Community mourns LIFT-UP director, human services champion Amy Barr
Amy Barr, who directed the LIFT-UP poverty relief organization since last fall and was the area United Way director for many years before that, has died after a recent cancer recurrence.
Barr, who had lived in Carbondale for the past 19 years, died at her home on Thursday. She was 64.
Described by good friend Nicolette Toussaint as a “witty champion of the needy,” after a long career as a nutritionist and the first woman vice-president at Horizon Organic Dairy in the late 1990s, Barr spent much of her time in the Roaring Fork Valley serving those in need.
“Funny, feisty and feminist with a laugh as big as the outdoors, that was Amy,” Toussaint, a columnist for the Post Independent and fellow member with Barr at the Two Rivers Universalist Unitarian congregation in Carbondale, said.
“Amy was a tireless advocate for equality, for the environment, for inclusiveness and love,” she said “She was both an institution-builder and a rebel ready to challenge institutional injustices. She was always ready to write a letter to the editor, raise funds or raise hell – whatever needed doing, Amy got it done.”
Barr became the LIFT-UP executive director in October of 2017, and shortly thereafter learned that her cancer had recurred.
“In that time, she touched the hearts of both staff and the board while leaving a lasting impact on those that LIFT-UP serves throughout our valley,” according to a statement from the Rifle-based organization. LIFT-UP operates food pantries from Parachute to Aspen, the Extended Table dinners in Glenwood Springs and Rifle, and two thrift shops.
“Amy said that the LIFT-UP position was a dream job for her, as it blended her experience in nutrition with her heart for nonprofit service,” the release said. “Her indomitable spirit touched those she worked with throughout the valley.”
Barr’s broader work included seven years as director of United Way Battlement to the Bells. She was also a member of the Garfield County Human Services Commission, assisted in the operation of the Salvation Army Intervalley Service Center in Glenwood Springs, and was an active Rotary Club member in Carbondale.
“Many of us knew the fantastic spirit of Amy,” her pastor at TRUU, the Rev. Shawna Foster said.
“She connected us and this community with grace, wit, and enthusiasm that will be sorely missed,” Foster said. “She lived her values every day to make this world and our river communities a better place. We were lucky to be one of the select places she loved with her whole heart.”
“Spunky, smart, warm and irreverent, Amy was a ball of earthy energy and vibrant life,” wrote Robin Waters in one of many Facebook posts remembering Barr.
“That she loved her new job and was poised for her last, great contribution before retirement – her “swan song,” as she wrote me – is another of life’s ironies,” wrote Waters, whom Barr had recruited to join the United Way board. “She left too fast and too soon.”
Recently, LIFT-UP had brought on board longtime human services director Debbie Wilde to act as acting director.
“She will stay on in the months ahead to lead the organization through this difficult transitional period,” according to the statement. “We extend our prayers and thoughts to Amy’s family, friends and everyone she impacted.”
Prior to her work in the Roaring Fork Valley, Barr was a registered dietitian with more than three decades of food and nutrition experience. She was a co-founder of communications firm Marr Barr in Longmont, managing several major brand-name clients. She also supervised a client program in South Africa related to hunger and nutrition in conjunction with the U.S. Agency for International Development–U.S. State Department.
Barr later became the first female vice president of Horizon Organic Dairy from 1996-2000, and was director of and national spokesperson for the Good Housekeeping Institute, having previously served as Good Housekeeping magazine’s nutrition and fitness editor. She was also executive editor-at-large for McCall’s magazine.
On the nonprofit front, Barr served on numerous boards and commissions, including the Sarah W. Stedman Center for Nutritional Studies at Duke University, the Presidents’ Environmental Awards Committee, Colorado Business for Social Responsibility and the Colorado Music Festival.
And, she had served for three years as the volunteer co-director of the New York Race for the Cure against breast cancer, helping grow participation in that event.
Barr is survived by her husband, Jay Cronk, whom she met rock climbing in Connecticut. She is also survived by her mother, Myna Lee Barr; sister Marg Sutter; three brothers, Skip Barr, John Barr and General Jim Barr; and several nieces and nephews.
Friends have planned a service in the celebration of Barr’s life, at 10 a.m. Saturday, April 7 at the Third Street Center in Carbondale, sponsored by the Two Rivers Unitarian Universalist congregation. All are welcome open. In lieu of flowers, offerings of non-perishable food can be made to LIFT UP.
For now, her family asks for cards only and no visits, flowers, or food, according to the release from LIFT-UP. A formal obituary will appear in the Post Independent.