CRESTVIEW Aileen Barley, a longtime area educator and community activist, died Wednesday following a recent illness. She died a day short of her 87th birthday. She was actively involved in area causes including Sharing and Caring, school mentorships and the Crestview Sister City program, which she helped establish.

CRESTVIEW Aileen Barley, a longtime area educator and community activist, died Wednesday following a recent illness. She died a day short of her 87th birthday.

During her funeral Saturday, her son, Joe Barley, credited his maternal grandparents for instilling in his mother the desire to help other people.

"She learned how to care for people from her folks," Joe Barley said, relating how his grandparents often invited in down-on-their-luck people who passed by their Ohio farm during the Depression.

"Mother always had her wallet open, whether it was for cats or Sharing and Caring," Barley said, referring to the Crestview food bank that he co-founded.

Aileen Barley joined Sharing and Caring two years after she retired from a 38-year career as an elementary school teacher at Crestview schools.

Her June 1989 retirement from teaching was really just the opportunity for his mother to transition to serving her community full-time for more than 20 years, Joe Barley said.

Serving others

Before Sharing and Caring opened its center off Wilson Street, the Barleys would distribute bags of food from their car to transient or homeless people passing through Crestview.

"Sometimes you have to take the service to where the people are who need it," Joe Barley said.

Even in her later years, Aileen Barley would hand food out of her car window to people she'd see by the side of the road.

"If we didn't have bags of food, we gave them a sandwich," Joe Barley said.

In May 1995, Aileen and Joe Barley and Joe's wife, Cecile, comprised the first contingent from Crestview to venture to what became the community's Sister City, Noirmoutier, France, and remained active in the program for many years.

In addition to visitors from Noirmoutier, Aileen Barley hosted foreign exchange students at her Crestview home.

Return to the classroom

Aileen Barley established a mentorship program at Northwood Elementary School, having been the third-grade teacher of the school's guidance counselor, Martha Barton.

"When the county started doing it (mentoring students), we had already been doing it for 10 years," Joe Barley said. "They wanted us to re-apply and get fingerprinted."

Aileen Barley also mentored students at the former Southside Elementary School and at Laurel Hill School, and was a volunteer for the Guardian Ad Litem program.

She served at the First Presbyterian Church of Crestview's weekly soup kitchen for several years, and taught a Sunday school class for mentally challenged adults at the First United Methodist Church, of which she was a longtime member.

"Mother was always out there trying to help people," Joe Barley said. "My mother had a great life, a life of caring for others."

Aileen Barley was interred in Enterprise, Ala., the home of her late husband, Carl Barley. In addition to their son, Joe, the couple had two daughters, Mary Shaver and Susan Young; and two grandsons, David and Danny.

Contact News Bulletin Staff Writer Brian Hughes at 850-682-6524 or Follow him on Twitter @cnbBrian.