Her teachers recalled 34-year-old Kathleen Barber as a dedicated student. Her family remembered her determination to excel despite her illness.
On Friday night, Barber, who died April 27, became the first graduate to receive a degree posthumously from Golden West College. Her three sons--ages 10, 12 and 13--accepted the associate of arts degree on her behalf.
“I know she really earned it, because she tried a lot,” said Jonathan Mikel Barber, 12. “It meant a lot to her.”
Barber, of Stanton, died from complications from pancreatic-related ailments. She had completed enough credits, however, to earn her degree.
Her husband, Dan, wept softly as he talked about his wife before Friday’s ceremony.
“She never complained about the pain,” he said. “In her studies, she was very meticulous. She wouldn’t take just an A. She wanted an A-plus.”
Her sons said that receiving the diploma for their mom meant a lot to them.
“I’m glad she graduated,” said Daniel Scott Barber, 13. “She spent a lot of time in the library.”
Barber’s father, Ken Field of Garden Grove, talked of his daughter’s love for education and her desire to become an elementary school teacher.
“I guess it started when she was a room mother at school for one of her kids,” he said. “She enjoyed it and was good at it.”
Faculty members also had warm remembrances of Barber. One of her Golden West teachers, Mickey Jackson, said Barber bravely disguised her painful illness.
“Because Kathie has always done superior work, attended class regularly and never complained, it was not until this semester that I became aware of her serious health problems,” Jackson said. Field said his daughter had been ill with pancreatic problems for about seven years. Part of her pancreas was surgically removed, and she subsequently suffered diabetes.
Barber’s mother, Winifred Field, said the prolonged illness did not mar her daughter’s sunny outlook. “Kathie always had a smile and a good word or a joke,” her mother said. “She always had such a good nature about her.”
Jackson said said it was especially fitting that Barber’s sons received her diploma.
“I know how much she wanted her sons to value school as much as she did,” she said. “Having them accept the diploma and the honors she earned [is] a wonderful way of showing them what they--and her education--meant to her, and what she meant to all of us who knew her.”