In Memoriam: Herbert Barker
Herbert Barker, founder of Cheshire, Connecticut, distributor Barker Specialty, passed away on April 3. He was 90.
Barker was born in Meriden, Connecticut, on January 23, 1929. The youngest of five brothers, during World War II he left high school to run the family grocery store while his brothers served in the military. Later he served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War.
Barker entered the promotional products industry in 1948 when he and his wife Gloria started a business based on the idea of imprinting company names on useful products for advertising. This idea would ultimately grow into a leading promotional products distributor. Barker’s passion for business never ceased; his many ventures include Superior Gifts, a wholesale toy company, Uphams’, a large department store, and Golden Skillet, a fried chicken franchise. As an entrepreneur, he was proud to be awarded “Boss of the Year” by the Greater Hartford Jaycees, and to be inducted into the inaugural class of the Connecticut Business Hall of Fame.
For more than 30 years, he and his wife traveled North America with a keen eye for animation art and collectibles. Today, their collection is displayed in six Barker Animation Art Gallery locations between Connecticut and Florida, and their donated artwork colors the walls of many hospitals, nonprofits and religious institutions. He also established the Barker Character, Comic and Cartoon Museum, filled with a personal collection of 80,000 antique toys and collectibles.
Barker’s philanthropy saw him donate more than $2 million in charitable contributions over the years. A recipient of many honors and awards, his proudest accomplishment, after his family and business, was being awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humanities.
Barker is survived by his four children—Gerald and Debra Barker of Cheshire; Amy Barker of Pompano Beach, Florida; Steve and Susan Barker of Old Saybrook, Connecticut; and Adrienne Barker-Anctil and Alan Anctil of Daytona Beach. He also leaves behind eight grandchildren and one great granddaughter.
Services were held on April 7 at Beth David Memorial Gardens in Hollywood, Florida. Donations may be made to Chabad Chayil Jewish Learning Center of North Miami Beach, Boys and Girls Club of Broward County, JAFCO and Temple Beth David of Cheshire.