Cover photo for Elsie Linnea Barrett's Obituary
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1930 Elsie 2024

Elsie Linnea Barrett

February 4, 1930 — March 28, 2024


Elsie Linnea Carlson Barrett died on March 28, 2024, at her home in Lexington, Nebraska, of complications from cancer at the age of 94.

    Born and raised in New London, Connecticut, Elsie graduated from Williams Memorial Institute in 1947 and worked for a year to earn enough money to visit relatives in Sweden. On a frigid January day in 1950, she boarded the USS Gripsholm to sail to Sweden, the homeland of her parents. On the first day of the voyage, she wrote in her journal about watching the sun rise, “bright and glorious, marking the changing day of my life.” While abroad, she also traveled to Norway where she saw Eleanor Roosevelt give a speech in Oslo and visited Belgium, France and Germany.

    A year later, Elsie returned to New London and began another life chapter when she met Bill Barrett in a coffee shop. Bill was in the Navy and serving on a sub tender. He claimed he was smitten and followed her outside as she boarded a bus, convincing Elsie to shout her phone number through the window. They married in the Swedish Covenant Church in 1952, and Elsie left her beloved family, ocean, woods and friends to travel to the plains of Nebraska. She and Bill settled in Hastings where she became a licensed practical nurse and worked in a hospital before the couple and their first two children moved to Lexington. There, Elsie was a homemaker and raised four children and cared for numerous cats and dogs.

    Elsie loved the outdoors and often took her family camping, hiking and swimming in lakes including Jeffrey Lake south of Brady, where the Barretts had a cabin. The family also co-owned a cabin near Glen Haven, CO, where she spent many happy years. The mountains were also where she introduced her family to skiing. She was a fixer of many things like leaky toilets and cantankerous lawn mowers. Elsie was unafraid of almost anything except live mice. Rarely did she back down from a challenge. Elsie was also a voracious reader, and a talented seamstress and knitter.

    After her children were grown, Elsie became a licensed real estate agent. She attended classes at Kearney State College and supported Bill during his time in the Nebraska Legislature and also when he served in Congress. She delighted in transforming their temporary living quarters into homes in both cities and showing family, friends, and constituents the many wonders of Washington D.C. and surrounding areas. Throughout Bill’s political career, Elsie enjoyed traveling to many different countries and meeting world leaders as well as several presidents. 

    Closer to home, Elsie loved caring for her three grandchildren, teaching Betsy how to peer under rocks for interesting creatures and swooshing down waterslides with Darby and Noah. Almost everyone who knew Elsie, including her hospice care workers and reading and knitting groups, grew to appreciate her independent spirit which entertained, sometimes challenged, and ultimately endeared Elsie to those around her throughout her life, especially during the last chapter. She loved the ocean, immersing her 92-year-old self into the Atlantic’s healing waters to fulfill her wish of being embraced by the sea “one last time.”

    Elsie served on the Nebraska Foster Care Review board, was a 60-year-old member and president of her P.E.O. chapter, was an active member of the First Presbyterian Church, was a boy scout den mother and girl scout leader, and a member of knitting and book clubs. She was also a member of the Congressional Club for spouses of representatives, and she and Bill helped host the National Prayer Breakfast in 1997.

    Survivors include sons William (Karen) Barrett of Cupertino, CA; David Barrett of Omaha; daughters Elizabeth Barrett and Jane Messerschmidt, both of Lincoln; granddaughter Betsy Potter of Fraser, CO; grandsons Darby (fiancee Kierstene) Sarnes of Lincoln; and Noah Sarnes (Saylor) of Laurel; brother David (Marie) Carlson of Middletown, CT; sister-in-law Marjorie (James) Hewitt of Lincoln, numerous nieces and nephews, and her beloved orange cat Yogi.

    She was preceded in death by her parents, husband, a sister and brother. 

A Celebration of Life Service will be held on Thursday, May 30, at 11:00 a.m. at the First Presbyterian Church in Lexington with Reverend Eddie Mariel and Reverend Charles Olsen, officiating with a luncheon to follow. A private graveside service will precede the Celebration of Life.

Memorials are suggested to the First Presbyterian Church in Lexington, Hastings College Foundation, Central Plains Home Health & Hospice, Lexington Public Library, Dawson County Historical Museum, and Nebraska Children's Home.

Reynolds- Love Funeral Home in Lexington is honored to be assisting the family with arrangements. Please share online condolences with the family by visiting:

To order memorial trees or send flowers to the family in memory of Elsie Linnea Barrett, please visit our flower store.

Service Schedule

Past Services

Celebration of Life

Thursday, May 30, 2024

11:00am - 12:00 pm (Central time)

First Presbyterian Church

801 N Lincoln St, Lexington, NE 68850

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