Born at Burlington Hospital in June of 1932, Phyllis Barnes spent her childhood living in Wapello. She enjoyed life in a smaller town, often playing outside on the quiet street in front of the old hotel with her friends and her sister, Mary Jo. Barnes graduated from Wapello High School in 1950 and then studied nursing at Mercy Hospital in Burlington.
After graduating from her nursing program, Barnes worked as a registered nurse in the pediatric Ward at Mercy Hospital. During this time, Barnes moved back to Wapello and took the bus to Burlington for each of her shifts. Barnes greatly preferred riding the bus, as she had no interest in learning to drive, getting a drivers license, or owning a car.
In June of 1955, Barnes married her husband, Bob Barnes, a teacher in the Wapello Community School District. She fondly remembers how they first began dating. Bob had once taken her roommate out on a date, but it did not work out well. About a year later, he called and asked Phyllis if she knew any girls he could ask out. She naturally replied, “well me, of course!”
After their marriage, Barnes and her husband moved to Letts, a small town on the border of Muscatine and Louisa Counties. The couple had four children, and Barnes stayed at home to care for them. Barnes supported them in everything they did. She frequently attended the stock car races of one of her sons and grandsons. She also often went to her other son’s bar where she and her husband loved to dance.
Once her children grew up, Barnes returned to work. She opened a daycare out of her family’s home in Letts and enjoyed caring for local children for a number of years.
In 2019, Barnes moved to Muscatine to live at Bickford Senior Living. She likes her new home, especially the wide variety of activities available for residents to participate in. “”It’s good for me to live here, I guess,” she said. “They make me get involved in a lot of things here.”