The Time Lady
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From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. July 22, 2003
By: J.E. GESHWILER
If you've never heard Jane Barbe speak, chances are you've never used the telephone.
For 40 years, hers was the recorded voice that gave you the time and temperature or told you how to reach the appropriate party or instructed you to wait until an operator was available or simply said you'd better call back another time.
She didn't talk to just an Atlanta audience. Telecommunications companies around the country, even around the globe, employed her as their voice. One of those companies calculated that during the mid-1980s she spoke to 10 million of its customers a day.
The graveside service for Mrs. Barbe, 74, of Roswell was Monday. She died Friday of complications from cancer at North Fulton Regional Hospital. Roswell Funeral Home was in charge of arrangements.
A drama major at the University of Georgia, Mrs. Barbe was hired as a vocalist with the Buddy Morrow Orchestra, where she met her husband, John Barbe, the band's music arranger.
Relocating to Atlanta a few years later, she took a job as a copywriter at an ad agency. As she told the Journal-Constitution in 1987, "Here I am, writing copy as a college graduate, but my spelling is atrocious. The first copy I wrote, a commercial for Big Apple [grocery store], I took into my boss' office and asked, 'Since this is for radio, may I read it?' so he wouldn't see my spelling. So I read it. He liked it and asked me to do the voice work for it. That was my first radio commercial."
In 1963 she began making recordings for Dacryon, a pioneering voice mail company. "A good voice is not enough," her husband said in the 1987 article. "It's talent and a sense of timing. Jane's timing is so accurate, she can speak to a tenth of a second to fit the technical demands of the voice systems."
Conversationally, Mrs. Barbe had a Southern accent, but on the job, she spoke in unaccented American English, using a tone described as authoritative but friendly. "She spoke into a microphone, but she focused on talking to you, the listener," said Mike Miller, recording services manager for Electronic Tele-Communications Inc in Atlanta.
"Just to show how versatile Jane was, at the request of Australian phone company officials, she did time and temperature messages with an Australian accent that she perfected after listening to recordings of Australians talking," her husband said.
Mrs. Barbe realized not all her phone recordings were well received. She told the Chicago Sun-Times in 1992 that "I know people get frustrated sometimes at the sound of my voice. One day I heard my own mother in the other room bang down the phone and say, 'Oh, shut up, Jane!'"
Mrs. Barbe worked with her husband to produce commercial jingles for advertising clients, including Delta, Orkin, Rich's, Southern Bell and local banks.
"Jane was one of the absolute top voice talents in Atlanta," said Kathy Hardegree, president of Atlanta Models and Talent Inc. "Some artists can be difficult to work with; not Jane. She had a sparkling personality as well as a delightful talent."
"Jane was one of the founders of our local union," said Melissa Goodman, executive directory of the Atlanta branch of American Federation of Television and Radio Artists. "She helped build it, and as a board member for several terms gave it direction."
"Jane did a lot of volunteer work at North Fulton Regional Hospital and her church," her husband said. "They even asked to her to answer the phone at church, not knowing what she had been doing all these years."
Survivors include a daughter, Susan Stubin of Passaic, N.J.; a son, David Barbe of Athens; and seven grandchildren.
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