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Francestown

She’s spreading Stephanie’s glow

Francestown: Mother selling lanterns for memorial fund for daughter

  • Cher Barker of Francestown makes solar lanterns out of repurposed glass to "spread Stephanie's glow."
  • Cher Barker of Francestown makes solar lanterns out of repurposed glass to "spread Stephanie's glow."
  • Cher Barker of Francestown makes solar lanterns out of repurposed glass to "spread Stephanie's glow."

FRANCESTOWN — A Francestown woman hopes her solar lantern project “spreads that glow” that her daughter had before her untimely death in May 2013, when she committed suicide at the age of 27.

“So many people have said how much she inspired them,” Cher Barker said in an interview Friday about her daughter, Stephanie Joy Barker of San Francisco, Calif.

Despite the loss, Barker said she is determined to get through this difficult time.

“I’m having trouble with the good memories, I guess they will come,” Barker said, noting she has been consumed with grief.

Stephanie was a hard worker and a real mover and shaker, Barker said. Stephanie was a Northeastern University graduate who went on to become a registered nurse, doing volunteer work all over the world.

Barker said her daughter suffered from anxiety and depression, and took her own life last year.

“We were surprised, so surprised,” Barker said. “Her friends were as bereft as we are.”

Barker began making lanterns in October of last year. “I’m an action person I had to do something.”

The money from the sales will go to a memorial fund in Stephanie’s name, and Barker’s plan is to eventually donate all the money to Volunteer Kenya, a program based in Nairobi that Stephanie was very involved with . Barker said Stephanie’s time in Kenya was a phenomenal experience for her.

“She [had] helped so many people die, and no one helped her,” Barker said, referring Stephanie’s role helping the sick and dying in Nairobi.

When Barker contacted Reuben Lubanga, the director or Volunteer Kenya, about Stephanie, he said, “Her other set of parents is here [in Kenya] thinking of her.”

“[Stephanie] told Reuben that Kenya was a life-changing experience,” Barker said in an interview Saturday.

“She had a lot of love and positivity, she touched so many people,” Barker said.

Although Barker and her family knew what Stephanie was dealing with emotionally, Barker said it’s hard to know when to ask more questions and when to stop asking.

“Our whole society needs to deal with these things more openly,” she said of mental health issues.

When Stephanie took her life, she was working as a volunteer nurse in San Francisco, Calif . Barker said Stephanie had moved out there with some friends to volunteer, while job searching. Stephanie was 27 at the time.

Barker spends 25 hours a week at home making the solar lanterns out of repurposed glass. She sees the project as “giving glass a new life.”

“I’m honored to do it,” Barker said.

She’s always on the hunt for glass, and people have even brought her boxes of glass to use. Vases and wine glasses are distinguishable in some of the colored lanterns Barker has made.

It takes two hours to make one lantern, and Barker always has a couple projects going at a time, she said, because the lanterns need time to dry after gluing parts together. Her husband, Jim, assists her by drilling holes in the lanterns, so they can be hung and her son, Richard, did the graphic design work for her business cards and the tags for the lanterns.

She does not have an amount set for how much money she hopes to raise, but so far the project has brought in around $1,500. The lanterns range in price from $25 to $45. Barker makes lanterns on commission, but also sells them at craft fairs throughout the state.

“Every time I go to a fair, I end up in tears,” Barker said, as she thinks about Stephanie.

The lanterns can be kept outside, however since they are not waterproof, Barker recommends people take the lanterns inside at night during the winter. They can be kept in windows and skylights, she said.

Every lantern is unique and the solar collector can be removed from the lamp and left in the sunlight during the day, so it can glow all night.

Anyone interested in a solar lamp can contact Barker at 547-6866 or cher.barker@gmail.com. The next craft fair she will attend is the Snowflakes and Hearts Winter Craft Fair in Nashua at the Crowne Plaza on Saturday.

Lindsey Arceci can be reached at 924-7172, ext. 232, or larceci@ledgertranscript.com.

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