Former Strater co-owner Jentra Barker dies at 81

Ran hotel with husband for 30 years, helped design the Diamond Belle Saloon

Barker Enlarge photo


When Earl Barker Jr. and his wife, Jentra, began owning and operating the Strater Hotel, it was a businessman’s hotel. When they sold it to their son, Roderick, 30 years later, they had made the hotel a Victorian showplace. Jentra Barker died Saturday at the age of 81.

“They started that with inspiration from her mother, Marion, who thought it would be fun,” Rod Barker said. “They went on antique buying trips for many years.

The Strater now boasts the world’s largest collection of American walnut Victorian furniture. Jentra Barker also worked on the design of the Diamond Belle Saloon and the Terrace Restaurant, the predecessor to the Mahogany Grille, and the development of the Diamond Circle Theatre and Melodrama.

Mark Zempel, who managed the Strater for a couple of years more than 30 years ago, said she was always involved.

“When I was there, they were supposed to be semi-retired,” he said. “Every time Earl came in, she came with him. Earl made the decisions, but Jentra always made her opinions known.”

She was born to Irvin and Marion Jarvis on Dec. 14, 1930, in Glenwood Springs.

Her family moved to Durango in 1946, and Jentra Barker went on to graduate from Durango High School in 1948.

Shortly thereafter, she was named queen of the Spanish Trails Fiesta. In 2010, she was named a grand marshal for the Durango Fiesta Days’ 75th anniversary.

“Jentra was a Jarvis, and her family has always been one of the most active in the community,” her longtime friend Mickey Hogan said.

Mrs. Barker served as a board member and president of the Fort Lewis College Foundation beginning in the late 1970s and continuing until 1985. She was a longtime supporter of Music in the Mountains and the Durango Arts Center.

“She was like the Barbara Stanwyck character in ‘The Big Valley,’” Zempel said. “That was Jentra, the matriarch of the family and a very elegant Western woman.”