These were the words that comforted anxious parents as they searched for a place where their child with disabilities could find an education – and acceptance.
Dr. Gertrude Agnes Barber saw all persons as "children of God," and dedicated her life to bringing children and adults with disabilities out of the shadows and into full inclusion in their communities.
Dr. Barber grew a borrowed classroom into a statewide organization – a remarkable feat – but that's only part of her legacy. Most importantly is how she worked tirelessly to change attitudes and break through barriers on behalf of those with intellectual and developmental disabilities – all with a warm smile, a reassuring lilt in her voice, and an intractable faith in God.
As an administrator in the Erie School District, Dr. Barber often had to tell parents that they had to either keep their child with disabilities at home or send them to a distant institution because there weren't services in the community. She resolved to change that, making a lasting difference for families in her time and well into the future.
Gertrude was a beautiful lady, but her outward beauty was a reflection of her inward refinement and peace knowing that she was doing God's work. Everyone who came in contact with her knew how special they were, for she had that ability to make each of us feel so special.
Dr. Barber was always there to compassionately guide families through the darkest hours. She guided us through trying times and brought us to a much higher level by allowing us to find some reason for our experience, and then to put it to good use in assisting others. Dr. Barber ... delivered every individual she encountered to a place that can only be described as their personal best.
We were her family; our children were her children, and we could pretty much talk to her about anything. I think part of what Dr. Barber was doing came from her instincts as a woman to make sure that children – all children – had the same benefits in the community. She's left a legacy of memories and has left a true and lasting effect.
Dr. Barber gave you a different perspective on people with disabilities. She called them 'abilities' and so it just really had a positive spin on everything. It really gave you hope, and that's what most parents really needed.
She had a huge impact on the community; she got people to accept people who were different … Gertrude created something really special and unique and if you go across the United States, you'll have a hard time finding an organization like the Barber Center.
As a loving and caring individual, a highly respected and admired professional, and a concerned civic leader, Gertrude delicately touched the souls of many and left behind a precious imprint of herself on families, friends, and her community.
Dr. Barber was the Mother Teresa of Erie. She saw the suffering of the exceptional children and adults of this area and used her manifest skills and above all, her love, to respond. With indomitable faith in God, Dr. Gertrude was a pioneer in service to those beloved by Christ. She left a thriving institution to carry on the work of service, education, and love that will always reflect the ideals of this humble, resourceful and noble woman. She has enriched our world.