Ouida Claire Eldridge Barnes

Published 5:17 pm Wednesday, January 25, 2023

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Feb. 22, 1930 – Jan. 23, 2023

Ouida Claire Eldridge Barnes passed away peacefully at her home in Brandon on Monday evening, Jan. 23, 2023. She was 92.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, Jan. 27, at noon at First Baptist Church of Natchez, with visitation beginning at 10 a.m. Bro. Dan Wynn will officiate. On Saturday, Jan. 28, she will be laid to rest alongside her husband, Charles C. Barnes, and five generations of her family at New Hope United Methodist Church Cemetery on Old Jackson Road in Kemper County, Mississippi. Saturday visitation will begin at noon at the church, with a graveside service at 1 p.m. Bro. John Cash will officiate. Musical selections will be performed by soloist Charles Stephens and organist Linda Heard in Natchez, and by Stephens and pianist Cary Eldridge in Kemper County. Laird Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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Mrs. Barnes was born in Kemper County on Feb. 22, 1930, the daughter of Thomas Matthew Eldridge and Zelma Marguerite Hodge Eldridge. She grew up in Philadelphia, Mississippi, and was a class of 1948 valedictorian of Philadelphia High School. She attended East Central Junior College in Decatur and was Miss ECJC 1950. There she met the love of her life and future husband, Charles Clifford Barnes, who took her to a Shakespearean play on their first date. They were married on Christmas Day, 1952, in Philadelphia. The newlyweds rode a Greyhound bus to Jackson and dined on bus station hamburgers, as all the downtown restaurants were closed. They were married for 53 years until Charles’s death in 2006.

They moved to Natchez in 1952, shortly after she graduated from Millsaps College. She is remembered as the quintessential English teacher at Adams County Christian School. She instilled mastery of language and literature in the classroom and at home. Daughter Donna Barnes recalled, “She taught us to diagram sentences and required us to memorize poetry and plays such as Hamlet’s soliloquy – ‘To be, or not to be…’.” Daughter Claire McCullough recalled, “She was incapable of reading Huck Finn’s description of Emmeline Grangerford’s artwork without bursting into peals of laughter.”

Mrs. Barnes taught Sunday School at First Baptist Church in Natchez for more than 40 years, and diligently visited shut-in and home-bound members of the congregation. She was on her way to deliver poinsettias to homebound church members when she suffered her first stroke in 2011. When declining health forced her to move to Brandon, she took great pleasure in receiving letters and calls from church members and former students.

Her greatest joy, though, was her grandchildren.

Survivors include a brother, Keith Gordon Eldridge of Philadelphia; her children, Charles Glenn Barnes (Valerie) of Brusly, La., Claire Lynne Barnes McCullough (Calvin) of High Point, N.C., Mississippi Court of Appeals Chief Judge Donna Marguerite Barnes of Tupelo and Paul Eldridge Barnes (Tammy) of Brandon; grandchildren, Erin Whitney Barnes (Ernesto Aranda) of Winston-Salem, N.C., Corwin Michael Barnes (Angela) of Tallahassee, Fla., Charles Randall McCullough (Haley) of Chattanooga, Tenn., Capt. Sarah Claire McCullough, U.S. Air Force, deployed overseas, Donna Kathleen McCullough of Knoxville, Tenn.,  Kris Hurley (Martha) of Charlotte, N.C., Nick Hurley of Pearl and Graham Parker Barnes of Greenwood; great-grandchildren, Barrett Pierre Barnes of Tallahassee and Adler James Hans of Brusly and many nieces and nephews. Special friends dear to her are Joyce Kates Barnes of Winston-Salem and Finley, Regina, Emily, and Griffin Hootsell of Natchez.

She was preceded in death by her parents; her husband, Charles; sister, Sarah Catherine, who died as an infant; brother, Edward Matthew Eldridge, and sisters-in-law, Mary Parker Eldridge and June Hardy Eldridge.

The family requests that memorials be made to her favorite charities, the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association or the First Baptist Church of Natchez Love Fund. If you want to honor Mrs. Barnes, her children ask that you reach out to former teachers and tell them what a positive and lasting effect they had on your life.

Online condolences may be sent to the family at lairdfh.com.