Sue Barker can’t help but smile when talking about any of her kids or grandkids, but she beams with pride while telling a particular story. It all began with the untimely death of her son, Cole Barker, in March 2017. It was at Sue and Ronny Barker’s house when a childhood teacher of Cole’s, Jeanne Lawrence, approached Sue to tell her a story long forgotten by Sue. Sue was thrilled to hear the story. Jeanne reminded Sue that when Cole was in her class at 10 years of age, Cole lamented over a particular assignment. In fact, he just downright refused to complete the task. The assignment was for each student, Cole included, to write a story and provide illustration. Although Cole had a vivid imagination, and was not bashful in telling stories, the thought of actually putting pencil to paper terrified him. Through much encouragment and prodding by his teacher, Cole finally completed the story just ahead of the deadline, Open House.
Cole was relieved, to say the least, that the project was complete, and the Open House was over. His time with the short story, The Boar Named Bob, was over. Mischievously, he held the book over the trash can until he caught the attention of his teacher. As her eyes met his, he dropped the book into the trash can, a glorious gesture of his thoughts of the project. So he thought.
Jeanne Lawrence promptly retrieved the book from the trash and told Cole she was keeping it. He smiled and told her “to keep it since she liked it so much!” This began a 25 year not so “private” joke between teacher and student. When their paths would cross, Jeanne would remind Cole that she still had his book. Cole, always quick with a comeback, would say “better you than me”, or “I guess you still like it” or something similar.
As time went by and other students lamented over similar projects, Cole’s book, along with others, became prime examples of what the current 10 year olds could do with their imagination. The lights would dim, bowls of popcorn would appear, and Ms. Lawrence would tell the tales as written by previous students. With tons of expression, and certainly some dramatic effect, the current class was hooked. Now they volunteered to read, or offered to change the stories, telling them from a different character’s perspective. They would even change the ending. The creative juices were now flowing. The students were much more at ease. Long gone were the days of prodding that it took to make Cole complete the task, albeit with Cole’s help.
Fast forward 25 years, as the result of a tragic skiing accident, Ronny and Sue Barker lost their son Cole in Colorado. He achieved most everything in life that he wanted: graduating from Mount Vernon High in 2000, then from Baylor University in 2005 and moving to Colorado and working as a drilling fluid engineer. He later started his own excavation business. He married Allison Rennemo in August 2013. Cole left behind a sister, Karen and husband Matt McClard, as well as a niece, Lucy, and nephew Hayden.
Now, Cole’s imagination and determination, continues to live on as his book The Boar Named Bob has been published. Now parents and other teachers can tell the story that so many other students have heard and become inspired. Sue recently had a book launch event at NorthPark Mall in Dallas inside the Pinto Ranch store. Now the almost forgotten project is accompanied by coloring books and props and there is even a puppet show in the works. Many more items are coming to “The Boar Store”. Sue pushes forward not only to help other younger children to get past their literary fears but the resulting proceeds from this valiant effort all goes to the Cole Barker Memorial Scholarship Fund. This fund was first started by Cole’s classmates from Mount Vernon graduating class of 2000 but now gains much more traction from sales of the book. The Scholarship Fund awards one-time scholarships to a graduating senior of Mount Vernon High School each year. Multiple scholarships are planned this year.
You can learn more about Sue’s journey and Cole’s legacy by visiting the link below. You can also purchase a book, or several, to share with a niece, nephew, or grandchild. Read the story, tell the story, share the legacy. It is a story you will never forget.