Albert F. “Barney” Barnett – 14 Dec 1937 to 14 June 2011
After a six month fight with extremely aggressive cancer, my father passed away at 8:25 PM last night, in hospice, in Anderson, South Carolina. A unique man, he grew up in Las Vegas when Vegas was still a simple town, eventually enlisting in the Air Force.
After training as an F-102 radar engineer, he was stationed at Hahn AFB in Germany. As Hahn never had any F-102’s, dad began a career in sports car racing, winning both his first race, and his first race at the fabled Nürburgring, along with many other races, gymkhanas, and hillclimbs.
Returning to the States, he worked for Control Data, 3M, and opened his own microfilming business, Data Retrieval. I have fond memories of walking to his office after school and teaching some of his employees how to use the equipment. I was in 3rd grade at the time.
Advances in computing put an end to microfilm storage, and my dad moved on to Ed Phillips & Sons, where he was the production manager for the liquor bottling plant. I have a few memories of THAT place as well….!
After a tuberculosis scare, he retired early, and with his wife Cathy, traveled down the Mississippi in their Coronado 35, where they ended up in Ft. Myers, eventually running a day charter schooner, the Norfolk Rover. It was on the Rover that I married my wife Melissa (who passed away in 1995). Dad officiated the ceremony.
In later days, he took up knifemaking and cutlery sharpening, first as a hobby, and then as a skilled maker of custom blades. A shared passion with Cathy was their participation in raising rescued Greyhounds. Their dogs are a part of their family, far more than just pets.
My dad is the reason I sail. He started teaching me at 3 in a tethered Sport-Yak dinghy, and we progressed from there. I won a 14′ Bonito in a raffle at 7, we joined the Lake Waconia Yacht Club and raced, and moved our way into larger boats – a Lightning, an International Tempest, and then a Pearson Lark.
The lessons I learned sailing formed my life… even more than I knew until I met my wife Susan, who saw it in me the first time we sailed Clarity. I had drifted away from sailing, and having that part of my life return to the forefront was far more important than I would have thought, and I thank Sue for getting me back on track. No man could ever ask for a better wife and life partner than my Susan. And when we married, my dad participated agin, this time as my best man.
My dad was a good man… not a perfect man (for a perfect man would be incredibly dull), but a good man indeed, and everyone who knew him was better for the experience. After he passed, I had a sudden and vivid image of him sitting at a table with George Plimpton and Robert Heinlein, discussing the state of mankind, while Hemingway sits at a bar nearby, busily telling them all how wrong they are. There are far worse ways to spend an eternity.
We’ll all miss you, dad.
Contributions to any organization that assists cancer patients, or to any hospice, can be made in my father’s memory. Hospice, and physicians waiting rooms, can always use such simple things as books and magazines. If you have the time, just sit and talk with a patient or a family member. All of these small things are more important than many people ever realize.