Gene J. Barberet of Storrs-Mansfield, Connecticut, passed away on January 11, 2021, his 101st birthday. The cause was complications of Covid-19.
Born in Oakville, Connecticut, Gene Barberet was the youngest of eight children. His parents, Jules and Louise Barberet, had emigrated in 1911 from their home in Alsace, France. A high school co-valedictorian, Gene attended Clark University and earned a bachelor’s degree in French in 1941. His studies were interrupted by World War II, when he served in Assam, India, with the (then) U.S. Army Air Corps, working at a support job for the Air Transport Command in the Hump Operation. After the war, he completed his master’s and doctoral degrees in French literature at Princeton University in 1948 and 1951, respectively. A specialist in 20th century French literature, Professor Barberet joined the faculty at the University of Connecticut in 1949, spending his entire academic career at UCONN in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages. He retired as Professor Emeritus after forty years of service in 1990, after teaching an estimated 3,500 students. Dr. Barberet directed the university’s study abroad program in France during the late 1960s, and once again in 1981-82. The French government named him a Chevalier, or Knight, to honor his contributions to the nation’s culture. He is fondly remembered by his students, who still gather periodically to reminisce about their experience.
An enthusiastic instructor, often called a “teacher’s teacher,” Barberet served two terms as President of the Connecticut Association of Teachers of French. The UCONN Alumni Association awarded him its annual award in 1972 for excellence in teaching. In 2014, his colleagues, students, family and friends gathered at UCONN to honor his contributions and establish the Dr. Gene J. Barberet Fund. Both this fund and an earlier one, established with Barberet’s colleague June Gilliam, encourage excellence in French.
Outside the classroom, Gene was known for his gregarious and active lifestyle, traveling yearly with his wife Audrey Barberet (née Havican), to France and later to Spain. He was an active lifetime parishioner of St. Thomas Aquinas; a volunteer teacher of current events at the Donald T. Bergin Correctional Institution; and a board member and teacher of CLIR (Center for Learning in Retirement) who loved learning new subjects, well into his 90s. He initiated and moderated Les Causeries at the Mansfield Senior Center, a weekly conversation circle in French. An exercise enthusiast (swimming, cycling), chef of healthy French bread, jams, soup and vinaigrette, and avid reader and conversationalist, he was a model for many of how to pursue an active life in retirement. On his 100th birthday in 2020, more than 80 friends, family members and former colleagues gathered at the UCONN Alumni Center for a birthday celebration. His son John delivered the following tribute:http://www.vingdesign.com/barberet/about.htm
He leaves behind his beloved wife of 64 years, Audrey Havican Barberet; son and daughter-in-law John and Leigh Barberet of Winter Haven, Florida; daughter and son-in-law Rosemary Barberet and Fernando Rodriguez-Marín of Darien, Connecticut; four grandsons: Fernando, Tomás, Dylan and Jack, and eight nieces and two nephews. The family is grateful to his caregivers Carla Smith and Melina Holmes for their help over the last five years of his life.
The family will be holding calling hours by zoom on Monday, January 18th from 7:00-8:30 p.m. EST. If you wish to join us, register in advance here: https://jjay-cuny.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZMlf-qurT8vG9wyVb-NU5jQDZhCQazl5ZrX After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining our meeting. Please feel free to log on at any time during that time slot on Monday evening to share a memory.
The funeral mass will be at St. Thomas Aquinas, 46 N Eagleville Rd, Storrs, Connecticut, 06268, Tuesday, January 19th at 10:30 a.m. This mass will also be live-streamed here. If you cannot join us online, or have problems logging on, the mass will be recorded and available on the website afterwards. Please do not feel obligated to join us in person. However, if you plan to attend in person, you are very welcome to do so. The church has mask and social distancing procedures and a maximum allowance of 50 persons, so please rsvp to email@example.com. Gene’s wishes were to be cremated. The burial will be at a later date and a memorial is planned for summer or fall.
Instead of flowers, we would appreciate if you would do an unexpected act of kindness for someone in his honor. If you would like to make a monetary donation, you may do so in his memory to either the Gene J. Barberet and B. June Gilliam Scholarship Fund (#30061) (for UCONN students majoring in French) or the Dr. Gene J. Barberet Fund (#31315) (for study abroad in France). Please make checks payable to: The UCONN Foundation, Inc., at 2390 Alumni Drive Unit 3206, Storrs, Connecticut 06268.
Cards for Gene's family may be sent to the funeral home 456 Jackson St. Willimantic, CT 06226. To sign an online guestbook visit www.potterfuneralhome.com
To send flowers to Gene's family, please visit our floral store.