April 15, 1922 – February 9, 2020
From the time Mom died on May 8 last year just after their 75th wedding anniversary, Dad had one wish: to join her. On February 9, the Lord granted it. Dad succumbed to a respiratory infection in his sleep peacefully at home just in time for a heavenly Valentine’s Day with his beloved.
But that was not Dad’s first encounter with death. In 1936, 14 years after his birth, he was on a bus from Ciudad Victoria, Mexico to Monterrey to watch a baseball game. The bus collided with a train. Dad was placed in the pile of bodies thought to be dead. A family friend heard of the accident on the radio. He rushed to the scene, saw Dad, realized he was alive, and personally transported him to a nearby hospital. Two broken collarbones among other injuries, but alive.
And because of that Good Samaritan, we have the classic American Dream story.
Named Assad after his father, Dad grew up in Ciudad Victoria and like every Barkett started working as a child in Gide’s store. After a brief sojourn to Jacksonville for middle school, he was recalled to Mexico because he was needed for—yep—work. His street smarts and business sense belied his seventh grade education. His work ethic was gargantuan. If there are giants among men, Dad was a Giant among giants.
He married Mom in 1944 in Mexico and immigrated with the family to Miami in 1946. Dad’s first job was cleaning bathrooms and emptying garbage cans in the Alfred I. DuPont Building in downtown Miami--the reason I always talk to and thank the janitors in my building every night. He moved from that job to the Miami News where he was a pressman at nights and came home each morning ink stained from setting the presses for the day’s news. When Site and Gide retired from Barkett’s Market on the corner of 12th Avenue and 5th Street near the old Orange Bowl, Dad and Mom took over the store.
Dad saved every penny he earned. That’s how he and Mom were able to put Mansu through medical school, George through graduate school, me (John) through law school, and Dickie through business school. And how we still laugh about the IRS auditor who investigated Dad one year and came up empty-handed. “I would like to see your closet.” Dad showed him his work pants, work shirts and two pairs of shoes. “Where did you go on vacation last year?” Of course, after a 1955 trip to Mexico, we never had time to take a vacation. Look up “frugal” in Webster’s and it should read: “Dad.”
In 1977, they moved to Homestead where Dad picked avocadoes on his groves, as he had done on weekends or vacations since the early 1950s and would do until a few years ago when he decided to supervise pickers. But he never stopped riding the tractor to mow the grove—he was doing that a year ago at this time.
Dad loved his sisters, Irma, who is no longer with us, and Carmen, Rosemary, and Chati. How proud Dad was to place the robes on Rosemary when she became the first woman and Hispanic Justice on the Florida Supreme Court!
He was more proud of his ten grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren and the promise that they represent to make the world a better place. He left one message for them: Work hard. Do your best in whatever you do. Always help those in need. And never – never ever -- forget the importance of family.
Indeed, nothing was more important to Dad than his family. He was particularly close with Dick, the youngest of the four of us. So it was no surprise that after Dick died of cancer in 2005, Dad never really recovered. If heaven is about family reunions, Dad is in celestial joy with Mom, Dick, Site, Gide, and Aunt Irma.
A close second to family was education. Dad was committed to our receipt of the education he never had. He and Mom were echoes. “College.” “COLLEGE.” We heard the word so many times that we worked hard to get to college before knowing what college was.
But if there is one memory of Dad I will cherish forever it was his extraordinary dedication to Mom. No marriage – real or cinematized – has shown greater love than Dad had for Mom. He cared for her selflessly, devotedly, and untiringly until he physically was unable to do so. And he and Mom—just like Site and Gide--celebrated diamond wedding anniversaries separated—true to their vows--only by death.
And now they are reunited. I can see him taking her hand and kissing her good night, as he did every night. “Are you okay?” he would always ask. “Yes,” she would always answer. Soul mates on earth for over 75 years. True soul mates in heaven for eternity. That makes me smile.
If you wish to remember Dad’s memory, we invite you to make a donation to the Assad, Sara, and Richard Barkett Scholarship Fund, University of Notre Dame, 1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, Indiana 46556.
The viewing is 6-8 pm on Sunday, February 16 at Stanfill Funeral Home, 10545 S. Dixie Highway. A celebration of Dad’s life begins at 11 am on Monday, February 17 at Epiphany Church, 8235 SW 57th Avenue.
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