He was born June 3, 1932, in Cambridge, Minn., to the late Blaine Byers Barker Sr. and Mathilda Morell Barker. Even at an early age, he exhibited an interest in engineering, building a working submarine and digging a hole for a clubhouse foundation. As a Boy Scout, he learned skills that he used throughout his life. He earned a bachelor of civil engineering with high distinction (1955), master’s (1956), and doctorate (1962), all from the University of Minnesota, where he was a member of Tau Beta Pi and Chi Epsilon.
Barker married his high school sweetheart, Barbara Ann Hibbs, in 1953. In 1964, they moved from Minnesota to Blacksburg, where he began his teaching career in structural engineering at Virginia Tech. He was recognized for teaching excellence with the Sporn Award (1970) and Dean’s Award (1999), and was faculty advisor for the concrete canoe team for many years. He co-authored the book “Design of Highway Bridges,” culminating a lifelong love of bridges. Barbara passed away in 1998. He married Marilyn Soderman in 2000 and, upon retiring from teaching in 2001, enjoyed traveling with Marilyn, golfing, fishing, and preaching. A 20-year member of Blacksburg Methodist Church, he delivered the sermon on Nov. 13, 2011. Richard was filled with holy integrity to the very end.
He was predeceased by Barbara, his brother, Blaine, and his parents. He is survived by his wife, Marilyn Soderman Barker; children, Catherine Barker, David Barker (Linda), Elizabeth Cheeks (Dwight), John Barker (Kara), Paul Barker, and Ruth Barker Long; and grandchildren, Jack, Sarah, Nicholas, Lacey, Max, Emma, Kaylie, Kiersten, Andrew, and Harriss. He is also survived by his stepchildren, Anita Hupfer (Bob), David Soderman (Debb), Brian Soderman, Scott Soderman (Beth), and Bruce Soderman; stepgrandchildren, Amanda, Cassandra, Ben, Jordan, Ali, Troy, Sam, Gabriel, Dustin, and Kyle; five step-great-grandchildren, sisters-in-law Donna Bramwell and Arlene Barker, three nieces, two nephews, and numerous cousins.
A Memorial service was held Thursday, Dec. 22 at Blacksburg Methodist Church in Blacksburg, Va. There will be a memorial service in Cambridge to be announced at a later date.