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September 19, 2014

Housing group honors “giant” William W. Barr

Photos/Lawrence Emerson
Over five decades, the Casanova resident worked with a range of community organizations, even while he commuted to D.C. and Philadelphia.
We would have to write volumes to tell everyone what you’ve truly done. You’re an awesome person.
— Buddy Curtis, Boys & Girls Club of Fauquier co-founder
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He has played major roles in Fauquier education, healthcare, housing, historical appreciation, social justice and youth development over the last five decades.

Friends and good-cause colleagues gathered Thursday afternoon for a quiet ceremony that renamed the Oaks II, a Warrenton apartment building for lower-income seniors, to honor William W. Barr of Casanova.

“It’s like standing on the shoulders of a giant,” longtime Fauquier NAACP leader Conway Porter said. “Bill is a giant.”

Said former school board member and community leader Sally Murray: “The hospital board, economic development, education — Ever since I’ve been in Fauquier County, Bill has been part of the things that matter to me.”

Mr. Barr, a 90-year-old World War II veteran, moved to Fauquier 55 years ago. He commuted to Washington, working in human services programs for D.C. government. He later traveled to Philadelphia and other cities to do consulting work.

But, Mr. Barr also got deeply involved in this county. He served on the board of the Fauquier Housing Corp. (now the Foothills Housing Corp.), which owns The Oaks, along with the American Red Cross, the Boys & Girls Club and Fauquier Health. He worked with a range of other community organizations, from educational advisory committees to the Fauquier County Board of Zoning Appeals, the Fauquier Historical Society and the Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center, where he became a trained mediator at age 83.

He wrote columns about local history and social issues for Fauquier Magazine from 1987 to ’94.

Foothills Housing founding board member John Wayland gave these remarks Thursday:

This is a great occasion, and I feel very privileged to be able to greet all of you ladies and gentlemen.

I would like to formally name The Oaks II now “The William Barr Building.”

We are here today to pay tribute to one of my great friends and someone who has worked closely with me for many years.

Yes, it is Bill Barr, a person who has given me a lot of support, because we have had a common goal. That being to help in any way we could to improve all people in their living conditions and to give them pride in themselves.

Everyone is created equal and some have been fortunate enough to start their lives with more advantages than others.

We all need to be aware that the talents we are given are not for us alone, but for the betterment of all mankind.

Bill has been a very wise and guiding light to me since we went through the separation of Fauquier Housing from Fauquier Community Action. Yes, we started our housing assistance with Community Action some 44 years ago, while working with the office of Equal Opportunity.

Bill came on board and was involved in our separation when we could not get our job done, with too many on the board of directors.

Community Action could not own property and we needed to have the ability to own, rent and sell houses as we worked toward our goal. Over the 40-plus years we have been in business, we have built, sold and made many families independent. That number is over 300 houses.

Bill gave us the steady hand that was needed to direct our organization, to help develop these buildings in which we stand.

We have expanded into 10 counties and, because of this, we have renamed our organization Foothills Housing Corporation.

John Reid, our executive director, has reached out to the counties that we now serve, and it was necessary to make this name change. We also increased the number on our board and now have Bob Lee, Huntley Thorpe and Sarah Godfrey, serving along with Max Tufts and myself.

Thank you all for coming to this very joyful occasion.

Buddy Curtis, a founder of the Boys & Girls Club of Fauquier, added: “We would have to write volumes to tell everyone what you’ve truly done. You’re an awesome person.”

A Pittsburgh native, Mr. Barr earned a his bachelor’s degree from Howard University and his master’s in social work from Catholic University. Prior to her passing, he was married almost 41 years to his first wife, Pauline. They had two daughters.

Mr. Barr and Pat Balasco-Barr have been married two decades.

Recently, he has suffered health challenges that have made it difficult to talk.

On Thursday, however, Mr. Barr repeatedly looked around the group of two dozen people and told them that they helped put his name on the sturdy brick apartment building.

Did the naming ceremony and luncheon surprise him.

“Absolutely!” Mr. Barr said.
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2manycritterz · September 25, 2014 at 4:56 pm
Was privileged to serve with Bill on the Fauquier Chapter of the American Red Cross many years ago. He's best described as an intensely intelligent individual with a heart of gold who just happens to also be the consummate gentleman. Congratulations, friend, you truly are a local treasure!
Joan Hellandsjo
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