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Tributes to Jay Barber

Jay Barber Smokey.jpg

For some time now I’ve known this announcement was coming and I’ve been dreading it but today Mr. Barber has made it official.


 I can still recall the day (September 02, 2000) when I first met Jay.  I was filming a dove hunt for a Lohman Youth Hunting video when I teamed up with Jay and his son Luke who was just 11 years old at the time.  We spent the day together sitting in a field on the Bois D’arc CA waiting for doves to fly bye while Luke tried to bag a few of them.  It was only a short 18 months later when Jay, who was regional supervisor at the time, decide to give me a shot and hired me as the Community Outreach Specialist in Joplin.  Over the years our titles may have changed but our friendship did not.  We have shared many good days together and have watched each other’s kids grow into fine young men and women.  During the past 20 years Jay has taught me a lot and I’m forever grateful for that.  Especially on how relationships are the key to building a strong foundation in the world of conservation.  I will miss him dearly but am extremely happy and excited for him as he begins a new chapter.  I wish him and Judy nothing but the best.  They certainly deserve it.


 Jay’s list of accomplishments is long and widespread across several groups and agencies.  He was the 2010 O&E Award of Excellence winner, the 2019 CFM Educator of the Year, 2015 Hunter Education Staff Instructor in the SW Region, 2016 Missouri Science Teachers Educator of the Year, winner of the 2016 Choose Environmental Excellent Award, and the list goes on and on.


 Due to Covid-19, Jay has wisely decided to postpone any sort of retirement celebration for the time being but looks forward to hopefully doing something next spring.  I will let you know when that is.  Meanwhile, please feel free to reach out to Jay and wish him the best.  His last working day is Friday, December 4th.


 Thanks again Jay.  You really have made a difference in my life and the lives of thousands more.


 In closing, I’ll end with a saying I shared with Jay years ago because it reminded me of him and all the positive impression he has made in helping others Discover Nature.


 “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but only God can count the apples in a seed.”


 Best of Luck my Friend.  You are a good seed.


Warren Rose


I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Jay for nearly 20 years, but the real delight has been having an office across the hall from him for the past 14 years.  Jay and I affectionately refer to our end of the hall as the “Cul-de-sac”, due to the fact our offices are the last two on the hall.  Our saying has always been folks visiting us are either lost or looking for a place to hide-out.  However, like most families that live on cul-de-sacs, we know each other a little more than perhaps neighbors on just any street.  Couple the dead-end with thin walls and there’s not much Jay and I don’t know about each other including our families, our beliefs, our politics, and even, can I say it, our religion.  Jay and I have observed or heard each other’s fits, celebrations, triumphs and defeats. In doing so, we have always shared a deep sense of confidentiality and respect for each other’s perceived privacy.


Jay has been a “guiding light” for me.  Countless times Jay has helped me deal with the stresses of the job, advised me on situations, and even given me sage advice about work and life.  A perfect example is when my dad and grandmother passed away, Jay was there for me.  Jay has listened to countless stories about my family, my hunts, and me.  Jay is a great listener.   Anytime I’ve needed advice or needed someone to reassure me, and my faith, Jay has been there.  You couldn’t ask for a better “neighbor”.


As I mentioned, you don’t spend 14 years working across the hall from a guy without getting to know him.  If I used word association for Jay the words would be: Faith, Family, Dedication, Naturalist, and Activist.  You can’t be a light for others without a light within, and Jay knows the source.  His dedication to family has always been evident to me.  Jay is a proud son, husband, father, and grandfather.  He loves his family.   As dedicated as Jay is to his family, he is just as dedicated to his vocation – Jay is a natural naturalist.  Jay loves to share his knowledge of all things in nature and has a gift for doing so.  Jay is an activist for faith, family, and nature.  He puts his thoughts and ideas into action in each category, something I’m sure he will continue to due after his retirement.


Like good neighbors often do, when one moves away so does the other.  (Jay and I both moved off the cul-de-sac the same month.)  So I want to say “Thanks for a great 14 years, Neighbor!” 


Greg Collier

Agriculture Liaison

Missouri Department of Conservation

Cell (573) 860-8946

Jay Barber is an educational gem. His work with teachers, students and coworkers in the way of conservation education will leave a lasting legacy.


Always a “teacher’s teacher,” Jay has a heart for passing along his passion in a quiet, unassuming and often hilarious way. Nearly fourteen years ago, Jay took me under his wing to show me the ways of an education consultant. His engaging and teacher friendly style of workshops and programs made his workshops always a high demand program and helped me in my “green days” of being new to the workshop world. I knew I wanted to emulate Jay’s workshop style.


His kindness, humble demeanor and helpful personality made him a natural fit for mentoring countless new MDC recruits. Whether it be with emails of encouragement, helpful phone calls or just a line dropped to check in on the newbie, he always went out of his way to help those he worked with. His presence will be greatly missed and I count him as one of the most influential and gracious MDC mentors in this agency. will be sorely missed!



Stephanie McKinney


Education Programs Coordinator

Missouri Department of Conservation


For Curricula, Workshops and Grants, visit:

Hello Jay,

You and Jeff were the first to welcome me to the EC family at my first statewide meeting. I remember we were put together and shared 2 truths and a lie. You shared about your Peace Corps adventures. You and Jeff were so very welcoming, I knew I had landed in a good place.

I appreciate you sharing your experience and insights. You are an example of what excellence in the job looks like. I remember you teaching a lesson from Project Learning Tree, I’m sure Erica and Janice specifically selected you for your depth of knowledge and relatable teaching style. I’ve always been in awe of the magic and statewide impact you’ve created training pre-service teachers.

You’re impact on nature education has reached hundreds of teachers and thousands of students. That’s an amazing legacy. I hope you take time to pause and acknowledge the good you’ve created. The people of Missouri are lucky to have such a talented and passionate person choose to spend their career sharing their passion for natured education. I am fortunate to have worked alongside you and wish there had been more opportunities for our path to cross.

Thanks for all you’ve done to support and inspire. Your contributions will continue for years and years.

You will be missed. I wish you the best in the next part of life’s journey. Wishing you well always.

Wendy Parrett

Curriculum Coordinator
Anita B Gorman Discovery Center
4750 Troost Avenue
Kansas City, MO 64110
816/759-7305 x1133

Jay Barber might have thought I was kidding him about his “time in Africa” stories, but the truth is he had my attention every single time.  In addition, if he would reflect on any time I brought the subject up or even initiated “another Africa story”, I was wide-eyed and engaged. 


It has been a pleasure working with Jay in the same region of Missouri and all our joint projects throughout the state with teacher conferences and special events.  He has been an incredible bridge for me on the understanding of policy, the politics of the job and stakeholders, relationships, and he is the best Conservation Education Reference in the history of the endeavor.  He was always a phone call away, and I appreciated his friendship and guidance very much. Jay, his teachers, master naturalists and I have witnessed a changing world in regard to the nature and people’s connections; he is a champion!


I’m excited for his next chapter in life!  And I look forward to hearing more stories. 


– Jeff Cantrell

From Rudy Martinez

As he was looking for photos of Jay...

 I was hoping to find one of him as “Little Ed” during one of our Halloween events. Years ago, we were short-handed on Little Reds who were the trail hike leaders during our Halloween Happening event “Into the Woods with Little Red.” Jay being the team player that he is, put on pigtails and a costume because the show must go on. By the nights end he did have his five o’clock shadow but it was his deep voice that really gave him away. All in a night’s fun at the Nature Center.

From Bob Ranney

     I don’t have any photos of Jay, but my mind's eye is loaded with them. Jay Barber is one of the finest human beings I have ever met. His presence made being a Master Naturalist more of a pleasure than it ever could have been without him.


Thanks, Jay, for your never-failing joie de vivre. The only way I could ever imagine you hurting anyone's feelings would if you never call me to say, "Let's go fishing."

From Tonya Smith

   Jay, Congratulations on a long and inspiring career with the MDC.  You’re one of a kind! All of us in our Chapter are the lucky ones to continue to benefit from your expertise, your love for nature and your wonderful sense of humor. Happy Retirement!


From Becky Arnoldy

Jay, Thank you for your leadership, wit and humor. You not only made our master naturalist training educational but fun too! So glad you will be with us as a member after retirement. You seem too young to retire but I’m happy for you. Enjoy!

From Shae Johnson

Years ago, I had no idea who Jay Barber was, and had never met him though I kept hearing his name.  In fact, I rarely got out of my classroom in order to meet adults!  Along came Discover Nature.  I piloted the program and stuck with it for another 4 years before my school insisted on changing the science curriculum for the entire elementary grades.  We did not have an outdoor classroom, and I couldn’t get permission from MSU to develop one, so for our outdoor education, we used the trees on campus as our field trips, and we used the landscaped front yard.  Our pin oak tree right outside my classroom was filled with homemade birdfeeders each year. 


Jay helped me obtain the classroom grant where I was able to get skull reproductions, butterfly nets, binoculars, direction compasses and more.  Jay also came to my classroom to help me instruct my 30 fourth graders orientation using a compass.  His patience and expertise were amazing because often instruction with 4th graders outside was like herding cats!  My love and admiration for this remarkable man, Jay Barber, began then. 

Jay encouraged me to get my Master Naturalist training.  I couldn’t do it while teaching, but as soon as there was a class after I retired, in 2012, I joined the training class of 2013.  I’ve never regretted and thoroughly enjoy all the fun and education, friendships and more—all because of my hero—Jay Barber!  I’d be crying with his retirement if it wasn’t for him staying with us as a civilian!  Kudos, Jay on a job well done for so many kids and educators!


From Matt Cruise

Jay, thank you for being a great Master Naturalist teacher.  I tell everyone, that will listen, I've graduated from Barber College. Have fun in your retirement.   Matt

From Patty Hatcher

Jay is knowledgeable and fun!  I’m so thankful to have been in his 2019 class!  Now I’ll look forward to learning more from him as a Master Naturalist! -Patty


From Andrea Taylor

We couldn't ask for a better leader, Jay!  You have always been so knowledgeable and kind; you definitely meet people where they're at in their journey to become conservationists.  Thanks for caring about what you do and about each one of us!  We will miss you, but I'm so glad you will remain a member in our chapter!


Warmest regards,

Andrea Taylor


From Marlyss Simmons

It's hard to find the right words and enough words to tell Jay how much his kindness over the years meant.  Coming to the program, as I did, with a lot of enthusiasm but very little knowledge, I could have taken a lot of razing!  Jay has always been kind and generous with his time and encouragement.  I'm very happy for him that he can now begin the next life adventure: retirement and even happier to know that he will remain a part of the Master Naturalist program.  He is a gem!  


From Georgia Virnig



     You are greatly appreciated for being our MDC sponsor, and teacher of new Master Naturalists. The training was absorbing and fun.  Thank you for being our MDC coordinator for the Discover Nature Schools Grants. Your help was invaluable.  It's good to hear that you will continue to be a part of the MN group in your new role as a civilian!    

    As your life continues to unfold, may you experience joy and satisfaction in all your endeavors.


Georgia Virnig


From Kelly McGowan

I met Jay for the first time in September 2018 at a Master Naturalist board meeting. I instantly liked him and felt a kinship that doesn’t happen too often.  His passion for teaching about the natural world is something I admire greatly about him as well as his friendly demeanor and contagious smile.  I am thankful I had the opportunity to work with him and wish him the best as he begins a new chapter of his life.


From Kathleen Cowens












Congratulations on your retirement!  Thank you for sharing your wonderful knowledge base with us in your unique and entertaining way.  Your leadership will be missed.



Kathleen Cowens (2011)

December, 2020

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