Obituary: Cathy Barton Para, 63, Boonville, Mo.


Cathy Barton Para, 63, of Boonville, Mo., died Wednesday, April 17, 2019, gently among family and friends at her home. She was born June 12, 1955, in Fort Benning, Ga., to Claude D. and Mary Ruth Catlett Barton. As an “Army brat,” she lived in Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Virginia and Hawaii before moving to Columbia in 1967. She attended West Junior and Hickman High schools and Stephens College, from which she graduated summa cum laude in 1977. She received a master’s degree in folklore in 1979 from Western Kentucky University. She married David Para at First Baptist Church in Columbia in 1979 and began a long and happy union with her lifelong love and fellow musician.

Her active interest in music began in elementary school in Hawaii and grew during her school days in Columbia. A champion banjo player, she also was one of the first hammered dulcimer players in the region and inspired many players nationally. Her playing was vibrant and she was a generous and thoughtful teacher. She and her husband shared a musical career for more than 40 years, traveling the U.S. roads and rivers and Europe, specializing in traditional music from the Missouri – Ozark region. They were awarded by the Missouri Humanities Council, Young Audiences of Kansas City and the Folk Alliance Region Midwest. Stephens College named her a distinguished alumnus in 1993. In a fruitful 20-year collaboration with the late Bob Dyer, they produced three music albums related to Missouri history which were awarded by the American Library Association. They started the Big Muddy Folk Festival for the Friends of Historic Boonville. She performed with her husband at the 28th festival held April 5-6. The couple made 16 albums.

She was a beautiful and benign person, and she performed as she lived, with her radiant smile, inviting laugh and unabashed joy, endearing her to the communities of home and career.

In addition to her husband, Dave Para, she is survived by two sisters, Claudia (Tom) Welsh and Judith (Tom) Gibbons, both of Texas; one uncle, Roy Barton in Memphis; and countless friends.

The memorial service is 3 p.m. May 4, 2019, at the Boonville First Christian Church. A cemetery visit and a musical gathering will follow.

Memorial donations are suggested to KOPN Community Radio, Friends of Historic Boonville and First Christian Church of Boonville, Mo.

The William Wood Funeral Home in Boonville, Mo., is in charge of arrangements.


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