- About Us
Dorothy "Dot" Somers Barrus died peacefully in her sleep May 21, 2018 at the age of 93. Dot was born May 11, 1925, and grew up in Rochester NY. Her parents, Lloyd Somers and Gertrude Hough Somers, instilled in her a love of nature and the out of doors from an early age, through outings near their home or to special places in the Adirondack Mountains. She also embraced their values of caring for all people without regard to race, nationality, or economic status.
Dot attended Keuka College and later graduated from The University of Rochester. While in college she met Robert "Bob" Barrus on a hiking trip she joined with their fathers. Bob was on furlough from Civilian Public Service during WWII. After the war, Bob joined the American Friends Service Committee to help with reconstruction in Europe. He was assigned to rebuilding houses in Italian villages. Dot joined AFSC as well, and followed Bob to Rome where they were married November 9, 1946. Their oldest daughter Romola "Rommie" was born while they were still on assignment. Over time it became evident that Rommie had a developmental disability. Learning to live with Rommie’s disability shaped the rest of their lives in many ways.
Upon their return to the U.S., they lived for a few years in Chapel Hill, where Bob was director of the UNC Campus YMCA. In 1951, they moved to Yancey County and joined Celo Community, seeking a more supportive community to raise their children, especially their mentally handicapped daughter. There were no services for children with disabilities at that time and Dot reached out to other families to organize activities for their handicapped children.
In 1955, Dot and Bob took over ownership of Camp Celo, a farm-home summer camp for children. They were encouraged and joined in this effort by Ernest and Elizabeth Morgan. They dedicated their lives to helping children experience the joy of physical work while living on a farm in a diverse community. They made sure that having Rommie as a part of that community helped children feel more comfortable with people with disabilities. Making the Camp Celo experience available to children of all races, religions and economic means was always an important part of their mission.
Dot and Bob’s home was always open to visitors and sojourners who were interested in the Celo community and learning to live on a farm.
In 1963, Bob and Dot joined Elizabeth Morgan to help found Arthur Morgan School. Dot served as a house parent for the boarding students, welcoming up to six extra teenagers into their home.
When Dot and Bob moved to Celo, they joined a small group of Quakers who were worshipping together. They helped establish Celo Friends Meeting. Dot and Bob were trained through Friends General Conference to lead couples’ groups in marriage enrichment retreats. This work contributed to the depth of their own marriage of 70 years. The Friends spiritual community was a central focus of their lives and the Celo Friends Meeting continues as a spiritual home for many.
Dot was preceded in death by her husband Bob. She is survived by two sons, Gib Barrus (wife Annie) of Celo and Greg Barrus of Statesville; two daughters, Rommie Barrus of Celo and Barb Perrin (husband Tom) of Celo; four granddaughters: Gracie Barrus of Celo, Lucia Parker (husband Clay) of Celo, Sadie Perrin of Cambridge, MA, and Kayla Barrus of Greeneville, TN; three grandsons: Kyle Barrus of Burnsville, Drew Perrin (wife Carly Todd) of Brooklyn, NY and Celo, and Kristian Barrus of Greeneville, TN and five great-grandchildren: Hayden Parker, Grayson Parker, Lauren Barrus, Niko Perrin, and Arlo Fields.
There will be a memorial service Saturday June 2, at Celo Friends Meeting. Visitation at 2:00 pm and worship at 3:00 pm.
In lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to Friends of Camp Celo campership fund, P.O. Box 2392 Asheville, NC 28802 http://friendsofcampcelo.org/donate.