Raider Pommies — and she often lent a sympathetic ear or doled out sage advice to students who were looking for extra guidance or a shoulder to cry on.
“When you put students first as a teacher, and go above and beyond what’s needed, you can’t do any better,” Henderson said. “If you get into teaching, you go into it because you love kids and want to make a difference and I think she definitely accomplished that goal. She impacted a lot of lives.”
Barton won her share of recognition over the years. She was a Star Teacher for Missouri for two years; Missouri History Teacher of the Year; and DAR Teacher of the Year of St. Francois County. She said she was the first woman to receive the Outstanding Service Award from the Bonne Terre Jaycees. She also received a leadership award from Missouri Community Betterment and an Outstanding School Board Member Award from the Missouri Association of Rural Educators.
Counts said watching her mother in action was often inspiring and amazing to watch. And she was easy to pick out of a crowd.
“She could be flamboyant at times. A lot of people knew her from her jewelry and her fingernail color. She had crazy-colored nails,” Counts said. “She was fun, and great with advice.
“If you didn’t know her when you walked into a room, you knew her by the time you walked out.”
Sarah Haas is the assistant editor for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at 573-518-3617 or at email@example.com.
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