She was the first baby born in The North Mississippi Hospital in Holly Springs, MS, nine days before its official opening. She came into the world as Donna Karen Beck, the third child of Leon Jackson Beck and Connie Jewel Beck on February 6th, 1946.
She graduated from Holly Springs High in 1963, where she was voted “Most Beautiful” and was the recipient of the Daughters of The American Revolution citizenship Award, the Balfour award, and the American Legion Award for her academic achievements. She met her first husband, Richard Grant Barnes, Jr., at the president’s reception for new students at Mississippi College, and they were married within months of their initial meeting.
Giving birth to their first child, Jeffrey Forrest Barnes on December 23rd of 1964, she continued her studies at The University of Mississippi, Memphis State University, and the University of Alabama at Huntsville, where she gave birth to their second child, Karen McKinley Barnes on April 27, 1968. She graduated from The University of Alabama with a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in English and minoring in Biology.
The family settled in Jackson, MS, where she took chemistry and physics classes at Tougaloo College, and made several long lasting friendships with those who were working tirelessly in the civil rights movement. She earned a degree in Medical Technology at the Mississippi Baptist Medical center in Jackson, MS, and was part of the team of doctors and technologists who were responsible for the first test-tube baby born in the state of Mississippi, garnering the headline in the Jackson Clarion Ledger on March 20, 1986. This was one of her proudest accomplishments.
Her thirst for knowledge and her desire to help others through her study of Science culminated in a Master’s Degree in Immunology and a Doctorate in Biological Science, both from Mississippi State University. She met her second husband, William Dean Stark, in Starkville, where he was the City Attorney, and where they resided until 2012. Her time in Starkville was spent researching current political issues relating to the well-being of others, and doing what she could to educate as many as possible through letters to the editor of the Starkville Daily News.
While in Starkville she was a member of the Oktibbeha County Democratic Committee and also served as the president of the Oktibbeha County Federation of Democratic Women.
She and her husband moved to Germantown, TN in 2012 to spend more time with their grandchildren, Joseph and Kai Barnes, sons of Jeff Barnes and Elaine Sheng, and this was her greatest joy in life. She was a much loved “Grandy” to the boys and many other young ones who came to visit, always having a roomful of toys ready at all times.
She is survived by her husband and great love, William Dean Stark, with whom she celebrated the 20th anniversary of their marriage this year, her son Jeffrey Forrest Barnes, her daughter-in-law Elaine Sheng, her grandchildren Joseph Alexander Barnes and Benjamin Kai Barnes all of Memphis, TN, her daughter Karen McKinley Barnes of Ojai, CA, her brother Jerry Bonds Beck Sr. of Holly Springs, MS, and four step-children, Eugenie Stark Thomas, her husband Greg Thomas and their son William Reagan Thomas, Randolph Maxon Stark, his wife Alexandra Howie Stark and their son William Henry Stark, Caroline Genevieve Stark and her husband Thomas Schuttenhelm, and Robert Andrew Stark. She touched the lives of all who met her, and her love will be carried in the hearts of all who knew her.
Services will be held at St George’s Episcopal Church, at 2425 S Germantown Rd., in Germantown, TN at 1:30 PM on Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013. In lieu of flowers she and her husband would prefer donations be made to any charity of your choice.