Interview with new Wild Rose Kiwanis Member, Kay Barnard

ay Barnard has always been a joiner – starting as a youngster with Sunday school and 4-H, continuing as an adult volunteer with numerous organizations, and finally becoming a member of the Wild Rose Kiwanis Club. 

Barnard is the oldest-known woman to ever join a Kiwanis club. This 94-year-old woman has a wonderful personal history along with an admirable volunteer spirit. As the club secretary for Wild Rose Kiwanis, I decided that Kay’s past and present life needed to be shared with others. 

Q: What organizations did you belong to as a youngster? 

A: I participated in Sunday school and 4-H. I was raised on a farm. In 1930, I got a Shetland stallion pony that I named Billy. I entered Billy in competition at the County Fair for a $2.50 entry fee, and my pony won the $5 first prize. With small prizes for additional entries of our farm’s beets, carrots, oats and apples, my total check from the fair came to about $10. Each year I spent 25 cents on a new whip, got to stay at my Aunt Mary’s house, packed my own sandwiches, and drank milk given by the nearest cow. I always enjoyed the fair.

 Q: You were born in 1920 and lived through the early years of Women’s Right to Vote and The Great Depression. What do you remember most about those years?

 A: As a youngster I was not aware of the significance of women getting the right to vote. One thing I recall from this time period is women were called Mrs. John Smith instead of Mary Smith. And that formality didn’t change for many years. The depression I knew about and felt.  Times were hard, but everyone was in the same boat. We had a strong sense of family and divided everything evenly. One of my uncles brought me a candy bar when he came to visit. He wondered why I didn’t eat it right away; I told him I was waiting to divide it with my mother and dad. 

Q: What is your educational background?

A: When I was only 16, I graduated from high school and was awarded the Valedictorian Legislative Scholarship. I wanted to be a nurse; however, the required age for entering was 19. I went to LaCrosse and took pre-med classes. That was a long and expensive road and my classmates said, “You can cook and sew, why don’t you go to Stout?” I went to Stout and worked part-time for 25 cents per hour.

 I graduated in 1941 and was fortunate to get a teaching job for $124 per month in the Michigan Upper Peninsula where I taught three classes of home economics, biology, girls’ physical education, one semester of chemistry, and one semester of physics. I also coached girls’ interscholastic basketball and was advisor to the junior class.  

I married David Barnard in the spring of 1941 and became a homemaker. We raised four children, two girls and two boys. We lost the oldest girl to Leukemia in 1970.

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