A local unsung hero laid to rest

Published 8:59 am Thursday, September 3, 2015

John Barnes was the ultimate everyday hero.

Barnes, the husband of Warren County Chancellor Vicki Roach Barnes, died Aug. 27 and was laid to rest Tuesday after the celebration of a beautiful mass in remembrance of his life at St. Mary’s Catholic Church on Main Street.

During his homily, the Rev. Donald Murrin, who had been Barnes’ longtime friend and onetime pastor, recalled dozens of stories of how Barnes had served the community over the years.

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One of them I will never forget.

Barnes was a contractor, and one day he had left a load of bricks and mortar behind the St. Mary’s parish hall on Main Street. When he returned to fetch the building supplies, they were gone.

A man told Barnes he knew who had stolen the bricks and could take him to where the pilfered items were, Murrin said. Barnes followed the man and found the bricks stacked up in a yard. The man asked Barnes if they should reclaim the items, and he said no.

The next week, the man who stole the bricks from Barnes asked him for a favor. Without a negative word or any second thoughts, Barnes agreed to help, Murrin said.

In addition to his great act of turning the other cheek, Barnes was active in volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and We Care Community Center. There’s no telling how many roofs in Vicksburg he patched free of charge or how many people’s lives he changed.

He certainly had a major impact on the church he called home. He was one of the driving forces in the fundraising effort to open the gym and community center at the church, and when the pews were falling apart and “wouldn’t even take a screw,” Murrin said, Barnes volunteered to drive to St. Louis to pick up new ones.

Yet he never bragged or required celebration for his achieves.

“My father didn’t like fanfare,” Mykel Barnes said during a short eulogy for his father. Mykel also said his father was a model family man who taught him how to treat people with respect.

“As good as you think he was, he was better than that,” Mykel Barnes said.

In addition to serving his community, Barnes also put his life on the line for our country during the Vietnam War. For his service as a combat medic, he was awarded a Bronze Star.

John Barnes was a true servant to God, family and country. The world could use a few more men like him.