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Patricia C. Barnett, homemaker and mother devoted to her family, dies at 93

Mrs. Barnett didn't venture into the work force, instead devoting herself to home and family. She hosted an open house at Christmas that people still remember fondly.

Patricia C. Barnett
Patricia C. BarnettRead moreCourtesy of Marcos Huerta

Patricia Cahill Barnett, 93, of Merion Station, a homemaker and mother of seven whose life was centered on family, died Monday, Oct. 26, in her sleep at Care One at Evesham, a nursing home in Marlton.

She had been in hospice care for several months contending with the effects of advancing age, said her son Edwin “Ned” Barnett Jr.

Mrs. Barnett was born in Brockton, Mass., to John and Mary Sheridan Cahill. She graduated from Brockton High School and was a 1949 graduate of Smith College in Northampton, Mass.

In June 1950, she married Edwin B. Barnett, of Philadelphia, whom she met while she studied at Smith and he was enrolled at nearby Amherst College. After graduating, they lived in Boston so he could earn a legal degree at Harvard Law School. She supported him by doing clerical work at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Like many women of her generation, she opted not to work outside the home. Instead, the couple lived briefly in Philadelphia before buying a home in Willow Grove, where they had six children. In the early 1960s, the family moved to a larger house in Merion Station with room for a seventh child. They remained there for 30 years.

“Patricia often marveled at the happiness of her years on Valley Road, years full of pleasant days and free of misfortune,” the family said in a tribute.

She enjoyed summers spent on the broad porch screened by tall rhododendrons and winters when family members gathered around the fireplace before dinner.

Her favorite holiday was Christmas. She was known for hosting an open house that ran all day, an event much anticipated by Marc Policarpo, an Ardmore-based real estate developer and family friend.

“I’d go in the evening and there were still things to eat,” he said. "They’d have a ham or filet with appetizers. It was a warm, wonderful place with a fire going in the living room. She was a really gracious lady. The spirit of hospitality in that family was just amazing.”

The Barnetts sold the house in 1996 and lived in Haverford. After her husband’s death in 2006, she lived with her daughter Mary Elkins on Staten Island, N.Y. Her last few years were spent at the Care One nursing facility near her son Paul.

An English major in college, she read widely and liked reciting poems from memory.

“My mother was primarily a homemaker for a big family, though she was active in church groups, including St. John’s Hospice in Philadelphia,” her son Ned said. “She was a help to my father, who was a lawyer in downtown Philadelphia and a volunteer leader for Catholic Charities.”

She had many friends and thrived on entertaining. The times she savored most, however, were family vacations in Avalon and trips to the waterfront home her father bought and her siblings maintained at New Silver Beach on Cape Cod. She treasured the memories of trips with her husband to London and Paris.

She had a dry wit, was a shrewd judge of character, and provided wise counsel to her children through happy and difficult times. “She expected the best of others and gave the best of herself,” the family said.

In addition to her sons Ned and Paul, and daughter Mary, she is survived by daughter Elizabeth Franks; sons Peter, John, and Brian; 14 grandchildren; eight great-grandchildren; a sister; and many nieces and nephews. Two brothers and a sister died earlier.

A Funeral Mass will be said at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 30, at St. John Neumann Catholic Church, 380 Highland Lane, Bryn Mawr. Those attending should wear masks and observe social distancing. The Mass will be livestreamed on the St. John Neumann Church website, Interment is private.

Memorial donations may be made to The nonprofit organization seeks bone marrow donations to cure blood cancers such as leukemia and lymphoma.