Kathleen Barger, 54, who had been ill since March, died peacefully at home in La Jolla, Calif., on Christmas Day while with her family. She was the wife of Thomas C. Barger, who was Aramco's chairman of the board and chief executive officer when he retired in 1969. The funeral is being held in La Jolla today.
During her years in Dhahran, Kathleen Barger was the focal point of a perpetually busy household as the mother of six, as coordinator of a schedule often crowded with events competing for one or more of the Bargers1 attention, as hostess for frequent official and informal functions. Upon these primary responsibilities, she superimposed her work on refugee assistance projects, kept up the family's extensive personal and business correspondence and found time for reading, horseback riding and swimming.
The preparations for these active years, began in Medora, North Dakota, where she was born to Elizabeth Ray and Walter Ray, a lawyer and rancher. Kathleen learned to ride almost before she could walk and as a girl she earned pocket money for high school and college by performing as a trick rider in rodeos. Her charm as hostess was attributed to her early experience in greeting guests at her father's dude ranch.
She met Tom Barger at the University of North Dakota and they were married a few months after she graduated in 1937, shortly before the young geologist was due to depart for Saudi Arabia and a job with a company that would eventually be called Aramco. She planned to follow him overseas before the end of 1938 and, in the meantime, she joined the Grand Forks County Welfare Board as a social worker.
First a housing shortage, then the outbreak of World War II delayed her departure for Saudi Arabia. Early in 1945, after a sea voyage punctuated with reminders that the war was still on, Kathleen Barger arrived in Dhahran by plane from Cairo with a handful of other wives, landing at night on a ribbon of sand marked off with flares. Twenty-four years later, when the Bargers left for retirement, Kathleen was the last of that adventuresome group of wives to bid farewell to Saudi Arabia.
"I came to love the desert," Mrs. Barger said in a 1966 newspaper interview, but in those early years wind and sand meant only frustration for a meticulous housekeeper. Later, desert outings were to occupy many pleasant hours and she particularly enjoyed slipping out to the Hobby Farm for an early morning ride into the desert astride Aha.
Reflecting on that initial contact with Dhahran in 1945, Kathleen Barger whose home was later to reverberate with the activity of many children, once noted how very strange it was in those early days to live where there was not a child to be seen or heard. In 1946, with the war over, the company's no children restriction was lifted. The State side-born Barger children, Ann and Michael, accompanied their mother to Saudi Arabia in October, 1945, and life as a real family began. Over the next nine years, four more children joined the group, all of them born in Saudi Arabia.
In 1968, the Catholic Church recognized Mrs. Barger's work for Arab refugees by conferring upon her the title of "Lady of the Holy Sepulchre." As head of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association in Dhahran, she raised about $25,000 over the years through charity teas, fashion shows and the sale of handicrafts to provide refugee children and adults with food, medicines, blankets, clothing and books. Her wish was that any remembrance in her name take the form of a contribution to the association at 330 Madison Avenue, New York, New York, 10017.
Survivors in addition to her husband include two sons, Specialist Five Michael Barger, stationed with the U.S. Army in Teheran, and Timothy of La Jolla, Calif.; four daughters, Mrs. Ann Hebert of Dhahran, Mary and Norah, college students at Stanford and U.C.L.A. respectively, and Teresa, a high school student; and four grandchildren, Elise, Marie, John and Kathleen Hebert of Dhahran.
Mr. Barger's address is 2685 Calle del Oro, La Jolla, Calif. 92037. [Photograph]