Marlene Evelyn Peterson, the youngest of six children, was born on March 25, 1935 to Bertrum Harvey Peterson and Minnie Dempsey Peterson at St. John’s Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. She attended Franklin K. Lane High School, but completed her education by enrolling in a school for training in accounting. She became an expert bookkeeper and served in that capacity for more than thirty years at the Superior Linen and Fieldcrest companies.
Marlene met and fell in love with Marvin Lee Barker in her late teen years. They married, and from their union, their only child, Denise Barker Jamison, was born. Marlene and Marvin did go on to live separate lives, but they never divorced, and they remained friends until he died in 2005.
Marlene also remained close friends with her in-laws, and joined Zion Baptist Church where she sat next to her mother-in-law, Sammie Lee Barker, every Sunday, with her daughter, Niecy, by her side. Marlene loved Zion, and attended services regularly, serving as the Church Clerk and Sunday School Teacher for many years.
Marlene’s love for God and His word grew as she continued to serve in the church. She eventually enrolled in New York Theological Seminary in Manhattan. In May 1980, she graduated from the seminary with a degree in theology. She was licensed by (the late) Rev. B.J. Lowry as an Evangelist, and became one of the first women to minister from the pulpit at Zion Baptist Church.
A woman of great faith, Evangelist Barker, was a gifted and anointed speaker. Throughout her more than fifty years at Zion, she often wrote and presented many beautiful tributes honoring various members of the church, but she was best known and loved for her Sunday morning sermons. Her messages were biblically sound and accurate. They were also engaging and inspiring, always pointing the listener to the Savior and salvation.
Evangelist Barker not only taught and preached God’s word, but she also lived the word! She was a kind and generous woman who gave of her time, talent and treasure to everyone she knew and to those in need. She helped so many people in so many ways, but you would never hear it from Evangelist Barker. She did not talk about the many acts of kindness and support she gave to people. She let her good works speak for her instead.
Evangelist Barker was not only known for her many charitable acts and inner beauty, but she was also admired for her physical beauty and her fabulous fashion sense. A petite, shapely woman, Evangelist Barker was an unassuming beauty who was always dressed to the nines!
Some of the people who benefitted most from Evangelist Barker’s love and generosity were those of us in her own family. On Friday, February 18, 2022, our mother, mother-in-love, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, aunt and lifelong friend, departed from this life and went to her eternal home in glory. We will miss her, but will never forget her and the wonderful legacy of faith, family and love that she has left us.
Evangelist Barker will be cherished and remembered by her loving and devoted daughter, Denise (Roger); her sister Marie Wilson; three grandchildren: Rachel J. Hill (Rasheen), Sarah G. Jamison, M.D., and Matthew I. Jamison (Shavonne); three great-grandchildren: Zion E. Hill, Shiloh B. Hill and Arielle S. Hill; and a host of nieces, nephews, several godchildren, and a very dear friend, Luther Lacks, among many other friends.
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