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Cathy Barton Para, 1955-2019

Local musician Cathy Barton Para, 63, of Boonville, Mo., passed away gently among family and friends at home, Wednesday, April 17, 2019.

Catherine Jean Barton Para was born June 12, 1955, in Fort Benning, Ga., to Claude D. and Mary Ruth Catlett Barton. An “Army brat,” she lived in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia and Hawaii before moving to Columbia in 1967. She attended West Junior and Hickman High schools and Stephens College, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 1977. She received a master’s degree in folklore from Western Kentucky University 1979. She married David Para at First Baptist Church in Columbia in 1979 and began a long and happy union with her lifelong love and fellow musician.

Cathy’s active interest in music began in elementary school in Hawaii and grew during her school days in Columbia. A champion banjo player, she also was one of the first hammered dulcimer players in the region and inspired many players nationally. Her playing was vibrant and she was a generous and thoughtful teacher. She and Dave shared a musical career for more than 40 years, traveling the U.S. roads and rivers and Europe, specializing in traditional music from the Missouri – Ozark region. They were awarded by the Missouri Humanities Council, Young Audiences of Kansas City and the Folk Alliance Region Midwest. Stephens College named her a distinguished alumnus in 1993. In a fruitful 20-year collaboration with the late Bob Dyer, they produced three music albums related to Missouri history which were awarded by the American Library Association. They started the Big Muddy Folk Festival for the Friends of Historic Boonville. She performed with Dave at the 28th festival held April 5-6. The couple made 16 albums.

Cathy was a beautiful and benign person, and she performed as she lived, with her radiant smile, inviting laugh and unabashed joy, endearing her to the communities of home and career.

In addition to Dave, she is survived by two sisters, Claudia (Tom) Welsh and Judith (Tom) Gibbons, both in Texas, an uncle, Roy Barton in Memphis, and countless grieving and grateful friends.

A memorial service is scheduled for Saturday, May 4, at 3 p.m., at Boonville’s First Christian Church. A cemetery visit and a musical gathering will follow.

Memorials are suggested to KOPN Community Radio, Friends of Historic Boonville and First Christian Church.

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