I have had the pleasure and feel honored to have known Dr. Don Barton and his family for more than three (3) decades. I met him in the late 1970’s or early 1980’s at the Corbin Industrial Commission meetings. I had been participating in the recruitment of Industry into Corbin and the surrounding communities through the companies I worked for, Peoples Gas Co of Ky and parent Wiser Oil Company starting in the early 1970’s. I recall names of many of the Commission members who participated in the several successes that were achieved. When I later became involved with The Greater Chamber of Commerce as a member and a president for two different terms, it afforded me numerous opportunities to meet the movers and shakers of Corbin.
This letter is not about me, but it is about ONE of the many good friends I have made while participating in the Tourism events, Industrial recruitment, Rotary Club service projects, and other volunteer work. That person is Dr. Donald C Barton.
Dr. Don was a leader in his profession where he got heavily involved in fundraising to help provide medical services free to many who could not afford insurance or pay their bills. He gave substantial sums of money to the Kentucky Medical Association’s annual Gala to raise the funding needed as well as promoting the program. Millions of dollars have been raised and used to purchase supplies to accomplish the free care by these doctors to needy families across the state. I have worked in the Oil and Natural Gas industry for nearly 38 years and belonged to two (2) professional organizations involved in helping the industry to be successful and provide safe service to the public, but, I have never seen these organizations or any other industry that raises funding for those in need. A few companies and individuals have private foundations but it is mainly for their benefit.
I remember well how Dr. Don would show up at Industrial Commission meetings wearing his white medical jacket because he didn’t have time to change from seeing his last appointment and the 5PM start of the meeting. Sometimes the minutes and maybe the treasurers report would have been given, but Dr. Don showed up anyway.
Dr. Don was an avid supporter of the projects that The Rotary Club of Corbin sponsored each year. He would almost always ask me when the Southeast Ky Empty Stocking Fund or The Dave Hudson Memorial Golf tournament would start receiving donations. He would sponsor and participate on the golf foursome team until he was unable to play, but he still put together a team. Dr. Don was very generous to the SEKESF and the Rotary Club of Corbin made him an Honorary member which provides for free membership and an individual can attend Rotary Club meetings anywhere in the world. It is issued or awarded to someone for his or her substantial support of the club and its programs including The Rotary Foundation.
Dr. Don and I worked on other programs such as the Tri-County Elks Lodge. My wife Lola and I became members of the Lodge in the first year or so of it’s inception. I was president when the lodge voted on a second try to pursue a facility that was recommended by Dr. Don. The Lodge was established to raise funds for various programs to help those in need, including the SEKESF and the Back Pack Club. These are two of many projects they have supported.
I went to NASCAR races for many years with Dr. Don and a few of his special friends to Daytona, Fl. I usually drove Dr. Don and myself to and from Orlando in his car. We talked a lot and he would work his crossword puzzle book at the same time. He could work a crossword puzzle faster than I could fill out an emergency room admission form. During our stay in Fl. Dr. Don and I would play golf usually a couple dates during the week we were each year starting in the early mornings leading up to the 500 mile race on Sunday. In the early afternoon, we would stop by the seafood restaurant and spend an hour or so at the Oyster bar. Dr. Don was instrumental in my being able to go to a fishing camp in Alaska with him and son David. During the week-long Salmon fishing trip, I was privileged to bunk with Dr. Don in a two-man cabin. David probably didn’t mind bunking in a four- man cabin to allow me to more privacy. Dr. Don hunted while we fished. He loved to hunt wild game birds, and have Joan cook all of them.
Dr. Don was a dedicated man in every aspect of his life starting with his pursuit of a medical degree. I’m confident this holds true for his brothers in receiving their medical degrees. Dr. Don’s girls and usually David and their mom Joan were included in most of his conversations, except maybe when he was talking about things like bird hunting in Iowa or Whitley County. He was a proud dad, proud of his siblings, proud of being called Doctor Don, proud to be a Republican, and proud of being a Kentuckian, and Louisville Cardinal Alumnus. He never seemed to be able to develop an EGO. He lived a comfortable lifestyle equal to many in his circle of friendships. Peace without pain now surrounds him.
Remembering all these and other moments unwritten. Missed by many who won’t soon forget him.
Joe E. Caldwell