Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Barfly who fought Nazis in WWII to celebrate 98th birthday in style

Mari Barb celebrating her 97th birthday at Buffalo Wild Wings in 2016. (Andrew Harris/WYDaily)

September 16 was a busy day in history.

A Massachusetts village renamed itself “Boston” in 1630. Mexico declared its independence from Spain in 1810. In 1963, The Beatles released “She Loves You” in the United States.

And, in 1919, Mari Barb was born in France, less than a year after the First World War ended. Barb explained she fought against the Nazis during the Second World War. Serving in the French Resistance, Barb says she helped Jewish families and Allied pilots evade the Nazis in conquered French territory. Her life is so storied, a journalist from New York once set out to write a book about her, she said.

Last year Barb celebrated her birthday much the same way she has for many years, surrounded by her friends at New Town’s Buffalo Wild Wings, the bar where she has become a local fixture. This year she intends to do the same.

When meeting someone new, Barb proudly displays her business card, which is red, white and blue and lists her occupation as a “Veteran of Foreign Wars.” Her friends like to say Barb has never met a stranger.

Barb said she met two women in their early twenties at Buffalo Wild Wings this week — and added the duo to her list of attendees for her birthday party at the wing joint on Saturday.

“For some reason, I attract young people,” Barb said. “They all come see me at the bar… If you knew how many friends I have in their 20s, they like to talk to me because of my life.”

Barb spends nearly every night at Buffalo Wild Wings, sitting at the bar, playing trivia and speaking with friends old and new. She is usually seen eating barbeque wings and sipping an iced tea.

“I don’t go there looking for a man. I’m 98,” Barb said with a laugh.

Barb married her husband, Jim Barb, in 1945, and the two worked for the CIA after the war, she said. Jim Barb died in 1988 and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His gravestone lists him as a Major in the U.S. Army, serving in WWII through the Vietnam War.

With a wry grin, Barb says she will be joining him in Arlington soon. Once you get to 90 years old, Barb says, you take it one day at a time.

She began working at Camp Peary in the 1950s. The couple’s line of work took them around the world, including Vietnam and Saipan. She claims to be fluent in French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, and Mandarin.

She said her birthday is not about her, but rather an occasion to gather her community of friends together for one night — and an occasion to befriend bar patrons she has never met before.

“I don’t send invitations, and I tell them, ‘no gifts or card.’ You have to cut a tree to make my card,” Barb said.

She added that she has already scolded a friend who bought her a gift certificate as an early birthday present.

WYDaily archives were used in this story.

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