Barbara McCarthy was the first woman elected to serve on the Rockdale County Board of Commissioners. She is shown here with husband Fox McCarthy and former Probate Court Judge Lillis Brown as she takes the oath of office in 1999. Citizen file photo
CONYERS -- A community servant who made history as Rockdale's first woman member of the Board of Commissioners died peacefully at her home Tuesday evening.
Barbara Nunn McCarthy, who served the community in a wide variety of capacities, was elected to the Board of Commissioners in 1998 by an overwhelming margin. Though she left the political arena after one four-year term, she continued to serve the community for many years.
McCarthy, 73, died of breast cancer, a disease she had successfully fought for more than a decade. Fox McCarthy, her husband of 28 years, said her condition had worsened this past fall.
"We've been fighting it since September, and she had done a great job, and then all of a sudden she knew it was time to go," he said.
Despite her illness, Fox McCarthy said she remained upbeat and never felt sorry for herself.
"All the way up until the end she was in good spirits," he said. "Not once did she ever say 'poor me,' not once."
A celebration of Barbara McCarthy's life and memory will be held Saturday, April 6, 1 p.m. at the Conyers First United Methodist Church, 921 N. Main St. A reception for family and friends will be held immediately following at the church.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Relay for Life at Trinity Baptist Church, 301 Honey Creek Road, Conyers. Ga. 30094 or www.trinityconyers.org. Donations may be made using this link: http://main.acsevents.org/site/TR?team_id=1295756&pg=team&fr_id=52767&fl=en_US&et=RXfHDudHqAXHEaEb1NdDaw&s_tafId=1058665.
Norman Wheeler, former Rockdale Board of Commissioners chairman, was serving as Post 1 commissioner when McCarthy was elected to the Post 2 seat. He said working with her was a pleasure.
"I enjoyed working with Barbara very much," Wheeler said. "We go back a long way. She and I worked well together on the board. She was always very friendly and easy to get along with, and good to work with."
As a commissioner, McCarthy supported the county's efforts to enact a tree ordinance, worked with the Rockdale Hospital Authority through some troubled times and coordinated with Conyers businesses in the replacement of aging sewer lines.
Jule-Lynn Macie, Extension Service coordinator for Rockdale County, was hired by McCarthy, who was the Extension Service coordinator at the time. As Rockdale's 4-H agent, Macie said she was fortunate to have found in McCarthy a boss, mentor, friend and surrogate grandmother to her son, Nick.
"She took me in -- who didn't know anything -- and molded me into what I am today, frankly," said Macie.
As a professional, Macie said McCarthy was at the forefront of her career field.
"She was very innovative in the family and consumer science program for her time," said Macie. "She developed a home building seminar for people who were building a home because she had just gone through that, and it helped hundreds of people who went through that course."
Another initiative involved training adult sitters to help care for the elderly or special needs children during the day. She also initiated a water conservation education program that she taught to civic, church and other groups and launched a 4-H newspaper recycling program.
In addition to numerous state and regional awards related to her work with the Extension Service, McCarthy was named the Extension Home Economist of the year by the National Extension Association of Family and Consumer Sciences in 1996.
"Meeting the needs of the community and those who call it home has been my profession and avocation for 25 years," she said at the time. "Serving in three communities -- suburban Rockdale County, rural Paulding County and urban Onondaga County in New York State has been both a challenge and a satisfying career."
Longtime friend Ed Cowan said McCarthy's community contributions were so numerous it would be difficult to single out one or two as the most important, noting that she touched many lives in her day to day activities.
"The people that she worked with in 4-H or the Master Gardeners or whatever else was under her direction I'm sure are the people who were influenced in the direction their life took," he said.
Cowan, who sponsored McCarthy as a new member of the Rotary Club, said she had many people who would call her a close friend.
"She's going to be missed, and she did so much for this community and was always so pleasant."
Born in Commerce to Charlotte and Barney Nunn, McCarthy was graduated from Marietta High School in 1958. She graduated from Howard College, now Samford University, in Homewood, Ala., in 1963 and began working for the Extension Service in Syracuse, N.Y. She earned a master in science in consumer economics from the University of Georgia in 1973.
McCarthy continued her career with the University of Georgia Extension Service in Paulding County in 1973 before transferring to Rockdale County in 1983. She retired in 1997.
She married Fox McCarthy in July 1984. From 1991 to 2010, the couple co-owned Fox Hollow Nursery, specializing in large Japanese maples.
In addition to her professional and political work, McCarthy served with many civic organizations. She was an active volunteer for the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, the American Heart Association, Lakeview Community Action Committee, Rockdale Community Resource Development Council, Rockdale 2000 Literacy Task Force, Holiday Meals on Wheels, Leadership Rockdale Alumni Association, Rockdale Solid Waste and Recycling Advisory Committee, Rockdale Historical Society, Commission on Children and Youth, Trinity Baptist Church, Rockdale Retired Educators Association, Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce and Rockdale initiative for Smoke-Free Environments. She served on the board of directors for Rockdale United Way, Conyers-Rockdale Council for the Arts, the C.E. Steele Community Center, Habitat for Humanity, Healing Hands Inc., Rockdale Medical Center and the Rockdale Coalition for Children and Families. She served as president of the Conyers Rotary Club and president of the Alliance for a Healthy Rockdale.
In addition to her husband, she is survived by sons, Alan Holder, Phoenix, Ariz., and Kenneth Holder, Larkspur, Calif.; daughter, Alicia Beamer, Tupelo, Miss.; brother, Charles Nunn, Marietta; sister, Carolyn Sutton, Chattanooga, Tenn.; granddaughters, Samantha Holder and Rachel Holder, Carrboro, N.C., and Kaylen Holder, Larkspur, Calif., grandsons, Brian Holder, Carrboro, N.C., Ian Holder, Phoenix, Ariz., Sean Holder, Larkspur, Calif., niece and nephew, Paige Kincer and Michael Sutton, Chattanooga, Tenn.
Those who would like to read more or share memories, thoughts and photos may visit her life's celebration page at https://www.facebook.com/pages/Celebrate-Barbara-McCarthy/137139083132807.