Voice Of Phone Messages Silenced

One of the most recognizable voices in the country was silenced Tuesday. Jane Barbe, who recorded messages used by telephone companies across the country, died of complications from cancer at the age of 74.

Over the past 40 years, if you didn't get through to the party you wanted, you probably still got through to Barbe.

She was the "telephone lady" that delivered the message, "We're sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed."

A drama major at the University of Georgia, Barbe started recording the announcements in 1963.

Twenty years later, she was making even the most disjointed of messages sound smooth as silk.

Messages such as, "The number you have reached has been changed. The new number is …"

Although she largely masked her Georgia accent on her recordings, in person she was the model of Southern hospitality, taking her odd brand of anonymous fame in stride.

"I don't think anybody even knows who I am until somebody says I'm the lady on the phone," she said in a past interview. "Then the others say, 'Oh, really?'"

Barbe said she always did her best not to sound like a machine. Instead, she tried to address her telephone audience one caller at a time.

She said it could be overwhelming if she started to think she was talking to 22 million people a day.

Trouble on the line is never fun, but for most of us Barbe's soothing telephone manner made it just a little bit easier to bear.


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