Life Story / Obituary
Never one for diamonds and pearls, Ernestine Barrs placed her riches in the finer things in life, like matters of the heart. She possessed an exceptional work ethic, and all while raising her large family. She added much to the lives around her, and with ways all her own. Although she will be deeply missed, Ernestine leaves behind precious memories never to be forgotten.
By 1932, the economy continued to deteriorate as a result of the Great Depression. Unemployment increased to over 24 percent with an astounding 13 million out of work. Many struggled to keep their families fed and a roof over their heads, yet the entertainment industry provided welcome relief from everyday worries. For Lawrence and Josephine (Kessler) Dumouchel, the year offered hope and promise as they celebrated the birth of their little girl, Ernestine, born on September 14, 1932, in Muskegon, Michigan.
Ernestine spent her early years raised in the lakeshore city of Muskegon until 1939 when her family moved to a slower way of life in the country. Growing up on their family farm taught young Ernestine a hard work ethic and a tomboy through and through, she experienced her share of adventures, too. Her father built their home, and for the first three months, it lacked electricity and indoor plumbing. No stranger to hard work, Ernestine also had her share of chores around the farm and she even learned how to drive a car at the age of ten. Ernestine was never afraid of getting her hands dirty. She milked the cows, cleaned their farm equipment and she helped tend the large garden which provided food for their table. When it came to working in the garden, Ernestine was very good at finding tomato worms, but she never liked doing it!
During her youth, Ernestine’s mother often treated Ernestine and her siblings to movies at the theater at a time when theaters often gave away a free dish with the purchase of an adult ticket. In time, Ernestine’s family came to collect a complete service for 12 in addition to all the serving pieces. Their movies of choice usually included horror flicks such as the Wolf Man, Dracula, Frankenstein, and vampire movies. These times in Ernestine’s life created her love of science fiction that would continue for the rest of her life.
Ernestine received her early and secondary education at St. Jean’s Catholic School in Muskegon before graduating with the Class of 1950. Rather than wait for their father to pick them up when he got out of work at 5:00 pm, she and her sister would occasionally hitchhike home after school when they were older. One of Ernestine’s first jobs was working as a waitress at a local drive-in that offered car service. Trays of food were hung on the car window, and much to her dismay, on Ernestine’s very first day of work an entire tray she placed on one of the window’s fell. She eventually began working at another hamburger restaurant in town where she put her cooking skills to use, as well.
While working at the restaurant, Ernestine met her first husband, Joe Gundy. After a short courtship, they were married in 1952. For a brief time, she worked at Duffy-Motts Cannery until over the course of the next ten years six children came to bless their lives. A bustling household, sons, Joe Jr., Jeff and Jace, as well as daughters, Debbie, Yvonne, and Lisa made Ernestine’s life complete. By 1968 and when each of her children reached school age, Ernestine returned to the working world outside of the home. She returned to Duffy-Motts making applesauce, and while there she also learned how to drive a forklift. After the plant closed in 1973, Ernestine began working for Loren Industries at an anodizing plant for the next five years. She then moved on to Almond Industries where she eventually became a truck driver driving single-axle trucks 16 to sometimes 30 feet long! Ernestine made all of the out-of-town deliveries for the company, driving a minimum of 60,000 miles a year. She loved her job at Almond and enjoyed great friendships with many of her co-workers including her boss. Some of these friendships continued well after she retired in 1994.
Although her marriage to Joe Gundy came to an end in the late 1970s, Ernestine came to know love again when she met Harley Barrs. They dated for nearly three years, and on July 13, 1982, they were happily married. The best years of their lives together were spent living in their log cabin type home on Crockery Lake near Sparta. As a couple, they so enjoyed having their families visit and spending time playing in the lake where numerous memories were made. Treasured times were also shared during the holidays and other special occasions. And to Ernestine, the more the merrier took on new meaning when in time her family alone came to include 14 grandchildren, 24 great-grandchildren, and several great-great-grandchildren. Always extremely proud of her family, they brought her the greatest joy and could do no wrong in her eyes.
A fun and outgoing woman, Ernestine loved meeting new people. Her husband belonged to several Army associations from which they enjoyed traveling around the country to various posts and events. Ernestine’s love of travel encompassed 37 different states including a more than memorable trip to Hawaii. One of Ernestine’s favorite pastimes was driving, and she spent many hours knitting. More than anything, Ernestine loved her home on Crockery Lake. When her beloved Harley died in 2003, she continued to live on her own for many years. Eventually, the years began to take their toll on Ernestine. Quite apparent she needed more care, Ernestine was moved back to Muskegon into an assisted living facility where she was much closer to her children.
There was no doubt that Ernestine didn’t live fully and love completely. She set a fine example for her children to live by, and that matters of the heart were the most important part of loving and living. Dearly missed, Ernestine will be fondly remembered.
Mrs. Ernestine Barrs, age 84, passed away Sunday, October 9, 2016. SURVIVORS: Children, Debbie (Allen) Stone of Twin Lake, Joe (Linda VanVaerenbergh) Gundy Jr. of Hart, Yvonne (Bob) Korstange of Muskegon, Lisa (Ron Henry) Wright of Muskegon; 14 grandchildren; 24 great-grandchildren; ten great-great-grandchildren; five stepchildren, Gene (Sandy) Barrs, Ron (Karen) Barrs, John (Becky) Barrs, Carol Vander Leest, Carol (Bob) Lawrence; many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by both husbands, Joe Gundy Sr. and Harley Barrs; sons, Jeff Gundy and Jace Gundy; grandson, Andrew Burns; son-in-law, Roy Wright; daughter-in-law, Toni Gundy. SERVICE: Friday, October 14, 2016, 3:00 pm at the Clock Chapel - Muskegon with Rev. Ben Jansen officiating. VISITATION: Thursday, 2-4 and 6-8 pm and Friday, one hour prior to the service at Clock Funeral Home - Muskegon. Please visit www.clockfuneralhome.com to leave a memory of Ernestine and to sign her online guest book. Clock Funeral Home-Muskegon.