Stuart Lee Barker, 74, inventor of gadgets, mechanical engineer

August 01, 1996|By Robert Hilson Jr. | Robert Hilson Jr.,SUN STAFF

Stuart Lee Barker was perhaps the only person to claim credit for inventing an automatic bird-bath filler. And, along with his rotating Christmas tree/circling toy train creation, it rates as one of his most imaginative contraptions.

He built the bird-bath filler -- a series of pipes from his kitchen to the lawn of his Linthicum home -- after his daughters complained about filling the basin.

"Just push the button under the sink, and it filled the bird bath outside," said his wife, the former Josephine Sorensen of Linthicum.

Mr. Barker, 74, who died July 8 of cancer at St. Agnes Hospital, was a mechanical engineer who spent most of his spare time inventing electronic gadgets and fixing and making clocks.

"He just had a very mechanical mind," Mrs. Barker said. "He could just do all kinds of things with electronics. As far as the bird-bath feeder, one day I came home, and he had pipes all hooked up to the lawn. He had the mind-set that he would not be defeated."

The Christmas tree with circling train was especially unusual. The tree rotated in a stand while, at its base, the train circled in the opposite direction.

"People came from miles around to see it, and almost every one of them had the same question -- why don't the wires get tangled?" his wife said. Only an electrician could understand his answer.

A native of Hanover County, Va., Mr. Barker became a supervisor for American Can Co. in Richmond, Va., in 1939. He continued working for the company when he moved to Maryland in 1952.

He left American Can in 1966 to become a mechanical engineer in the aerospace division of Westinghouse. He retired in 1984.

Mr. Barker served in World War II from 1942 to 1945 as a member of the 8th Infantry Division and was awarded an infantry sharpshooter medal.

The Barkers who were married in 1947, lived in Linthicum since 1954.

Years ago, when scavengers were allowed in the Anne Arundel County dump, Mr. Barker frequently searched there for motors from washers, dryers and other appliances to use in his inventions.

Mr. Barker was also a horologist and had more than 25 grandfather clocks, wall clocks and mantle clocks, his wife said.

"He was a wonderful repairman," said Joe Decursey, a friend. "He never worked on watches, but boy, could he fix a clock."

In addition, Mr. Barker made elaborate, old-fashioned furnishings -- such as hunt boards, a high sideboard table; and pie safes, used to cool food from the oven.

"He just had a knack for doing these things," Mrs. Barker said. "We never had a repairman come to our house. With him, we didn't need to."

A memorial service is scheduled for 11 a.m. tomorrow at Harundale Presbyterian Church, 1020 Eastway in Glen Burnie.

In addition to his wife, Mr. Barker is survived by two daughters, Susan Ellen Rose of Burtonsville and Lisa Lee Barker of Los Angeles; a sister, Gladys Goodman of Mechanicsville, Va.; and a granddaughter, Josephine Barker Rose of Burtonsville.

Donations may be made to the Harundale church's Music Fund.

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