A Celebration of Family
Descendants of Marion and Joseph Barrett gathered for their 75th reunion on July 26 in Anson B. Nixon Park.
By John Chambless
On Mother's Day in 1939, Marion and Joseph Barrett gathered their family in Kennett Square for a reunion. Last weekend, the Barretts got together again -- for the 75th consecutive year.
After an evening get-together on Friday at the Hilton Garden Inn, the family assembled in Anson B. Nixon Park on Saturday afternoon for plenty of food, reminiscing and a chance for the younger generations to run around. On Sunday, there was a church service at the Apostolic Fellowship of Oxford, led by bishop William Barrett. On Saturday, he gathered the family for a spiritual sing-along and a prayer under a picnic pavilion.
“Thank you, God, for how you brought us together again,” he said, “and look on this younger generation, and help us be an example to them.”
Shirley Reeves, 72, a granddaughter of Marion, came from her home in Ithaca, N.Y.
Marion and Joseph lived from 1932 to 1951 in a white house that still sits in a hollow near Kennett High School. “I called it Five Points back in my day,” Reeves said. “I don't know what they call it now. It's where Marion started the reunion, gathering her kids in a field.”
Joseph Barrett “was a praying man,” Shirley said, smiling. “He'd pray right on the corner here in Kennett Square. Traffic would get backed up. Nobody'd go anywhere. People would say, 'Joe's praying again.'”
Joseph and Marion had 16 children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood. Among their descendants – many of whom inherited a musical gift – were the members of The Five Keys, a successful gospel act that toured for years. Faith is another strong trait of the Barretts. As a rough count, there were about ten ministers at the Barrett reunion on Saturday.
“She raised us up here at the Second Baptist Church,” Shirley said of her grandmother, who died in 1976. “My mother and father lived with my grandmother for a while, so that's why we were in that house for a while.”
She laughed and admitted she didn't get any of the musical talent passed down in the family, but she and her husband did become pastors in Ithaca, N.Y. Shirley's husband, Jerome, said that he and Shirley, and uncle Jimmy Barrett, went to Ithaca in 1964, and today there are about 100 family members in New York state. “It's amazing when you think we left here with three people,” he said, smiling. He and Shirley married in 1965.
The Barrett family has now scattered to California, New Jersey, and New York state, as well as Chester and Philadelphia, but they return each year to celebrate their roots. Responsibility for the reunion has been passed through the generations, but the family has never missed a year. The event has been held in Chester, West Grove, West Chester, Lancaster, Camden, Ithaca and Delaware, but for the 75th, everyone came home.
For the milestone, the family had T-shirts made with a photo of Marion on the front and a family history on the back. Joan Marion Barrett-Winters put the reunion together this year. Most of about 200 family members at the picnic proudly wore the orange shirts as they chatted and kept an eye on the kids, who were running to the swings and back again.
Shirley said she had taken her grandchildren to see the little white house where the family began, and the current owner has said the Barretts are welcome to come and take a family photo. If they managed to get there, the photo will become part of next year's reunion – and a part of the family's tapestry of many, many stories.