Obituary: Barbco Founder Jim Barbera

Jim Barbera


Barbco founder James “Jim” S. Barbera, 79, of East Canton, passed away on Monday, July 8.

He was born on March 7, 1940 to the late Cono and Frances Barbera. He was a graduate of Timken Vocational High School and went on to serve his country in the U.S. Army. Jim was employed by the Canton City Police Department, which he retired from in 1974. After, he was employed by American Auger and then started his own family business, a manufacturing company, Barbco. He officially retired 10 years ago and moved South to Englewood, Fla.

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Along with his parents, he was preceded in death by sisters, Cona Mayle and Frances Regiec. Jim is survived by his loving wife of 56 years, Frances; children, James (Janet) Barbera of Uniontown, Christina Barbera (Dana Embrose) of Cleveland, Anthony (Terry) Barbera of Canton, and David (Jenny) Barbera of Dover. Also survived by brothers, Mike (Carol) Barbera and Leo (Marcia) Barbera; sister, Josephine Johnson; twelve grandchildren and one great-granddaughter.

According to the Barbco website, Jim and Fran were married on Nov. 9, 1963 in Canton, Ohio. Jim was on the Canton City Police Department and Fran worked at a rubber glove manufacturing company. Jim’s experience in home remodeling was a way to bring additional income into the family. During those early years they would purchase homes in the city, fix them up and rent them out. Over the first 5-10 years, they amassed 7 homes and were doing well for themselves. Their hard work was paying off.

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In 1968, their first son Jim was born, followed a year and a half later by their daughter Chris and then almost a year to the day later by Tony and Dave. At the time, parents were unaware of the sex of their child as well as if they were having twins, so it was quite a surprise when the doctor told Fran that there were two. So, the stage was set, four children under the age of three. Jim was working multiple jobs to pay the bills and Fran stayed home taking care of the homefront.

Jim and Leo Barbera (front, from left) celebrate their lifetime achievement award with the second generation (back, from left) Dave, Jimmy, Tony an Rick Barbera.

In 1975, Jim retired from the police department and went into business for himself. He continued his work in construction and got into the pool solar heating business. Then, in 1979, Jim started working at American Augers for his brother Leo. During his 10 years at American Augers, Jim oversaw the sales department and had direct oversight of several initiatives including the reconditioning of a 19-ft Robbins tunnel boring machine and being an active organizer in the auger boring schools that were held in Arizona. 1989 was a pivotal year. Leo Barbera sold American Augers and Jim was in a bit of a quandary as to what his future would be in the industry. With much thought and multiple factors to consider, Jim, with the support of his wife Fran, started Barbco, a NUCA Sustaining National Partner. The company ran out of a shop in Twinsburg, Ohio for the first 6 months.

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The first of Jim and Fran’s children to work for the company was Tony Barbera, who had just graduated from high school. His twin brother, Dave Barbera, started in 1992 and worked primarily in the office. The other children, Chrissy and Jim, worked intermittently during the early years of the company. Barbco continued to expand its product line as Jim saw opportunities in the trenchless industry. He brought into the fray of Barbco’s manufacturing capabilities, products such as directional drills and pilot tube machines. With this growth, Jim continually looked for facilities that would give him the space he needed to build the equipment customers were looking for. In 2003, Jim moved the company to its present location in East Canton, Ohio. At this location, Barbco had the space to build and the land to expand his manufacturing when needed.

Both Jim and his brother Leo were well known with the trenchless industry. In fact, they were both recently honored by the Trenchless Technology Center at Louisiana Tech University. Both were presented with Lifetime Achievement Awards by Dr. Tom Iseley for their contributions to the trenchless industry. Additionally, a new training and educational facility being built on campus is being named in honor of the brothers.

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(From left) Dr. Tom Iseley, Leo Barbera, Jim Barbera and Dr. Les Guice.

Memorial donations may be made to Mercy Medical Center Hospice.

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