Arjai Elizabeth Barrington-Kennedy passed away from natural causes in her home in Sun City, Arizona, on Saturday November 21, 2020, at the age of 86.
She was born on September 30, 1934, on a sunny Sunday afternoon at her Hensley grandparent’s farm near Petit.
Mother Edyth Hensley Whittenburg wanted to name her Elizabeth but Daddy Harvey Lee Whittenburg insisted on Ruby Joyce.
She had spina bifida and weighed less than five pounds on the cotton scales.
At three weeks of age, her mother rushed her in the old Model T Ford twelve miles to see Dr. Lusk. She barely survived the pneumonia.
Even though she was ill a great deal of the time, she was a happy child who read at least one book each day.
She climbed up into the branches of the old cottonwood tree to read and hide from her seven brothers and to keep her Mama from finding her and making her iron pillow cases (Why iron them when they were soon wrinkled?).
Sister Helen came when she was eleven, too late for a playmate.
James Vernon, the brother two years older, would play with her as long as she didn’t tell our brothers about it.
He continued throughout her life to help and support her. He was always there for her whenever and whatever I needed.
Arjai’s education consisted of 12 years of Whiteface schools, short times at the following colleges: McMurray in Abilene, Sacramento State in California, Las Vegas Community Collegein Nevada, Bellevue Community College in Washington and Kauai Community College in Hawaii.
Arjai felt that the real life, sometimes perilous, events were the greatest parts of her education. The biggest disappointment was not getting her degree.
She had two children, John Barrington and Amy (Barrington) Townsley and two grandsons, Alexander and Sean.
True to the traditions of the 1950’s, she supported her husband Johnny Barrington, with his degree and his work.
After their divorce she changed her name to Arjai Elizabeth to reflect and underpin a new life and career.
She asked the court for support to finish her formal education but Mr. Barrington contended that life had educated her.
After 20 years as a single adult, she married John Joseph Kennedy, who grew up in Pittsburgh and French Canada.
John, an intellectual who had worked 20 years for the Naval Department in Washington, DC was also a gourmet cook, a great Bridge player, and a lover of art and literature.
While they were together, she became a baseball fan, a bird watcher, a Silver Life Master in Bridge and developed an appreciation of life as never before.
After a hiatus from writing, she began again with John’s encouragement.
She lost him in 2006 and missed him every day. She wrote, “He loved me and believed in my talents.”
After his death, she wrote about him, mostly in poetry form.
For most of her life, she had sporadically written and, at least, fifty of her poems had been published.
She joined the Sun City Poet’s Society and Arizona Poet’s Society in 2011.
In 2019, she published her book of poetry, “From Texas to Here”
with support from fellow poet and longtime friend Paul Callahan.
For 10 years she worked in the insurance business as a secretary, rater and underwriter.
During the five years she lived on Kauai, she worked as Executive Secretary at the YWCA and as a stringer for both island newspapers. She published island news with stories and her own photos.
Her most lengthy and fulfilling career was as a Bridge professional. In that capacity, she lectured, directed and taught the game in schools, colleges, and country clubs and on many different cruise ship lines.
In teaching, she said she brought people together. She was thankful she could do that. Many of her students still play Bridge together on a regular basis 25 years later.
Arjai’s most joyful role was that of Grandmother. Her first grandson was lost to her through divorce and abandonment.
In 1991, Alexander was born and received with pure, abundant, jubilant love.
She said many times he was her legacy, and in her final days she only brightened when he was near. The brightness lasted for several minutes and was savored by all who were with her.
Arjai is survived by her children, John Barrington and Amy Townsley; two grandsons, Alexander Townsley and Sean Barnes; and
siblings: Vernon Whittenburg, Claude Whittenburg, Kenneth Whittenburg and Helen Rankin.
Viewing will be held at the Krestridge Funeral Home in Levelland, Texas with interment at the City of Levelland Cemetery in Levelland, Texas on December 7, 2020. Due to privacy and public health concerns, attendance is limited to immediate family only and there will not be a meal/reception after the burial.
A celebration of life for Arjai will be held in the fall of 2021 at Krestridge Funeral Home in Levelland, when public health concerns have improved. Details on the celebration of life will follow at a later date.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to Hospice of the Valley at www.HOV.org or make a donation to the Audubon Society at www.audubon.org .