Celebrating the life of Ohio State’s Harry Barr


“I expect you to do better next time.”

Dr. Harry Barr, Ohio State University professor and teacher of Dairy Science 201 — the introductory dairy science class, and my very first dairy class back in 1979 — said it quietly as he laid my first exam face down on the desk in front of me.

My heart froze until I turned it over and saw the big “99” written in red ink at the top, then the twinkle in his eye.

Up in his office on the third floor of Plumb Hall, Dr. Barr made time to talk with his students, asking thoughtful questions and making suggestions to help guide them through their studies and subsequent career choices.

Guiding hand

I was fortunate to be assigned to Dr. Barr as an undergraduate advisee. He asked what I wanted to do with my life, and didn’t laugh at or discourage my goal to become a herdsman, a bit unusual for a girl raised in Columbus back then.

He helped me lay out a course of study, supporting my request to take business classes when that wasn’t part of the normal studies for dairy management.

Harry Barr was a tall man, a true gentleman with a quiet sense of humor willingly shared with students and colleagues. He was respected throughout the industry for his knowledge, good sense, good advice and excellent teaching in campus classrooms and out in the field as an Extension dairy specialist.

He also judged dairy cattle shows at county fairs across Ohio for many years.

Fortunately for countless dairy science students and dairy farmers, he returned to the classroom and Extension work after a brief retirement spent selling real estate.

Life lessons

From Harry, I learned you can’t know what a person has been through by how they act today. He was a decorated veteran who fought in the European Theatre, 102nd Infantry Division in WWII, receiving a Purple Heart, the Bronze Star and a combat infantry badge.

It was hard to reconcile the professor of dairy science with the man who had to engage in combat and hide from enemy soldiers to avoid capture.

After his wife Elizabeth died, he moved to a small townhouse near Der Dutchman Restaurant in Plain City, Ohio, where he would walk over, have a cup of coffee and talk with friends in the morning at the “regulars” table.

We met there to catch up nearly 10 years ago now. After dinner, we went to his home to continue visiting. A photo screen stood in the corner of his living room. It still held the pictures that come in picture frames when you purchase them — different poses of a lovely, smiling young lady.

With that old twinkle in his eye, he explained that he hadn’t gotten around to putting in family pictures yet, so those were pictures of his “girlfriend.”

On Friday, March 7, 2014, we lost a fine and gentle man, a great teacher and mentor to many in the dairy industry. He was a husband, father of four, grandfather of 11, and great-grandfather of 21.

He touched the lives of students and dairy farmers for more than 30 years.

He was 92 years old. Ninety-two years well lived.


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