- The Washington Times - Friday, September 14, 2007

Hundreds of mourners, from longtime friends and colleagues to the most powerful people in D.C. politics, paid their respects yesterday to the District”s former first lady Effi Barry as she lay in repose at the John A. Wilson Building.

The overwhelming sentiment was that Mrs. Barry, the former wife of D.C. Council member and former Mayor Marion Barry, will be remembered for her dignity and service. Even people who did not know her personally felt compelled to pay their respects.

“All her history in the city right now is unmatched,” said Josh Lawrence 50, of Northwest. “She was a very strong woman — someone to look up to.”

Mrs. Barry”s cherry wood casket lay in the main hall of the building, topped with a bouquet of lilies and roses and beside by a gold-framed portrait of the city”s former first lady.

The viewing was open until midnight and will resume today from 6 to 9 a.m. Mrs. Barry’s funeral will be held today at 11 a.m. at Washington National Cathedral in Northwest.

Mrs. Barry died Sept. 6 at Anne Arundel Medical Center in Annapolis of myeloid leukemia.

Family members and city officials, including Mayor Adrian M. Fenty and Mr. Barry, attended a private ceremony at the Wilson Building yesterday morning.

“She was just a wonderful example of an elegant, graceful lady in the city,” said council member Muriel Bowser, Ward 4 Democrat. “Her legacy for young women, young men and all Washingtonians is one of public service.”

D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge Rufus G. King III, who visited the Wilson Building in the afternoon, said Mrs. Barry was a role model for the entire city.

“She had a beautiful, dignified presence that put a face on city government,” Judge King said. “People could look up to her and say: This is our first lady, and be proud.”

Though she was often noted for her beauty and poise, Mrs. Barry was also praised for her leadership in the city and her work in health education.

She recently worked in the D.C. Department of Health’s HIV/AIDS Administration. She had campaigned to encourage more blacks to register with the national bone-marrow transplant registry after learning that she had cancer in February 2006.

Council member Jim Graham, Ward 1 Democrat, said he worked with Mrs. Barry while he was the executive director of the Whitman-Walker Clinic, a nonprofit organization that provides health and social services to persons with HIV and AIDS.

“She was a steady hand in storms that she didn’t seek and never expected,” Mr. Graham said. “And how she conducted herself is very endearing to the people of D.C.”

Others echoed that sentiment, saying Mrs. Barry maintained her dignity through her ex-husband’s tumultuous career. The couple separated in 1990, shortly after he was caught on videotape at a downtown hotel smoking crack cocaine with an ex-model and asking her to have sex with him. Mrs. Barry stood by her husband throughout his three-month trial — even sitting in the front row of D.C. federal court as prosecutors played the grainy 83-minute tape of the FBI sting operation at the Vista Hotel.

Mr. Barry, then in his third of four terms as mayor, was sentenced to six months in prison.

“She was a strong black female showing our young children how to deal with drama,” said Judy Miller, 50, of White Plains, Md.

“She showed [young women] how to be a woman,” said LaShawn Bell, 41, of Fort Washington. “They should try to mirror her.”

Mrs. Barry, born Effi Slaughter in Toledo, Ohio, held degrees in economics and public health.

She once was married to jazz musician Stanley Cowell and had been a flight attendant and a junior high school teacher before marrying Mr. Barry in 1978.

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