Essie was born in Thomasville, Ga., the daughter of the late Olee and Rosa Boone Walker. In 1944 Essie and her husband, David, moved from Florida to Lyons, N.Y. in search of better opportunities for their family.
Essie worked at the Newark Developmental Center for over 30 years. David died in 1962, and as a widowed mother she earned a Bachelors Degree in Special Education. She was very active in the Special Olympics program at the NDC. For more than 30 years, Barnes took Wayne County children across the country and abroad to celebrate through competition and athleticism. She ran countless fundraisers and participated in other Special Olympics events.
Essie was also a decorated sewer and quilter, working with several different groups including longtime Upper Lutheran Church members.
Although in her mid-90’s, Barnes fully expected to recover from her brief illness, but unfortunately she passed away in early 2021. Lake said she found thirty-one quilts walking around Barnes’ house after she died. The thirty-one finished quilts were sold in June of 2021 at the Lyons United Methodist Church, with all proceeds donated to the Special Olympics.