By Shanna Robb
Special to the Town Crier
Peace on Earth is a popular theme that resonates during the holiday season. Yet for Patrick and Ginette Barry, their life-long quest as a family focused on peace that touched underdeveloped countries scattered around the globe. In the end, the journey they and their three children encountered showered them with an “outpouring of love and support from others now living in all four corners of the world,” they say. The friendships they built left them with “everything plus more” and created a colorful tapestry that would ultimately become an integral part of their art.
The journey began in 1965 when Patrick, after receiving a degree from the University of San Diego and volunteering for the Peace Corps in Nigeria, became director for the Peace Corp on the small island nation of Mauritius. Located in the middle of the Indian Ocean, it is here that he was swept off his feet by a lovely island girl who would later become his wife.
After serving five years and with Ginette pregnant with their first child, the couple moved to California where Patrick became director of Butte County Economic Opportunity Council in Mooreville. Following the couple’s move back to San Diego to raise their growing family, Patrick had built a successful career but felt something was missing in his life.
With Ginette’s encouragement, he followed his passion for grassroot involvement and accepted an administrative officer position in Zaire. Living on the equator while Patrick managed a $10 million U.S. government-funded program, the family was again exposed to another foreign country. Luckily, Patrick’s service contract ended before the eruption of violence in what is now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Patrick’s final role with the Peace Corps was as country director in Senegal. As mentor to hundreds of volunteers, the couple walked away with a renewed understanding that “not everything we do here in the United States is the only way or necessarily the best way.” Their three children, fluent in both English and French, also benefited from attending international schools that exposed them to many cultures.
As for Ginette, while the move to the U.S. was a culture shock, Patrick describes her as “the glue that kept everything together.” Not only was she a mother to her own three children, she became mother to more than 147 volunteers at a time. A master homemaker, Ginette later worked for the U.S. Agency for International Development as a translator.
After living a life abroad, Patrick and Ginette ultimately relocated back to Southern California where, unbeknown to them, they both were heading down a path toward creating art. Not just any type of art, but art that fed off their deep appreciation for the countries they had experienced.
Art came into their lives at a time when they were financially hit by the economy. Having lived in countries without the luxury of running water or toilets, instead of allowing the unfortunate situation to bring them down, they took strength from their experience abroad and made do.
Patrick’s art ignited while walking through a craft store in Hemet. With his and Ginette’s 40th wedding anniversary approaching and living on a tight budget, he was looking for a gift he could make. Perhaps his 18 years in Africa where he was exposed to colorful beads fed his immediate attraction to a single earring hosting a large orange bead. The color caught his eye, but it was the ultimate transformation of the single earring into a stunning one-of-a-kind necklace that sparked response by onlookers that ultimately encouraged him to design jewelry.
Patrick’s jewelry designs incorporate colorful African trade beads. With no two beads the same and with each bead representing a story, Patrick methodically hand picks each bead. He then designs a piece that “emphasizes the bead in the creation of the jewelry that is holding it,” he said. Patrick is not only a talented jewelry designer, in essence he is a keeper of stories that connect countries and lives.
While Ginette would argue that her yarn creations are not art, one just needs to sit down with her to experience the “love that is infused into each stitch,” she said. As a young girl growing up in Mauritius, Ginette remembers when she and her siblings were housebound while recovering from a fever, and her mother taught them to knit. Only 7 at the time, she proceeded with knitting blankets for all the family pets.
Knitting reentered her life when Patrick, who is of Irish decent, mentioned that he would like a cable-knit sweater. To his surprise, Ginette knitted him a traditional Irish sweater that was absolutely perfect. With yarn back in her hands and living on a tight budget, Ginette created her own patterns using unusual blends of yarn.
Residents of Hemet, Patrick and Ginette got involved in the Art Alliance of Idyllwild because of the special artistic feeling in Idyllwild. Ironically, both Patrick’s and Ginette’s creations fall under the category of “wearable art.” Each bead and stitch is inspired by their life-long experiences. Whether celebrating the holiday season or not, their art and life are an inspiration to others and focused on peace. Many would say that their passion for outreach and artwork are truly “Pieces of Peace.”