“Everyone was quite amazed at his condition,” she says of the late game show host. “Often at that age, people are very thin and frail. He was not at all. He was sturdy and strong, and his skin was in great condition.”
The Price Is Right legend was “peaceful” and “very comfortable” in his final days before his passing. Burnet, who first met Barker at an animal adoption event in 1983, “was hoping he would make his 100th birthday.” Barker had a team of caregivers in Los Angeles who kept Burnet up to date on his health and condition.
“We ended up with people who were great,” Burnet adds of carefully selecting Barker’s caregivers. “And I was, well, for almost five years, in constant touch with them on every single thing throughout his day, every detail down to how to comb his hair. I knew everything.”
Barker retired from hosting The Price Is Right in 2007 after 35 years. Along with leaving a lasting legacy in Hollywood, he also made huge differences as an animal rights activist, urging viewers to “spay or neuter” their pets.
“I think of all the things he did, he used his name to help with better treatment of animals,” Burnet continues. “He really cared about that. And he made a difference. I think that’s the thing that mattered to him most.”
In the final year of his life, Barker enjoyed watching television and singing with his “splendid” caregivers and nurses.
“He was never interested in singing, he never particularly cared about music,” Burnet explains. “He’d always say, ‘I don’t sing,’ but they had taught him ‘You Are My Sunshine’ and he would sing it.”
After 40 years of companionship, Burnet will miss Barker’s “dry sort of humor” among his other memorable qualities.
“You lose that presence,” she reflects. “You miss the energy; you miss that they’re there. And that place is an almost hollow and empty feeling.”
The pair never married, though Burnet reveals Barker proposed to her “many times” throughout their relationship. She “never had the desire to marry anyone” but valued every moment spent with the Truth or Consequences host. Barker was married once to Dorothy Jo Gideon from 1945 up until her death from lung cancer in 1981.
“Relationships are much more successful with both people who are independent,” Burnet, who is the cotrustee of Barker’s estate, adds. “When one person is totally dependent upon the other, it’s not good, it’s an imbalance.”