Remembering Mary Barker

This post has been archived and contains information that may be out of date.

CHA colleagues that missed our April 24 wake for Mary can view the video below, which captures all the memories shared, slide show of Mary, fun “Maryisms” and much more. A Celebration of Life will be held in the future. To receive details, send your email to

Mary Jennings Barker | 1954 – 2021

Mary Barker died unexpectedly at her home in Fair Oaks, California on April 8, 2021. She leaves behind her husband of 33 years, Kent, and adult children Kate and Brett – she loved them all beyond measure. Also surviving Mary are her father, Martin Jennings, sisters and brother, Anne, Jennifer (Michael), Eileen (Bob), Jan and Stephen (Sue). Mary was also a treasured aunt to Asha, Andrea, Sara, Meagan, Rebecca, Claire and Charlie and a beloved great-aunt to their children. Mary was preceded in death by her mother, Wilma Jennings. 

Mary is mourned by many more extended family members and countless friends and colleagues. The void Mary leaves behind is immense and unfillable. 

Mary grew up in Orangevale and lived and worked in the Sacramento area her entire life. She graduated from Casa Roble High School in 1972. After months of exploring Europe with a high school friend, Mary returned to the area to enter the working world. She worked for the state and private concerns, but ultimately made her career at the California Hospital Association (CHA), retiring in 2017 as Vice President of Publishing and Education.   

Mary was engaging, elegant, gracious, kind and, above all, unselfish. She cared deeply for all those fortunate enough to be within her reach. Mary was the glue that held everyone together – both family and friends. She was thoughtful and could be counted on to attend to others’ needs. Without fanfare or need of thanks, she organized gatherings and outings. Mary was a wedding planner for friends and family before the career existed. She cherished friends and family and kept the sparks of love and friendship alive by reaching out and continuing to nourish lifelong relationships. Many people describe Mary as their best friend. 

Mary had numerous creative talents and interests. She took joy in the arts and theater. She was as comfortable on the dance floor as she was in business meetings. She loved gardening and was an expert flower arranger. Her brother, Stephen, in appreciation of Mary’s style and flair, called her “Miss Cosmopolitan.” While she always wanted to do things well, she was adventurous and was willing to take a risk and try new activities like body surfing, jet skiing and golf. She was accommodating and, in most cases, comfortable with going with the flow. Mary doted on her beloved animals. She raised sheep and a rooster as a child and had dogs ranging from a Rottweiler to a Shih Tzu as an adult.   

In retirement, Mary did not rest. She helped care for her father and volunteered for the Orangevale Fair Oaks Food Bank and a gun violence prevention program at UC Davis. When the pandemic limited community involvement, she took on remote work for the Girl Scouts of Central California and tutoring great-nieces. 

Mary enjoyed traveling, especially to Ireland where she was able to meet many of the Jennings Clan, and to Germany and Spain where she and Kent traveled with friends. Closer to home, she spent good times with family and friends in Monterey, San Francisco, the Sierra Mountains, Jackson Hole, Wyoming and Hawaii.  

Private services were held for Mary’s family at Divine Savior in Orangevale. Later in the year, as the pandemic allows, a Celebration of Mary’s Life will be held to which all will be invited to remember Mary and share a time of fellowship which she most certainly would have enjoyed (and probably would have organized). 

In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the Orangevale Fair Oaks Food Bank ( or WEAVE (