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Mabel Elizabeth Cole Barnes

Mabel Elizabeth Cole Barnes of Sutherlin died Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 in Woodview nursing home in South Boston. She was 98.

Born June 17, 1915, “the fifth child of  the fifth child,” as she often would say, she was the daughter of Elizabeth Barksdale Lovelace Cole and John Lovelace Cole.

She married Robert Fielder Barnes on June 28, 1935, and a year later came with him to the Barnes home place on Brooklyn Road, where she lived out almost all of the next 77 years.

Invariably a sunny soul who claimed never to have so much as a headache, Mabel also harbored a fiercely competitive streak. Into her mid-90s she relished a good game, be it bridge with friends or Scrabble with her children, and she was known to be a really bad loser – perhaps because she so seldom lost. 

She loved to travel and had visited 49 of the 50 states, Hawaii being the exception; she didn’t like to fly, though she’d done it (“It’s a great way to travel if you get by with it,” she’d say). Most of her touring of the country was done by automobile, a mode of transportation she dearly loved.

She was a self-proclaimed “Democrat born and Democrat bred,” and served on the Halifax County Democratic Committee and as a poll worker for numerous elections. 

But her life’s work was caring for her family: Robert, whom she saw through till his death in 1995 at the home place; their three children, Billie, Bob and Sam; and her mother-in-law, Ruby Williams Barnes, whom she cared for through her 100th birthday in 1986 at the home place.

She also was a faithful member of Mercy Seat Presbyterian Church, where she helped lead the Women of the Church and numerous other activities, and which she attended every Sunday until her health was failing.

In addition to her parents, she is predeceased by two brothers, John L. Cole and Joel Cole, and five sisters: Bill Powell, Lelia Moorefield, Virginia Gebhart, Mary Morton Butler and Hallie Jackson Cole, who died as a child.

She is survived by her three children, Elizabeth (Billie) Barnes Isenberg of Raleigh, Dr. Robert Fielder Barnes Jr. of Richmond, and Samuel Cole Barnes of Minneapolis; eight grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. The children wish to thank Dorraine Hogue and Celeste Carrington for their gentle care of Mabel, which made it possible for her to live out most of her final days at the home place.

The family will receive friends at the home place on Brooklyn Road, Friday evening.

Funeral services will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 24, 2013, at Mercy Seat Presbyterian Church in Sutherlin with interment in the church's cemetery.  In lieu of flowers please consider memorials to Mercy Seat Presbyterian Church, c/o John Barksdale, 7010 Melon Road, Sutherlin, VA 24594.        

Online condolences may be directed to

Arrangements are by Powell Funeral Home, 1603 Wilborn Ave., South Boston, VA