Both Louis and Edith came from relatively large families, though that was probably not uncommon for the times. Their parents were early settlers in Mills County who came from a farming heritage, though the families moved to Malvern to become involved in the local business community. However, there was likely an economic and social disparity between the two families even in such a small town.
It is documented that Louis had to quit school after the sixth grade to work to help support his family, while Edith was able to remain in school through her high school graduation. Although it does not appear that Louis went to school later in his life, he was very proud that his daughter Betty Lou had attended business school following her high school graduation.
Louis' great adventure in his life (besides becoming a husband and father, of course) was his enlistment in the Marines during World War I and his travel to France and Cuba with his regiment. Otherwise, he and Edith appeared to have remained in the local area around Malvern. However, once when Louis was hospitalized in Des Moines, Edith and Betty Lou did travel to Ladysmith, Wisconsin, on a memorable two week vacation.
There was probably little extra money in the Barkus household, though Louis did later have some small income from the government for his disability. It is likely that most of their income resulted from Edith's work outside the home. That Edith had to work to support the family was probably unusual for the times. The family appears to have survived the Great Depression reasonably well, but it is likely that other relatives in Malvern shared resources such as produce from gardens, especially Bertha and Lawrence Talbott.
It is not known why B. Lou remained an only child, especially when Louis and Edith came from large families. Was it lack of financial resources, health problems, or personal preferences that resulted in B. Lou being an only child? Clearly the closeness of B. Lou to her father especially comes through her remembrances documented in her book of memoirs.
One of the larger mysteries concerns Louis' illnesses, incapacities, and ultimately his cause of death. Although B. Lou wrote in her memoir that Louis' hip and lower limb arthritis resulted from his wartime experience in the water-filled trenches, it does not appear that his unit was ever in combat or 'entrenched.' The 11th Marine Regiment arrived in France just a few days before the armistice was signed and personnel were given administrative rather than combat duties. However, Louis was a patient in several veterans' hospitals so it is likely that there was some military-related disability. Additionally, he eventually received some income from the U.S. Government for his military service.
There is no death certificate available to review at this time for Louis, so the listed cause of death and potentially other complications are unknown.
Louis and Edith were a sociable couple as demonstrated by their occupations and the social groups to which they belonged. Though their religious affiliation was with the Methodist Church, it is a bit curious that their funerals were at a local funeral home with a minister present, rather than being held at the local Methodist church. Perhaps the church could not accommodate the casket being brought in or out of the building or perhaps their friendship with the Mansfield family was the deciding factor as the site for the funeral services.
Edith smoked cigarettes and Louis did smoke cigars. Whether they drank alcohol or not is unknown. It is interesting to think of Edith and the rest of her bridge group having a glass of sherry or some similar beverage and talking about the day’s events while playing bridge.
Among other things, Edith's quiet inner strength and compassion really stand out. She required strength to be the sole bread winner to keep the family solvent and to be a homemaker at the same time. She also required ceaseless compassion and commitment to her wedding vows to care for her nearly bed-ridden husband, especially during the last twelve years of Louis' life when he was unable to work. At the same time, she was also caring for her ailing mother especially for the last seven years of Etta1s life. One almost hopes that Edith was able to experience some peace and joy during the last few years of her own life until its rather abrupt end. Certainly it is fitting that Edith was in the company of her daughter B. Lou and B. Lou's family at the moment of her sudden demise at the age of 69.