Tribute to John Barry
(as presented by Earl Marks)
I wish to present a tribute to the long
life of John Barry. His parents came to America from Europe in the first decade of the 20th century. John, like many of us in this room, was an immigrant’s kid. He moved from the Midwest to the land of Canaan and most of his formative years were spent in the Los Angeles area.
I do not know the details of how he met a good-looking Dutch girl named Johanna de Vries. Johanna had five Dutch sisters - all of them were easy to look at. Alas, there was only
one harassed Dutch boy in that family. The loving mother and stern father were easy to like.
John Barry was quickly sucked into the whirlpool of Dutch and family culture. In spite of the fact that John was painfully lacking a Dutch ethnic origin, Johanna rejected all eligible Dutch boyfriends. She preferred John and his nifty 1930 Nash automobile. After severe scrutiny by the five Dutch sisters, John and Johanna married. This was a remarkable happening because
John was an Auslander! (Dutch for non-Dutch). Eyebrows were raised in some quarters. Even more remarkable, in the next few years every one of those five good-looking Dutch sisters married a lower-ranking Auslander.
The family quickly gave John a new name. He was called Barney, definitely not after the bumbling Barney Fife on television, for Anna’s Barney was decisive, solidly opinionated, frugal, and helpful to all. He loved the de Vries family and became
happily involved with all family activities, including all the Tantes (Aunts) and Uncles and their energetic Dutch children.
After W.W. II, Barney was the first in the family to get that new device, a television. That early gadget had a small round screen set in a big expensive walnut box. The family descended like a swarm of bees on Barney and Anna’s house to marvel at the flickering black and white image on the round screen. Do any of you recall Cathy Fiscus
– the child who fell in a well shaft? This event and the rescue attempts were covered by a T.V. station and the tragedy was dragged out over several days and nights. Many family members were spellbound and refused to go home. Mesmerized by the snail-paced rescue efforts, the patience of Anna and Barney was tested, but family is family and no one was ever told to go home.
Barney was a gifted genius in all things electrical and mechanical. He understood how
machinery and electrical devices worked. He loved to repair and maintain motors and cars. At family gatherings, male family members consulted with Barney and recited what was not working at home. Barney always happily dispensed advice. In many cases, Barney would insist on fixing the problem himself. Every member of the family benefited by Barney’s generous and willing assistance in making repairs on washing machines, dryers, heaters, ovens, irons, cars, etc.
For many years, Barney had a ministry of maintaining the building’s heating and air-conditioning plants at his church. He was the locksmith and church electrician. Barney also observed the admonition found in James 1:27 by visiting widows in their distress. He kept a widow’s mobile home in good repair for many years. James called this virtue “pure and undefiled religion.”
Most of you have heard about Tim Allen the T.V. clown who loved tools and continually
acquired them, but who was very inept and did not know how to use them. Barney was our beloved “tool man” decades before Tim Allen was born. Barney acquired tools but he was gifted in the proper use of tools. In the trunk of his car reposed two large heavy metal tool boxes containing every tool required to repair any electrical or mechanical failure in any kind of car. It was rumored that in those tool boxes there was a wheel puller, a smoke stack reamer, a dental tooth puller, and a snake.
Barney’s double garage contained hundreds of tools weighing many tons. Each tool was assigned a rank of importance and a special place. Barney knew the location of every tool without the aid of a computer.
Barney was loved by all of the family and especially respected by all of his brothers-in-law. All of us have good memories of this good man, and there is comfort in that fact. I’m reminded that Barney was faithful and
committed to his wife, family, and his church. Being committed is almost an oddity in our culture today. He was a devoted church man for decades.
Christians believe that human personality does not die with the body. The strongest tenet of Christian faith is the belief in life after death. Through belief in Jesus, God’s Son, we make a leap of faith to eternal life. What did Jesus say about this matter? In the book of John, chapter 11, verse 25, Jesus said “He
who believes in me shall live, even if he dies.” A fully committed Christian is comforted by this promise. Many folks believe that their good works qualify them for a pleasant afterlife, but, again, Jesus said “He who believes in me shall live, even if he dies.” This would be a good time for self-evaluation.
In closing, I wish again to say that the long life of John Barry was a blessing to me and many others. I will miss him, temporarily, for I believe in
Christ as Lord as John did and that we shall enjoy the future afterlife together.