By Bill Clark
When she was introduced to the campers in the Dining Hall at Ondessonk, Treva Barker was called the Mayor of Ozark. (Ozark, Illinois is the small town closest to Camp Ondessonk.) Mrs. Barker would stand up, protesting her title, but enjoying the attention. She would beam brightly as the campers gave her the official camp greeting, a big “Heepwah!”. In reality, Treva Barker was just a storeowner who lived behind the store in the main part of Ozark. “Ma” Barker, as we affectionately called her in those early years of camp, ran the general store. During that first summer when the camp was being built, fifteen or twenty hungry young men would pile into the store at dark. Mrs. Barker, protesting a bit, “If I knew you were coming, I could have had things ready”, would whip up a “mess” of pork chops, potatoes and gravy. We would eat until we were full. The townsfolk were jealous of the camp boys. Despite some flack from her neighbors she treated us kindly.
The special affection she felt for the camp staff took a permanent mode after the death of her 93 year old husband. The entire work crew dressed up in what turned out to be the camp uniform, dark blue pants with a white stripe down the side, light blue long sleeved dress shirt and tie. We all traveled to a funeral home in Paducah. Kentucky and paid our respects. Mrs. Barker never forgot that presence.
Treva Barker was a short, dumpy woman with dyed black hair. She used a lot of rouge on her cheeks. At 65 she was bereft of physical beauty that perhaps she once had. What was attractive about her was the sparkle in her eyes and the loyalty and love in her heart for her friends. What made her special to the camp was that she befriended the people of Ondessonk even though the local community was a bit suspicious of things Catholic in the pre-Kennedy era of the late 50’s and early 6O’s.