Cover photo for John Barr's Obituary
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John Barr

May 8, 1947 — July 10, 2022

Columbia Falls

On July 10, 2022, John Robert Barr passed away peacefully after a long battle with cancer.

He was born on May 8, 1947, in Great Falls to Philip and Catherine Barr, the third of four children. He grew up in Stanford and Lewistown and received his undergraduate degree in electrical engineering from Montana State University.

In 1967, John married Mary Ellen Harmon and they had one son, David. They were blessed with 55 years of marriage.

John’s career began in Los Angeles working for Hughes Aircraft as an engineer. One project he enjoyed involved the creation of integrated circuit designs for the passenger entertainment system on the new DC-10. During his period, John earned his Ph.D. degree in computer science from UCLA as a Hughes graduate fellow. In 1978, his career changed directions as he became a professor with the newly formed Department of Computer Science at the University of Montana. His career took another turn in 1984 when he started working with a start-up company of Motorola called Computer X, Inc., located in Schaumburg, Illinois. A few years later, he joined Motorola Corp. as a fellow of the technical staff working on research and development, and served on and led several professional boards, including Bluetooth SIG, the standards board for IEEE Communications Society, and the World Wide Web Consortium. As director of Standards Realization, he worked within these organizations that allowed companies to work together on new technology and introduce new products and services. During this time, he also served on the MSU College of Engineering Advisory Council.

In 2010, John and Mary Ellen moved back home to Montana for their retirement years. John’s focus changed from “high tech to home tech.” He taught himself woodworking and built cabinets and furniture for their home. His favorite hobby was restoring antique cars and creating a network of car buddies who could enjoy exchanging advice and stories. He served on the Model T Ford Club International board and co-chaired the Model T Ford Club International Tour held in our valley in 2017, and he was treasurer for the Flathead Pioneer Automobile Club. As a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Whitefish, John served on the session as a technology advisor.

A rewarding benefit to living in the Flathead Valley was the opportunity to have time with his son’s family. He treasured family dinners and hikes together in Glacier Park. He was there for Glacier High School band concerts directed by his son, and for Flathead High School choir concerts accompanied by his daughter-in-law on piano. He was there to admire the artwork of his granddaughter and to applaud his grandson at U of M jazz concerts. Of course, his shop was always open, and he was the one they came to for advice when their cars needed repairs!

John is survived by his wife, Mary Ellen, his son David, and wife Ginny Reese, and his two grandchildren, Nicholas, and Emily Barr.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brothers Philip and William, and his sister Catherine.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Flathead Lake Band Camp or Glacier Presbyterian Camp.

A memorial service will be held at the First Presbyterian Church in Whitefish on Aug. 25 at 11 a.m.

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of John Barr, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Memorial Service

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Starts at 11:00 am (Mountain time)

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First Presbyterian Church

Kalispell, MT 59901

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