Fern Elizabeth Barnidge (nee Whitehead) died peacefully on Dec. 5, 2023, at the end of a life that spanned 98 years and was lived to the fullest. Growing up in St. Louis, she attended Cleveland High School, where she not only was an excellent student but proudly reported in later years was officially chosen “Most Popular Girl Among Boys.” Employed as a secretary at Ralston Purina, beginning in 1944, she soon met the man of her dreams, another St. Louisan, Thomas O. Barnidge. They were married in 1947 and happily remained so until Tom’s death in 2004.
Their family grew with the birth of son Tom (1948), Scott (1952), Susan (1956) and Betsy (1962). In later years, Fern would become grandma (or “Nonnie,” as she preferred) to Meredith Barnidge, Elizabeth, Erin, Melissa and Courtney Yaeger, Matthew and Megan Moloney. Soon to follow were 11 great grandchildren. By the time Fern celebrated her 98th birthday on July 23, 2023, there were 18 members of her blossoming family who knew her only as Nonnie.
Fern loved to play games. And especially to win them. In didn’t matter whether the game was ping-pong, shuffleboard or golf. She was a competitor from beginning to end. She excelled at bridge or any other card game, as her husband could attest. At one point in their ongoing penny-a-point gin rummy competition, Tom acknowledged that he would need to tap his savings account if Fern ever demanded a payoff for her accumulated winnings.
Fern also loved to travel. On the walls of her home were dozens of photos of her trips with Tom to destinations from around the world. Among her favorites were those with her grandchildren along, foremost among them a big-game “safari” to the jungles of Africa. After Tom’s death, Fern divided her time between their homes in suburban St. Louis and Florida. In the last six years of her life, she lived in a senior residence in Kirkwood, where she could be near her daughters and grandchildren. She will be missed.