Meet Lea Hill Resident Gene Barker

Gene, like many of our residents, is a man with many talents. He’s a retired technical engineer, but he is also an experienced costumier.

Recently retired from being chair of the Wesley Lea Hill Resident Council, Gene Barker has been an integral part of Lea Hill’s emergency response team. He was approached a couple of years ago by the campus administrator to help draft guidelines and procedures for the campus’ Community Emergency Response Team (CERT).

Gene has much experience with emergency response teams. He is a former civil defense member. He educated people on and participated in emergency response and evacuation drills. He also used to work as an on-call firefighter in Southern California.

With an education in industrial engineering, Gene worked at Douglas Aircraft and then at Boeing for many years as a Senior Technical Fellow in quality management.

When he retired in 2005, his wife Janice invited him to take up quilting with her, and today he is part of the quilting group at Wesley Lea Hill.

“It was something new to me, and I figured why not try it?” said Gene.

Quilting was new to Gene, but sewing was not. He learned to sew when he was six, helping his mother sew clothes for himself and his family. He’s since developed a passion for it.

When he married Janice in college, he helped sew formals for her to wear for her job. He also did costuming for musical theater and his wife’s dance troop.

In the 1980s, he won an international costume contest where he hand crafted an 1896 Victorian lady’s walking suit.

“We designed it to be as historically accurate as possible with only a few things, like the shoes and jewelry, purchased for the outfit,” said Gene.

The conventions Gene has attended usually have fantasy and science-fiction costuming, but he has always been interested in historical outfits and classy formals. He’s maintained this hobby even while working in aeronautical engineering for many years.

“In the business world, you don’t always get opportunities for creativity so I’ve always needed a creative outlet.”

Gene was a technical engineer, but he was also, and still is, a skillful and experienced costumier with a passion for sewing and pattern drafting.

Costuming, emergency planning and process management might seem to be very different beasts, but the common thread for Gene seems to be creativity through planning.

“I think that the problem solving that’s involved in planning plays to my creative side,” he said. “There’s satisfaction in finding new ways to approach potential problems and in seeing your plan come together as a whole.”