Cleared Out: Famed Auburn coach buys local nursery (May 16, 2009)
Barbara Nunn McCarthy, 73, of Conyers died peacefully at home on Tuesday, March 26, surrounded by family. She succumbed to the breast cancer that she had successfully beaten for over a decade.
Born in Commerce, Ga. to Charlotte and Barney Nunn, Barbara went on to graduate from Marietta High School in 1958. In 1963 she graduated from Howard College, now Samford University, in Birmingham, Aa., and began working for the Extension Service in Syracuse, N.Y. in 1963. After having three children, she completed her Masters in Home Economics from the University of Georgia in 1973.
Barbara McCarthy continued her career with the University of Georgia Extension Service in Paulding County, 1973-83, and Rockdale County, 1983-97. She was awarded the 1996 Extension Home Economist of the Year by the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences as well as dozens of other state and regional awards. After retiring, she served as a Rockdale County Commissioner Post 2, from 1999 to 2002, where her accomplishments included championing the county's tree ordinance, working closely with the Hospital Authority to re-establish its stewardship of the hospital, and coordinated with Conyers businesses when replacing the 100 year old sewer system.
She married Fox McCarthy in July 1984, at Big Canoe in the north Georgia Mountains and they enjoyed 28 happy years together. From 1991-2010, Barbara and Fox co-owned Fox Hollow Nursery, specializing in large Japanese maples.
The two met at a singles event for those 50 and older and it was love at first sight for Fox. "I saw her come in and said, 'Oh, my," he recalled.
He described her as his "angel." "I am so fortunate to have had her as my wife," said Fox.
She was always smiling and never brought home bitterness or gossip throughout her community work and activities, he said. He remembered one time when she was working on a smoke-free initiative for Rockdale and was called choice names by a tavern owner. "She came home smiling and never took it personally," he said.
Rockdale County Extension Agent Jule-Lynn Macie, who was hired Barbara 27 years ago, said of her mentor and friend, "She made me the county extension agent I am today." The two grew so close, at one point, they even began wearing the same style of clothing and had to check in the morning to make sure they didn't have on the same outfit.
Barbara pushed the envelope in innovative community programming, said Macie, including establishing a program for welcoming newcomers, funded by recycling newspapers, and renovating the CE Steel Community Center.
Barbara taught Macie to "Not just do the status quo but to really meet the needs of the community."
Longtime former County Clerk Jean Hambrick said of her good friend, "We were like souls, enjoying a wide variety of interests and activities, from love of our adopted community to theater in Stone Mountain to lunch at Wendy's and everything in between. It was a good day for all of us when Barbara moved to Rockdale County. But an even better day for her when she met and married Fox, the love of her life. She never tired of serving this community. I will miss her terribly but am richer for having her for a friend."
Commissioner Norman Wheeler, who served with her on the Board of Commissioners, said, "Barbara was a great person and was a pleasure to work with. Barbara was a commissioner who always had what was best for our county on her mind and was willing to work toward that goal. Very honest and would always step up to the demand of being a commissioner."
Barbara McCarthy was a great advocate for her community. "We do these things, not out of sense of obligation, but with a sense of pride," she would say. "After all, it's our hometown, too."
She dedicated her life to service with involvement in many organizations including:
• ACS Relay for Life, Team Captain and survivor
• American Heart Association, Volunteer 1992-97
• Drug-Free Schools and Community Advisory Council, 1990-93
• United Way Advisory Board, 1990-1994; Gov/Community Relations Comm, 1995-2002
• Lakeview Community Action Committee, 1993-2000
• Rockdale Community Resource Development Council, 1983-97
• Rockdale 2000, Literacy Task Force, Member, 1993-1997; Treasurer, 1994-96
• Commission on Children and Youth, Technical Advisory Committee, 1994-97
• Conyers/Rockdale Council on Arts, Board of Directors, 2000-2003
• C.E. Steele Community Center, Board of Directors
• Habitat for Humanity, Volunteer, Rockdale Board of Directors, 1995-97; Sec/Treas ‘95-97
• Healing Hands, Inc., Board of Directors, 1995-1998
• Trinity Baptist Church, Personnel Committee
• Rockdale Retired Educators Association, Member
• Rockdale County Hospital Authority, Secretary/Treasurer
• Rockdale Medical Center Board, Vice Chair
• Conyers/Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, Member
• Rockdale Historical Society, Member
• Conyers/Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, Member
• Spearheaded Rockdale initiative for Smoke-free Environments, which served as a model for the rest of the state, 2004-2005
• Alliance for a Healthy Rockdale, President 2005-2006
• Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families, Board of Directors, 1999-2002
• Conyers Rotary Club, President 2006-2007
Despite the many accolades and titles that came her way, Barbara kept her feet firmly planted on the ground. Fox described one misprinted award that she kept on her wall; the award was for a "Barbara Nut McCarthy."
"She came home and started laughing and laughing," he said. She called it her "humility award."
Her daughter Alicia Beamer said her mother accomplished so much even while raising three children as a single mother at a time where there were not as many resources for single mothers.
"She was able to do all this and be a working mom. She was a true role model for me as a professional. I probably didn't appreciate it growing up; you take your parents for granted. It's not until later in life you go ‘Wow, she was an extraordinary woman.'"
Her son, Alan Holder, described his mother as a woman of immense energy and determination. "She was always very driven. She finished her master's when we were 2, 4, 6 years old. Over the years, that determination turned more and more to community involvement." And she was able to see the fruition of her community involvement in so many ways, he said.
The outpouring of community support during the last year and last few days has been incredible, said her daughter. Even classmates from her Samford University Class of 1961 remembered the impact she had on them more than four decades ago.
Over the last year, as she battled cancer, the family spent more time together. Everywhere they went, her children ran into people who talked about the direct impact Barbara and her work had on their lives. Seeing this made him reevaluate the important things in life, said Holder.
"She had a wonderful life at this point. There aren't any regrets. When you look at all the things she did, anyone would say it's an extremely full life. Filled with warmth and family and travel. And filled with things she wanted to do."
She is survived by husband, Fox McCarthy, Conyers; sons, Alan Holder, Phoenix, AZ and Kenneth Holder, Larkspur, CA; daughter, Alicia Beamer, Tupelo, MS; brother, Charles Nunn, Marietta; sister, Carolyn Sutton, Chattanooga, TN; granddaughters, Samantha Holder and Rachel Holder, Carrboro, NC, and Kaylen Holder, Larkspur, CA, grandsons, Brian Holder, Carrboro, NC, Ian Holder, Phoenix, AZ, Sean Holder, Larkspur, CA, niece and nephew, Paige Kincer and Michael Sutton, Chattanooga, TN.
Her life and memory will be celebrated with a memorial service on Saturday, April 6, 1 p.m. at the Conyers First United Methodist Church, 921 N Main St NE, Conyers. A family reception will be immediately following in the reception hall downstairs.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Relay for Life at Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers, GA 30094 or www.trinityconyers.org.