Roberta Blake Barnum Life Sketch
2 items of business I need to take care of before I start.
1. Program done in 1998
2. Friends and Family members, and ward members—such kindness softens the pain.
My mother, Roberta Blake Barnum was born June 12, 1929 in St George, Utah to Harriet Louisa
Wade and Joseph Edward Blake. She is a direct descendant of Benjamin Fredrick Blake and
Harriet Hollis, one of the original Dixie pioneer families. She was the last child of nine children.
Her father was 45 years old and her mother was 40 years old at the time her birth. She grew up
in St George and graduated from Woodward High School. Later she attended classes at Brigham
Young University to learn how to manage family history libraries, to teach genealogy, and to
learn how to do English research. I think she taught them how to do some research instead.
Roberta married Odean Barnum on March 3, 1948 in the St George Temple. They immediately
moved to Blue Diamond, Nevada. Odean worked at a gypsum plant starting out as a laborer and
moved up the ladder to be superintendent of the plant. They drove 23 miles one way to attend
church in Las Vegas. In 1962, they purchased their 1st home in Las Vegas. Both of them held
many church positions. One of their most enjoyable was fulfilling an assignment to the St
George Temple driving from Las Vegas to St George every weekend for nine years before the
Las Vegas Temple was built. Odean was called as Bishop of the Las Vegas 28th Ward at age 60
thus delaying retirement and moving Mom back to her beloved Dixie. So naturally my mother
became the mother of the 28th Ward helping my dad in all his duties. After serving 5 years he
was released then they were able to move to St George.
Mom and Dad were blessed with three sons. (the oldest, tallest, and best lookin) Lawrence Dean
Barnum was born February 19, 1949 in St George. He graduated from Clark High School in Las
Vegas and from Brigham Young University. He received his Duty to God Award, Life Scout
(short 2 merit badges from Eagle Scout), and fulfilled a two year mission to the North Central
States. He has a Masters degree in Audiology, retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.
He has served as a Bishop in Fairborn Ohio and the second time in Phoenix, Arizona. He is
married Kathleen Muir and they have five children and 10 grandchildren.
David Elwin Barnum was born March 25, 1950 in St George, UT. (he is the next oldest, tallest
and best lookin) He graduated from Clark High School in Las Vegas and from the University of
Utah with 2 master’s degrees. He received his Duty of God award, Life Scout (short two merit
badges from Eagle Scout), and fulfilled a full time mission in Brazil and Florida. He is a retired
educator. He has served as a Bishop of a singles ward in Las Vegas and is currently serving a
Patriarch in the Sand Stone stake. He married Wendy Wood of St George and they have five
children and four grandchildren.
James Douglas Barnum was born August 4, 1952 in Boulder City, NV. (he is the youngest not
as tall but is as good looking as his 2 older brothers) He graduated from Clark High School in
Las Vegas and from Brigham Young University with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Range
Science and currently works for the BLM in Twin Falls ID. He received his Duty of God award,
(completed scouting to the rank of Star—let me explain one thing—all of Roberta’s 9 grandsons
are Eagle scouts to make for the short fall of her sons) Doug fulfilled a fulltime mission to the
Southwest British Mission in England. He has also served twice as a Bishop. Once in Lander,
WY and then in Twin Falls ID. He married Annette Heiser and they have four children and
seven grand children.
Odean and Roberta have 14 grandchildren and 21 great grandchildren. Grandma always said our
family has been blessed with some of greatest spirits sent from our Heavenly Father.
My mother was close to my dad’s father; unfortunately, he was killed in a deer hunting accident
before they were married. When World War II was over, Odean got a job at the Blue Diamond
Gypsum plant so they were able to be married in the St George Temple on March 3rd, 1948.
Then they moved to Blue Diamond, Nevada. Odean is the eldest of his brothers and sisters.
When several of his brothers graduated from high school, they would come to live with them and
work at the plant. They lived in their home until they either married or went on a mission. My
mother also cared for her mother that had her leg amputated due to complications from diabetes
for 8 years before her death. She loved caring for her mother even though it was difficult. She
would remind us that Grandma was the greatest woman on earth. I told her that is true but I still
wasn’t very happy about her taking for my bedroom.
My mother received her patriarchal blessing when she was 27 years old by Patriarch Harold
Brinley in Las Vegas. She had been called as a Relief Society president before her blessing. In
her blessing, she was told that she was known as a spiritual daughter of God and that the Lord
had a great and marvelous work for her to do. It said “you will see that the important
endowment is done.” She took that to heart and she started doing family genealogy research in
1956 and has been busy doing it steady until 2004 when her failing health slowed her down. She
worked 5 years on her first book “Descendants of Benjamin Frederick Blake” that was published
in 1965. She wrote entire family histories on the Wade and Truman Families, on her father and
mother, on 2 brothers, on my dad, on Odean’s father and mother, on 11 Hughes uncles and aunts,
and Uncle Frederick Blake. In her spare she time kept a life time weekly journal that has been a
treat for me going through 18 volumes of her personal history. ( I have decided that every parent
should leave something for the children to read). In addition, BYU called her and wanted World
War II veteran histories. She wrote Odean’s and her brother Truman Blake’s military history
experiences that are kept at the Harold B. Lee Library on the BYU campus. She organized with
the tremendous help from her Blake family members, several reunions and family monthly
temple ordinances activities. She called this work “her magnificent obsession.” Dad, David,
Doug and I can bear witness to this fact.
She was called as the 1st Las Vegas Stake Family History Librarian to establish the stake’s 1st
library in the Vegas valley in 1966. She served for 20 years in that calling. After moving to St
George, she served another 5 years as a family history missionary.
Roberta worked in the St George Temple for 15 years as an ordnance worker and 3 years as a
supervisor. President Reed Whipple told her that on one occasion her family names kept the
temple open for more than 2 weeks when the temple was out of names for ordnances. When the
Las Vegas Temple opened, she submitted 3,000 names that were among the 1st names baptized
in that temple.
Because of the love for family history, she taught many genealogy classes on a ward, stake and
regional level. In 1994 the Church published the 3rd edition to “How to do English Research”
using all of her illustrations and examples about how she approached doing her research.
In 1973 was Mom and Dad’s 25th wedding anniversary. Dad asked her what she wanted. She
told him that she wanted to go to England and to do research on her people (not dad’s people, her
people). Doug was serving his mission in England. Doug told Mom that she had better get
coming over the ocean while he was still there because he was her drawing card. She was afraid
of flying over that big ocean. (I think Doug was home sick) Mom and dad where in England for
1 month and brought home 3000 names. She often expressed to me that she was grateful for the
financial support her Blake family members helped in this research.
Roberta’s family research efforts peaked between 1965 to 2004. She and her sisters would hand
write names on single entry sheets and later she would type them into her computer getting the
names temple ready, and submitting the names for ordinances. Lester Gubler would organize the
Blake family completely filling the temple baptistery, endowment sessions rooms and several
sealing rooms. In 1994, under Lester’s leadership and Mom’s research, the Blake family
baptized 35,000 names in 2 1/2 years by doing 1000 names every other week. The only problem
they encountered was maxing out the Church’s PAF program that was used for submitting names
to the temples.
She worked with her Uncle Cecil Blake in erecting a Blake monument on Mount Trumbull. It
took them 1 1/2 years working with the BLM to get permission to build the monument. The
monument is in recognition of the Blake sawmill, the first sawmill on Mount Trumbull. Another
project she did for her St George pioneers was to research and get permission to have Historical
House plaques placed in front of pioneer homes that includes her great grandfather Benjamin
Fredrick Blake and his son Fredrick.
In the summer of 1996, Roberta received prompting’s from the Holy Spirit at “2 AM” to start
researching each of the original Pioneers of St George. She knew not why. She followed this
impression and started researching her Dixie pioneers even though she was feeling researched
out. Six months later, Dixie State College starting building a monument to the Dixie pioneers
but the monument would only have 1 name on it, that of Erastus Snow. She knew at that time
why she had been researching each Dixie pioneer for the last 6 months. She knew that she had to
present to the College why she was doing the pioneer research and present it to them. In a
meeting with the college, they said they couldn’t afford more names on the monument. For 2
hours she told them what the Lord had told her to do. They first approved only the pioneer Dixie
men names, but then she gave them the word—the Dixie pioneer women needed to be added too.
The research was long and hard. Hundreds were in attendance when monument was dedicated
by Pres Gordon B. Hinkley on October 9, 1998. Pres Hinkley said, “I don’t know how all of us
can thank Sister Barnum for the great work she has done. I have always wanted it done. It’s a
sacred monument fitting for such faithful and dedicated pioneers after 137 years.”
Another early morning revelation came to her that she should publish another book of the Dixie
pioneers that she had researched. She always called the pioneers the Treasure of St George. Her
second book “St George Original Pioneers” had all the pioneer men and of course there wives
histories and pictures in it. Because my mother’s health was starting to slow her down, Paul
Peine helped mom giving hundreds of hours of help and was co-author of the book placing
pictures and histories together.
Just a few entries from her journals:
“March 3 1998, celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary with my 3 sons and sweet
wives. My family is my greatest priority.”
Another entry: “Rebekah married Brandon White in the East Room of the St George
Temple; she is the 6th generation of our family to be married in the St George Temple.”
Last entry: “As of 2004 have submitted 220,624 names. I love my ancestors beyond the
veil. I owe to them what I am. These are my family names; maybe I should do some for Odean.
No, he is on his own.”
I want to finish by bearing my testimony of one fact about my mother, your Grandma and great-
grandmother. She taught her 3 sons and their wives, which are your parents, aunts and uncles
and we have tried to teach you our children and great grandchildren. We must promise to
Grandma to be true to the faith that our parents have cherished, to be true to the truth for which
martyrs have perished, to God’s command, soul, heart, and hand, and be faithful and true we will
ever stand for Jesus Christ, whom Grandma loved dearly.
I do this in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.