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Robert Latta Barrus

Barrus—Robert Latta Barrus, 98, on October 19, 2016, at home in Celo, N.C., peacefully, holding his wife’s hand. Bob was born on January 19, 1918, in Manchester, N.H., to Gertrude Emily Schneider and George Latta Barrus. His parents lived apart from each other when he was young, but they were always dedicated to him. He spent time in Rochester and Brooklyn, N.Y., traveling with his father to forestry jobs around the United States and Europe. Because of his travels, he attended many different schools during his teen years, including the Fellowship School in Switzerland, where he was introduced to pacifist values and alternative education. In college he first studied chemical engineering, but changed his major to sociology before graduating from University of Rochester.

During World War II, his beliefs about the value of all human life led him to register as a conscientious objector, and he served in the Civilian Public Service on a forestry project in New Hampshire and at a school for troubled boys in Cheltenham, Md. On furlough from service, he met Dorothy Somers when she joined a hiking trip with him and their fathers. After the war, he felt a calling to serve in European reconstruction. He and Dot joined AFSC, and he was assigned to rebuild Italian villages. They married in Rome in 1946.

Upon their return to the United States, they lived for a few years in Chapel Hill, N.C., where he was director of the University of North Carolina campus YMCA. In 1951, seeking a supportive community to raise their children in, especially their mentally handicapped daughter, they moved to Yancey County, N.C., and joined Celo Community. After a childhood in many places, he wanted to put down roots in a place that would be home for the rest of his life. He and Dot joined a small group of Quakers who worshiped together, eventually helping establish Celo Meeting. He worked at a number of jobs, but his calling was teaching. He taught at Harris High School in Mitchell County, N.C., South Toe Elementary School, and Asheville Country Day School. In 1955, he and Dot, with Ernest and Elizabeth Morgan, began to manage Camp Celo, a children’s farm-home summer camp. They dedicated their lives to helping children of all races, religions, and economic means experience the joy of physical work in a diverse community. They also led marriage enrichment retreats, after training through Friends General Conference, this work deepening their own marriage. When his parents retired, they both joined him to live in Celo. In 1963, he helped Elizabeth Morgan to found Arthur Morgan School, where he remained the principal teacher until his retirement.

Bob was a gentle giant of Southern Appalachian Yearly Meeting. At his memorial service, many past Camp Celo campers—including women—testified to this gentle encouragement of their first steps as farmers and carpenters, and one Friend cited Galatians 5:22 to witness to Bob’s qualities: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Bob is survived by his loving wife of 69 years, Dot Barrus; four children, Gib Barrus (Annie), Greg Barrus (Elizabeth), Rommie Barrus, and Barb Perrin (Tom); seven grandchildren; and four great-grandchildren. Memorials may be made to Friends of Camp Celo campership fund, P.O. Box 2392, Asheville, NC 28802, or friendsofcampcelo​.org/​d​o​n​ate.

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