Barnes entertained troops on USO tours
Reared in a musical family, Charlotte Browning Barnes was almost destined to become an entertainer.
“Both of my grandparents played around at the piano, played by ear,” her daughter Cinda Crews said. “They definitely instilled a love of music in her.”
Taking dance lessons from an early age, Barnes was performing with the Kansas City Kiddies’ Revue by the time she was a teen and danced professionally with the Gillespie Sullivan Dance Troupe.
Chosen to be a Dancing Darling, Barnes traveled throughout the United States “doing USO tours,” Crews said. “Her mother was her chaperone … made all of my mother’s costumes.”
Even after marrying and starting a family, Barnes stayed active musically, singing in her church choir and with local groups while encouraging her two daughters to sing.
“Music was an important part of my family’s lives,” Crews said.
Barnes died March 30 at 94.
Meeting her future husband at a football game while in high school, Barnes wrote to him while he served in the Marine Corps in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Marrying in 1946, the couple moved to Austin in the late 1950s for her husband’s job as an executive sales director with the now-defunct Braniff Airways.
A stay-at-home mom for about a year, Barnes began working at the now-closed Travis State School, a facility that worked with boys and young men with developmental disabilities.
“At first, she was the music and recreation director, then she became volunteer coordinator,” her daughter said. “When we moved to San Antonio, she worked for Bexar County Mental Health Mental Retardation Center.”
Even while working full time, Barnes made time for music and theater, volunteering to choreograph dance routines for local pageants such as Miss Kelly AFB and Miss San Antonio and for the Mission Belles chorus.
And “both of my parents got involved in barbershop singing,” Crews said. “My dad was a member of the (San Antonio) Chordsmen and my mom the Mission Belles.”
Retiring from Bexar County MHMR center a few years after her husband died in 1988, Barnes kept herself busy by combining her penchant for helping others with her love of entertaining.
“Her friend liked to sing and liked to play the piano so they worked up an act to go to nursing homes to perform for the residents,” Crews said. “My mom always had a servant’s heart.”