Barker looks back on 68 years in north Snohomish County

Elwood Barker and his son Steve pore over his old memory books, as Elwood looks forward to his 90th birthday. - Kirk Boxleitner
Elwood Barker and his son Steve pore over his old memory books, as Elwood looks forward to his 90th birthday.
— image credit: Kirk Boxleitner

LAKEWOOD — Although Elwood Barker wasn’t born in north Snohomish County, he’s lived literal lifetimes longer in the area than many people who were born here.

On Feb. 17, Barker will turn 90 years old — a leap year and his father’s faulty math meant that his birthday was incorrectly recorded as Feb. 15 — and the former North Dakota native has spent nearly seven full decades in the local region, moving here after his two-year tour of duty through Europe in the Army during World War II.

“I didn’t know how to swim, so I joined the infantry,” said Barker, who served as a front-line wireman. “I missed D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge, but a German sub torpedoed the ship taking us from Massachusetts to France in January of 1945.”

Barker nonetheless served in the 3rd Army under Gen. George Patton, and took pride in the fact that the Germans surrendered to the Americans rather than the Russians.

After returning stateside in 1946 and enrolling in college to study accounting, Baker began working for Weyerhaeuser and Railway Express in 1949, the same year that he met his future wife Marilyn, whom he married on June 11.

“My sister went to high school here, so I asked her to introduce me to Marilyn, who was a senior at Everett High School,” Barker said.

Barker’s two jobs came to an end in 1951, but his farming background came in handy when he began working at Van Soest Dairy in Snohomish later that year.

By 1957, the Barkers had moved to their current location, just southwest of the intersection on I-5 and State Route 530, and Elwood was again working two jobs, driving a school bus for the Lakewood School District during the day and pulling night-shifts at the Thunderbird Drive-In.

“By 1965, I was half-owner of the Quil Ceda Feed and Mini-Mart,” Barker said. “By 1967, I’d started building houses. I’d built 39 homes by 1969.”

Baker helped build 38 more homes in Oak Harbor from 1969-73, and continued building and remodeling homes until he himself turned 73 years old.

“From 1940 to 1997, that’s 57 years of work,” Barker said. “I averaged about 60 hours a week.”

Barker is just as proud of another set of numbers — four children, 10 grandchildren and 16 great-grandchildren.

In the 68 years that he’s lived in the area, one of the biggest changes he’s seen has been the winnowing of smaller farmers.

“They’ve been replaced by bigger farms, or sold their land to developers,” Barker said.

Barker is acutely aware of the growth in the Lakewood School District since then, given that he served on the Lakewood School Board from 1973-79.

“How did I get to my 90s?” Barker asked rhetorically. “I always knew I had to work hard. I married a woman who was a good cook, because good food goes a long way. And I really enjoyed building homes, because I got to see something from start to finish.”

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