Weekly newspaper of Three Rivers, California, and Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks

Jeanette Barton: 1931 ~ 2017


Jeanette Elizabeth (Tario) Barton, a longtime resident of Three Rivers, Calif., died Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017, at her home. She was 85. 
A celebration of Jeanette’s life will be held Saturday, March 25, at 2 p.m., at Three Rivers Arts Center, 41763 North Fork Drive.
Jeanette was born at home in Lead, S.D., on May 14, 1931, to Jacob and Jennie Tario. She was two decades younger than her three siblings. She said it was like having three extra sets of parents.
Jeanette was raised in Lead until just before she turned 12 when she came to Three Rivers to live with her sisters, Irma Buchholz and Helen Grenfell, and their families. She attended Three Rivers School through eighth grade.
When Jeanette was 14, she was at a potluck at Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers and saw a young man in an Army uniform on the church steps. Later, sitting across from him at dinner, she leaned over to her best friend, Lois Dixon, and whispered, “That’s the man for me.” And thus began a love story that spanned more than seven decades.
In the meantime, Jeanette’s parents left the South Dakota winters behind and moved west to San Francisco. After Jeanette graduated eighth grade at Three Rivers School, she joined her parents in San Francisco where she attended San Francisco Polytechnic High School. 
Jeanette and that man she had set her sights on marrying, Jim Barton, stayed in touch. He would visit her in San Francisco; she would spend summers in Three Rivers with her family.
In 1949, Jim proposed, but with a stipulation. Jeanette had to attend at least one year of college before they married.
She kept her end of the bargain and attended San Francisco State University. The ink on her grades report was barely dry and she was on the train to Three Rivers. That Saturday, June 10, 1950, Jim and Jeanette were married at Community Presbyterian Church in Three Rivers by her brother-in-law and the church’s pastor, Rev. John Buchholz.
It was quite the affair. The wedding filled the front page of the Three Rivers Current newspaper with the headline, “Jeanette Tario weds Jim Barton.” The ceremony was “witnessed by more than 250 guests,” the article stated. Three photos accompanied the story, and they were the first photos ever published in a Three Rivers newspaper.
The couple’s first home together was at Ash Mountain in the foothills of Sequoia National Park, where Jim was a seasonal ranger for the National Park Service. At summer’s end, the newlyweds settled in Fresno where they attended college. In 1952, they moved to Santa Monica when Jim accepted a teaching position with Santa Monica City Schools.
In September 1958, the couple returned late the previous night to Santa Monica after a summer living and working in Sequoia National Park and were awakened by an early-morning phone call. The caller said, “Congratulations, it’s a girl!”, thus informing them that their daughter-to-be had just been born at Santa Monica Hospital and was ready to be adopted.
“We’d better go shopping,” said Jeanette.
Two years later, they adopted a son. Jeanette was a stay-at-home mom, but with the onset of each summer would pack up the house, car, and two kids in preparation for a season in a national park, then do it all over again at the end of summer to return to the city. In 1968, she began taking weaving lessons in North Hollywood from Marie Walling, a renowned Southern California weaver.
In January 1969, Jim and Jeanette returned to Three Rivers with their two children and built a home on the ranch that had been in the Barton family since 1878. This is where the couple has resided for the past 48 years.
Upon her move to Three Rivers, Jeanette immediately found the weavers in town and joined the Loom Room that was located at the Wells Ranch on South Fork Drive. She enjoyed her time there, saying that the laughter from the Loom Room could be heard by passersby on the road!
Jeanette brought her cooking talents to Three Rivers School for a few years. She was the cafeteria manager from 1971 to 1975. 
From April 1975 to June 1996, Jeanette owned and operated Mountain Arts, a studio, gift shop, and weaving supply store in Three Rivers (the building today houses the Three Rivers Historical Museum). She and her two partners, Jane Cheney and Nancy Campe, first rented, then purchased, the old, concrete-block, one-room building from Jessie Bequette (1906-2010). Nancy left in 1982, and Jane in 1985, to pursue other projects. Jeanette stayed on, remodeled the place, and added on a room for her growing inventory and weaving lessons.
Patrons traveled from near and far because Mountain Arts was the only full-service weaver’s shop between Los Angeles and Stockton. Jeanette was a professional handweaver who wove placemats and table linens; shawls, stoles, wool ponchos, and other articles of clothing; towels; rugs; blankets and afghans; yardage; and more that were sold at the shop and local arts-and-crafts festivals. In 1974, her work won honors at the Handweavers of America Convergence in San Francisco; she also won awards regularly at State shows.
Jeanette was renowned for her placemats made from old blue jeans. These “Rainbow Blue” mats made appearances in magazines and as props on some television shows. Over the span of her career, she wove more than 3,000 jean mats.
Three Rivers residents were well-trained in knowing to donate their old blue jeans to Jeanette. Her daughter jokes that she would have to hide all her favorite broken-in jeans from her mom so they wouldn’t be turned into placemats while she was at school.
When Jim and Jeanette moved to Three Rivers, Jim retired from the National Park Service after 20 years as a seasonal ranger. Instead, in between some other travel and adventures, the couple spent their summers the same way the Barton family had since 1873: at the family cabin in Mineral King.
In addition to pursuing the ancient art of handweaving, Jeanette stayed true to her Finnish roots by being a superb cook, baker, seamstress, knitter, embroiderer, and hand-quilter. She owned at least a half-dozen looms that were always ready to weave.
Jeanette’s family knew that the decline of aging was taking an irreversible toll when she stopped weaving after nearly 50 years. It was the end of an era.
As Jim reminisced in his Valentine’s Day card to Jeanette just days before her death, the couple spent their married life in some wonderful places, beginning with their honeymoon in, fittingly, Paradise, then in the Sequoia National Park locales of Ash Mountain, Hospital Rock, Giant Forest, and Cabin Creek; Grant Grove and Cedar Grove (Kings Canyon); Santa Monica; Seattle; Yellowstone; and then returning home to live out their days in Three Rivers and Mineral King.
Jeanette was preceded in death by her parents, Jacob (1883-1946) and Jennie (1885-1975); her nephew and inseparable best friend, Mark Grenfell (1931-1949) of Three Rivers; her siblings, Rex Tario of Lead, S.D., Helen Grenfell of Three Rivers, and Irma Buchholz of Three Rivers; and her niece Mary (Grenfell) Pence. 
She is survived by her devoted husband of 66 years, Jim Barton, of Three Rivers; her daughter, Sarah Elliott, and husband John of Three Rivers; son Mark Barton of Three Rivers; two grandchildren, Jennie Elliott of Oakland and Johnnie Elliott of Portland, Ore.; and her niece, Fanchon (Buchholz) Owen of Fowler. 
During the past few years, Jeanette had some loving caregivers who are now and forever a part of the family: Gracie Cortez, Vanessa Flores, Rebekah Johnson, Sandy Norris, and Virpi Takala.
If so moved, the family requests that memorials be made in Jeanette’s name to Mineral King Preservation Society, P.O. Box 286, Exeter, CA  93221 (form online at www.mineralking.org/Membership-Application.pdf) or Kaweah Delta Hospice, 623 W. Willow St., Visalia, CA  93291 (phone: 559/733-0642).