Linda Sowder Barnhart was a beloved mother, grandmother, Kindergarten teacher, friend, church and community volunteer who dedicated her life to helping others. She was a woman of deep faith who loved her friends, church members, fellow teachers, janitors, cafeteria workers, bus drivers and teacher assistants as she loved her own family. She was driven by the poem on her kitchen refrigerator that said “Success is not measured in the amount of dollars you make, but the number of lives you impact”.
Linda passed away peacefully on September 16, 2021. She was surrounded by her family and uplifted by numerous prayers from friends and her church families: Antioch Church of the Brethren and her adopted church, Stone Church of the Brethren.
She was born on August 22, 1949 in Franklin County to her now deceased mother and father, Virginia and Dick Sowder. She learned her strong work ethic from a young age working on the family farm. She often recounted that she would drive the tractor solo before she could reach the pedals and her dad would hop on and then off to start or stop it while he loaded hay. Her mother was a teacher and instilled into Linda the overarching theme of her life- love of children and being an educator.
Linda graduated from Radford University with a bachelor’s in early childhood education and went on to get her master’s degree in elementary education. She started teaching at Clearbrook Elementary in Roanoke, VA while balancing her growing family, church responsibilities and supporting the family farm. Later, she decided to pause her career and increase her investment and love of teaching both at home with her young children and with her church family.
Linda was an active and faithful member of Antioch Church of the Brethren and was a lifetime Sunday and Bible School teacher and helped launch an after-school program at Antioch called Activity Hour for children. She loved music, singing, and leading the “Joyful Noise” choir of toddlers and little folks for many years. She volunteered at Camp Bethel and led week-long church camps planning all the activities, devotions, music and logistics.
She later became certified with the Cooperative Disaster Child Care Program and went onsite for 10-14 days after natural disasters and provided childcare and support to children while their parents sought FEMA assistance.
Linda was selected for the Franklin County School Board in 1982 and served 8 years as a fierce and vocal advocate for both children and ALL school professionals. During her term on the board, she helped drive the first division-wide volunteer program that formally recruited, trained and structured volunteer assistance for teachers.
As her three children got older, Linda went back to her love of teaching Kindergarteners where she spent 20 years as part of the Sontag Elementary family. She received numerous awards including National Board Certification and was nominated for state teacher of the year.
As she did in all her life, Linda exemplified optimism, hope and grace through her 6-year cancer journey. She never complained but she did jump into action spending every moment with her kids, grandkids, and traveling the world. In her final days, she told her oncologist that she wished every person could be as happy as she was right now. She had the privilege to be supported and cared for by 3 oncology teams: Blue Ridge Cancer Center in Roanoke, VA, Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, MD and Sibley Hospital in Washington, DC. Her family is grateful for the loving support and care of all of her doctors and nurses.
First and foremost, Linda was a dedicated mother. She treasured her children and was immensely proud of them all. She taught them empathy, kindness, love of service and a value of fairness and equality for all. When she was blessed with four granddaughters later in life, she embraced every moment and split her time living with her kids and grandkids. She was a master potty trainer, storyteller and world’s best snuggler.
Linda was and will always be the loving and devoted mother of Andrea Barnhart and her spouse Caroleene (Bean) Paul of Darnestown Maryland, David Barnhart and his spouse Kevin Ford of Washington D.C., and Matthew Barnhart and his spouse Angela Barnhart of Indian Trail, North Carolina.
She is the doting and beloved “Grandma B” to Paityn and Paige Barnhart (5) and “Beebop” to Harper and Amelia (Mia) Ford Barnhart (2).
She is also survived by her best friend and sister, Joyce Ann Jamison, her brother Donald Sowder and her beloved nieces and nephews. Linda made friends with ease and was supported by so many wonderful and special friends through the years. She loved and treasured each and every one of them. Her family is also especially grateful for the lifelong friendship and connection to the Laprade family.
Linda’s life will be celebrated on Tuesday, September 21, 2021 in an outdoor service at 5:30PM at Antioch Church of the Brethren. Her family will receive friends before at 4:00PM and everyone is invited to a meal afterwards in the church’s picnic shelter to share stories.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to a scholarship fund being established by the family to support a Sontag Elementary graduate in their pursuit of higher education. You can contribute on Gofundme or by sending checks to the Linda S Barnhart Memorial Scholarship at 15430 Berryville Road, Germantown MD, 20874.
Arrangements by Flora Funeral Service and Cremation Center, Rocky Mount.
“Visitation and services will be held under the picnic shelter and adjacent tents sufficient to accomadate all guest”