Jennifer Barker, 57, had an eye for decorating, an ear for music

Posted: February 15, 2013

IT SEEMED THAT just about anything Jennifer Barker undertook, she did exceptionally well. Selling houses, researching titles, painting, decorating, playing musical instruments by ear, kayaking . . . to name a few.

She had such an eye for decorating that she turned her 300-year-old stone cottage in Flourtown and her home in Ventnor Heights, N.J., into showplaces.

"If she came to visit you, she would try to redecorate your house," said longtime friend Fran Atkinson. And you might have fallen for her ideas. "She was extremely creative," Fran said.

Jennifer Haviland Barker, owner of Springfield Abstract, a real-estate-title company in Flourtown; an artist whose landscapes are prized by family and friends; and an energetic "life of the party," died Sunday after a battle with lung cancer. She was 57.

Jennifer didn't take up painting until 2007, then launched herself into the art with her customary energy and enthusiasm.

Accompanied by Atkinson, a former art teacher, she traveled with a group of fellow artists to many scenic locations: Tilghman, Md.; Port Clyde, Maine; Santa Fe, N.M.; Elbow Cay in the Bahamas; Playa del Carmen, Mexico; and Costa Rica. She also painted the ocean and marshes around her home in Ventnor Heights.

"In addition to producing fine work on these trips, she was the life of the group she traveled with, adding a spirit of fun and energy to the workshop," said Atkinson, who was Jennifer's art teacher at the former Parkway School.

Jennifer's early life was not always easy. She was born in Long Valley, N.J., to Barbara and Barnes Barker. Her mother died when she was 2, and when she was about 12, she wound up in a foster home in Collegeville. After her father married Flora Turner, she moved in with them.

Darrah Ribble, a foster brother, remembers Jennifer as "vivacious, funky, artistic, the life of the party and genuinely sweet."

By age 16, she was pretty much on her own. She went through a hippie stage, Ribble said, immersing herself in the alternative South Street scene, where she worked for a time as a waitress. She later moved to Fairmount.

She had a small business making fabric art and lived for a time in California, where she worked as a publicist in the music business.

She could play any instrument, especially piano and guitar, and she favored "Jackson Browne stuff," Ribble said. "She was a very intriguing person."

She enjoyed kayaking around the bay from her home in Ventnor Heights, and participated in the annual contest in which kayakers decorate their craft. Prizes are awarded for the best decorations.

She enjoyed entertaining her many friends at her two homes, where she took pride in being the hostess with the mostest.

She always made sure her guests were well-accommodated, including such luxuries as bathrobes in the bedrooms.

In the 1990s, Jennifer began to sell real estate in Montgomery County, then worked for Springfield Abstract, eventually buying the business.

Her marriage to Henry Friedburger ended in divorce.

Besides her foster brother, she is survived by two brothers, David and Michael; another foster brother, Glenn Ribble, and a foster sister, Anna.

Services: Memorial service at 3 p.m., March 9, at the Plymouth Friends Meeting House, 2150 Butler Pike, Plymouth Meeting.

Donations for a bench dedicated to her memory, which will be placed along the banks of the Wissahickon Creek, where she liked to walk, may be made to the Jennifer Barker Bench Fund, 3300 Wiehle St., Philadelphia 19129.

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