Benjamin M. Barr
December 26, 1924 - June 14, 2020
Benjamin “Bunny” Morse Barr, 95, died June 14, 2020 at his home in Auburn of acute leukemia. Ben was a fixture of the Lewiston-Auburn community, well-loved by everyone who was fortunate enough to know him, to play in a band with him, to do business with him, to have a drink with him, or to have been raised by him. Born in Chelsea, Massachusetts on December 26, 1924, Ben was the oldest of five children of Arthur and Freida Rae Barr. The family followed the growing shoe industry north in 1933 to Auburn, where Ben graduated Edward Little, then enrolled at Bates College for a short period before enlisting in the war effort. The years he spent with the U.S. 3rd Army’s 150th Combat Engineers would shape much of his memory the rest of his life: the close buddies he made, landing at Omaha Beach on D-Day, the liberation of Buchenwald, building the first pontoon bridge across the Rhine, and standing with General Patton while he peed in it. After returning from Europe, the still fresh strains of war proved too much to focus on academics, so he again left Bates, eventually saving enough money to return to Europe, this time as a traveler. He met Lois Jacobson at a dance in Portland, and in 1951, they married. Lois always said that she had many suitors at the time but married Ben because he was gentle and charming, sensitive and stable. He read her poetry and wrote romantic letters. Shortly after, he founded Pioneer Vending, an automated food service company, with his good friend, Arthur Beckerman. It flourished until the early ’70’s, then he joined Geiger Brothers and remained with them until he retired. Ben and Lois had four sons, and together, they lived a full and fulfilling life. They went skiing in the winter, to Popham Beach and Sebago Lake in the summer, Boston in the spring, and nowhere in particular in the fall. They had dinner parties with great friends, celebrations at Beth Abraham with the Jewish community, and gatherings with extended family. Ben documented every moment of it with tens of thousands of photographs. It was a passion that began when he was 12. He spent countless hours in his darkroom, usually with one of his sons by his side. He was a voracious reader, a grateful eater, a loyal friend, an interested listener. A pipe aficionado. He tolerated dogs, but hated cats. Ben adored music, especially big band music, and especially trombone music. He first picked up the trombone as a teenager and put it down at 92. His nearly thirty years with the Auburn Community Band sustained him and kept him endlessly delighted. He often joked that being a 90-something year old trombonist made him more of a carnival freak than anything else, but it’s also, he said, what kept him alive so long. He is predeceased by his wife, Lois, and survived by his children: Peter and Connie Barr of Lewiston Larry and Vicki Barr of Dallas, Michael and Juliet Barr of New Jersey, and Adam and Sherri Barr of Los Angeles, as well as 8 grandkids, 3 great-grandkids, his brother Richard of Yarmouth and sister, Elaine Sandler, of Framingham, Mass. We will all miss his spirited story-telling, his peculiar moods and habits, his humble spirit, his unexpected bursts of childlike silliness (and accompanying giggles), his quiet intelligence, his twinkling charm, his bountiful pride for our accomplishments small and large, his dry, dark wit, and his secret joy at a good bite of anything delicious.
A private graveside service for immediate family will take place Wednesday, June 17. A memorial service will be held at a later date.