|Birth: ||Aug. 13, 1928|
|Death: ||Apr. 20, 2007|
Any biography is likely to fall far short of the color and depth of the events of a person's unique journey through life. However, to not make that attempt will ensure that those moments will fade away, leaving a life story untold. In the film "It's a Wonderful Life," responding to a personal crisis, George Bailey wishes that he'd never lived. His wish is granted, but soon finds himself in the cemetery at the headstone of his brother Harry. Clarence the angel says, "Your brother, Harry Bailey, broke through the ice and died at the age of nine." To which George replies, "That's a lie! Harry Bailey went to war. He got the Congressional Medal of Honor, he saved the lives of every man on that transport. To which Clarence replies, "Every man on that transport died. Harry wasn't there to save them because you weren't there to save Harry.......Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives."
If you have anything to share, please click on my name below and leave a story or information. Or, just send it to my email address. I'll be very glad to add it. On the right you can leave a virtual flower. (Larry E. Barnes)
Gene's eulogy was entitled, "A Wonderful Life" and is included in the following. Other details and stories have been added.
On Friday, April 20, 2007, Wichita's finest carpenter, Gene, known to many as Gene-o, left his earthly family to go to heaven to work with the Greatest Carpenter of all.
Gene Harry Barnes was the second oldest of five children born to Elijah Harry Barnes, born in 1902 in Mount Hope, Sedgwick County, Kansas, and Mary Ellen (Hall) Barnes, born in 1905 in Rodney, Baxter County, Arkansas. Gene was born on his father's 26th birthday, August 13, 1928, near the small town of Riverside, near Montrose, in western Colorado. Gene as well as his sisters Margie and Polly were born in their small, white two-story house that still stands today (1999) in excellent condition at 18570 Highway 550. Gene, wife Vada and son Larry visited this house in September 1999. No one was home, but we took photos. Note, this house is visible from the front yard of Bill and Georgie (Barnes) Cairns house, a house we also visited that day. (Georgie was Gene's aunt.) A large, open farm field separates the two houses that set more than a quarter mile apart.
Gene was named after James "Gene" Tunney (1897-1978) the world heavyweight boxing champion from 1926 to 1928. The story behind this is Gene's uncle, (Benjamin) Floyd Barnes (1894-1986), attended grade school in Colorado with future heavyweight champion Jack Dempsey (1895-1983) whose actual name was William Harrison Dempsey. Dempsey said his mother once ran a restaurant in Montrose, Colorado. Floyd did not like Dempsey, saying he was a bully during their school days. So, when Gene Tunney (easily) defeated Dempsey, and later beat him again, Tunney became popular with this part of the Barnes family. The two Dempsey-Tunney fights stood for more than 65 years as the largest ever attended. Near opposites, Dempsey, a slugger and a dirty fighter, was friendly outside the ring. Tunney, a highly intelligent, talented boxer who obeyed boxing rules, avoided public attention. With Dempsey conquered, Tunney left boxing, married, and rarely spoke of boxing again. In the 1960's, Tunney's future biographer recognized Tunney on a train among unknowing passengers. Dempsey, the world's highest paid and most famous sports figure of the 1920's (His salary dwarfed that of Babe Ruth.), stayed connected to boxing. In the end, Dempsey marched into boxing history and lore while Tunney, the first athlete to receive a check for 1 million dollars, twice defeated Dempsey, suffered only one loss and one knockdown in a pro career of 77 fights, retiring 3-0 as champion, is largely forgotten.
Gene (Barnes) was the second oldest of five children; (1) Elnora Faye Barnes (1926-1993) who married Neal Sedam (1924-2000), (2) Margie Marie Barnes who married Gene Wright (1929-1973) and next married Buddy Floyd. (3) Mary Pauline (Polly) Barnes who married Scott Daymond (1928-2007), and next, Dale Bonnet (1936-2010). (4) Robert (Bob) Dennis Barnes who married Kathy Adams, and next, Jan Petersen.
While living near Riverside, Colorado, Gene's father earned a living as a farmer. Harry couldn't afford a tractor, and still farmed with horses, two big ones, named Buck and Tuffy. This was during the Great Depression. Crop prices dropped so low they felt there was a poor future for small farmers, so Harry and his family made the decision to leave Colorado to find better opportunities and live near relatives in Oklahoma. They left on February 23, 1933, which was also Margie's birthday. The trip was nearly their last. They traveled in their 1926 Chrysler Royale, pulling a trailer that held all their worldly possessions. It was cold in the car because the heaters were not very effective in those days. Their dog Jack was also in the car. Somewhere on the cold and snowy, 11,000 foot high Monarch Pass, their car suddenly slid off of the unpaved road and would have fallen into the deep canyon below if their trailer had not caught on a rock. Miraculously, a large, white road-grader soon appeared and pulled their car back to safety.
From 1933 to 1938, Gene and his family lived in Oklahoma, mostly in the town of Pauls Valley located along Interstate 35, halfway between Oklahoma City and the Texas border. Many members of Gene's mother's family had moved to Pauls Valley from north central Arkansas in about 1918-1920. With the country still in the grip of the Great Depression, Gene's dad did not initially find the job opportunities he thought would be there, plus they no longer had their farm to grow their own food. Yet, the presence of family members must have been a real help. 1938 Social Security records show that Gene's dad was working for the Burch (Birch?) Lumber Company. Was Gene destined to swing a hammer? It would seem so. Gene drove old nails into an old tree in the backyard of their home in Pauls Valley. In fact, he drove the nails as close together as they would go, as high as he could reach, and also into the ground around the base of the tree. When he visited the old house years later, he was very curious to see if the tree was still there. But, the tree was gone. Gene always wondered how they ever cut the old tree down with all of those nails in it!
In 1938, Gene and family left Pauls Valley and soon moved to Wichita, renting a house at the end of a narrow, dead end lane, 3320 W. Newell Street, a house that had no electricity or plumbing during the years they lived there. A hand pump located outside (west side) provided their water. This old house (with a Newell Street address), and the house just to the west side of it (which has a Gow Street address), are still there today (2013). It was common for Gene's mom to tell him they needed a rabbit for dinner. Gene would then take the .22 rifle (with only 2-3 bullets) and one, or both, of his dogs, Prince and Sandy, and go rabbit hunting in the large field located on the west side of their house. The field is little changed today (2013), tall radio towers were erected later. Like a silent reminder of the past, a blinking light on one of these towers can be seen at night from the backyard of Gene and Vada's home at 2228 W. St. Louis.
Gene, Margie and Polly attended Eugene Field Elementary School. Built in 1938, it was located just 2 blocks east of their Newell Street home. Though the school was closed in about 2000, the sturdy, 2-story stone and brick building continues to fill an important purpose as the home of the non-profit organization "Trees for Life," providing fruit trees to people around the world so they can grow the food they need.
Harry and Mary Barnes' Newell steet home was their residence until 1946, when Gene and his father built a house located a block to the north at 641 N. Sheridan Street. Gene's brother Bob said that a substantial amount of the material used to build this house was from a building at a car dealership that they had torn down. [Gene said they'd built the building standing today on the northwest corner of Douglas Ave. and Hydraulic Ave., part of the former Quality Chevrolet car dealership at 1520 E. Douglas Ave. Could this have been where the material came from?] Their house on Sheridan Street would be their first home with electricity and indoor plumbing. At this house Gene used the enclosed back porch as his bedroom. The house at 641 N. Sheridan was torn down around 2005 to make way for a commercial building.
For a number of years, Gene was the only male child in the family, and in certain ways, more was expected of him. While living on Newell Street, one of Gene's jobs was to hoe the weeds in the garden. Gene was not always happy doing that and would try to get Margie or Polly to spend time with him in the garden so the time would pass more quickly. To earn some money, Gene mowed yards in the neighborhood where some of his customers would wait and allow their grass to grow very tall in an effort to save money. The problem was, this required Gene to cut the grass down with a hand sickle before he could even use his push mower. Gene didn't have to worry about gasoline because the mower was literally a push mower with no motor. Extra tall grass or not, the going rate was the same-50 cents per yard. Gene later mowed the Sim's Park Golf Course and cleaned equipment at Steffen's Dairy, until Steffen's released him when they found out that he was only 15 years old. Later, one summer, Gene worked as a harvest hand with neighbor Chet Majors (1915-2003). By age 14, Gene said he had grown to his full height, 5'-10", and said he was the tallest of all of his first cousins.
Due to the rationing during World War 2, there was a shortage of metal, so even if you could afford a new bicycle, they could be hard to find. On a trip to the dump with his dad, Gene found a bicycle frame, sanded and painted it and slowly but surely found parts, mostly used, and built his own bicycle. Gene and his brother and sisters definitely did not have much money as kids, but they really had a lot of fun.
In Wichita, Gene had 2 dogs, Prince and Sandy. Sandy was the son of Prince, a Spitz and Chow mix, each weighing no more than 35 to 40 pounds. Prince retrieved the paper from the end of the lane each day and was so dedicated to following Gene's instructions that Prince once came right up a ladder, protesting at each step, when Gene called to him from the roof. Gene said that on his way home, a mean, large German Shepard would meet him shortly after he got off the school bus, barking and snapping at him. But as Gene got closer and closer to home, he knew that help was also getting closer. When he felt he could be heard, Gene let out a whistle. And as he said, "here came the troops." Prince and Sandy were on the way. Though much smaller than the German Shepard, they were a team, also father and son, and this was an intruder, and he was bothering Gene. The German Shepard was now in double trouble, two against one, and he was on someone else's home turf. A bad combination. As Gene said, "they would work that German Shepard over, sometimes one on each end, then run him off the property."
A neighborhood friend of Gene's was Carl Pyle. Many years later his father, Carl Sr., would tell Gene and his boys that he once saw Babe Ruth hit a home run.
Gene loved to play baseball, and as a kid, enjoyed listening to Major League games on the radio, particularly the games of the Boston Red Sox because it allowed him to follow one of his favorites, Ted Williams, whose career was interrupted twice, serving as a pilot in World War 2 and Korea. Gene later learned that many of the games he'd listened to on the radio were not live, but were replays designed to sound like live games. The radio announcer read the information and even supplied the sound of a ball hitting the bat. Gene spoke several times of once watching baseball great "Satchel" Paige pitch at Lawrence Stadium in Wichita. As some other kids did, Gene would sneak into the games or sit on a boxcar and watch from behind the outfield. It would certainly be difficult to find a player in any sport for which more stories have arisen than Leroy Robert "Satchel" Paige. Claiming to not know his exact birthdate, and a nickname said to be from toting bags as a boy at a train station, Satchel was playing for a Negro League team at the time Gene saw him. Gene recalled that it was the Kansas City Monarchs, which checks out. In the game at Lawrence Stadium, as he frequently did in this league, Gene said Satchel called in the outfield and pitched an inning or two with an empty outfield, and though it was done as a stunt to sell tickets, it was impressive. And it worked, as he continually performed to sell-out crowds. In 1935, Paige's team won the NBC World Series championship in Wichita where he struck out 60, still the record. In 2012 in Wichita, Paige's daughter witnessed the retiring of her father's jersey. When black players were finally admitted, Paige, age 42, became the oldest rookie in Major League history. Joe DiMaggio called Paige the best pitcher he ever faced, and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller said Paige was the best he ever saw. Paige was called back to pitch his last Major League game at the age of 59. He became the first player from the Negro Leagues elected to the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame. In 1999, Sporting News ranked Paige as the 19th greatest Major League Baseball player of all-time.
In Wichita, Gene attended Eugene Field Elementary School, Allison Junior High, and North High School. He had three teachers that later taught his son Larry. They were Orvil Pierce, who taught Math at Allison Junior High for 29 years; Miss Gladys Sinclair, who taught English at Allison Junior High; and K. W. Hunter, who taught woodworking at North High and later, Drafting, at West High School. At North High, Gene excelled in his accounting class. His abilty with numbers was evident in his lifelong ability to remember quite a few phone numbers. Gene always said that he could outrun anyone in his gym class at North High from one end of the gym to the other, which made him recall that at age 17 he still could not outrun his dad, who would have been 43, in a race of about the same distance. Gene graduated from North High in 1947.
At the age of 18, Gene bought his first car, a two-door 1931 Model A Ford for $175.00. Gene was very handy at fixing all sorts of things and certainly had to be when it came to his Model A. The brakes and carburetor were just a few of the items that had to be continually adjusted or fixed. In fact, at one point, the car seemed to use more oil than gas. Gene did an excellent job of repairing and maintaining his car since he later sold this car to his friend Richard Lawrence for nearly as much as he originally paid for it.
At the urging of friend Harold Hall (no relation to the Hall family of Gene's mother), Gene joined the Kansas Air National Guard and rose to the rank of Tech Sergeant, serving as a member of the 127th Fighter Squadron at the Wichita Air Force Base, later known as McConnell Air Force Base. His assignment was aircraft maintenance, working on such planes as the legendary P-51 Mustang, described by many as the greatest fighter aircraft of World War 2. Gene said this single-engine, propeller driven airplane was so powerful that soon after take-off, it could climb straight up. Ford acknowledges it was the P-51, not the horse, that was the inspiration for their sportscar, the Mustang. During the Korean War, Gene's guard unit was activated to Alexandria, Louisiana for 17 months. Gene drove his 1941 2-door Studebaker, complete with rear fender skirts and windshield sun visor, back and forth between Wichita and Louisiana. Gene received his honorable discharge from active duty in the Air National Guard on April 1, 1952, and from the Air National Guard Reserves on April 1, 1955.
Gene and his father went into the construction business together in Wichita, calling their business "E. H. Barnes & Son." Many times they would have one or two carpenters working directly for them. The one that had the longest tenure of this bunch would be a carpenter named Leo J. "Slim" Allen (1907-1983), who worked for them for a number of years. Another two of these guys appear in the guestbook of Gene and Vada's wedding in 1953, one who actually had the last name carpenter. They were Wayne Carpenter and Napolean B. Cota (1908-1985) who was just known as "Coty." Herbie Green, a very powerful black guy, was another who worked for them, mainly handling cement work and digging footings for foundations. Other hired help that followed were Gene's brother-in-law, Mel Miller, Gene's brother, Bob Barnes, Bob's friend Jimmy Morris, Gene's sons Larry and Mike, our cousin John Barnhart, Richard Stewart and Don Ramsey.
E. H. Barnes and Son built houses from the ground up, residential additions and also remodel work for various, mostly small, businesses.
In Clearwater, Kansas they built two houses, one built in 1947, and another built without the use of any power tools. Footings for foundations were always hand dug.
As previously mentioned, in 1956 they built the house at 2228 W. St. Louis Street for Gene and family.
In 1960 they built the home for Gene's dad, mom and brother Bob, located on the n.e. corner of Central and Westridge Streets. This house faces Westridge but has the address of 3526 W. Central.
Gene and his dad worked a number of times in the historic, old Wichita City Hall Building at 204 S. Main Street. The flagship of Wichita landmarks with a towering, 4-sided clock tower with eight foot diameter clock faces, spires, turrets and native Kansas stone walls, was completed in 1892 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. One of their projects at City Hall involved work in the judge's chambers, and spoke often of Gene Corns, a supervisor there. Today, it is the home of the Wichita Sedgwick County Historical Museum. And the old clock tower still loudly chimes the time.
Another E. H. Barnes project was the interior remodel of The Bomber Club, a nightclub located at 3245 S. George Washington Boulevard that offered live music including future stars of Blues Music. Gene said Gary Hayes was the owner they delt with at one of these clubs.
Gene and his dad converted the house located at 3015 N. Arkansas Street in Wichita from a two-story house to a one-story house. They also built an addition onto this house.
Gene spoke of working on the house of Louise Fowler, the sister of singer Patti Page, located on the north side of the 2500 block of W. Maple Street. Their Fowler family had once lived in Wichita. Patti Page (real name Clara Ann Fowler, 1927-2013), known as "The Singing Rage," was the most successful female recording artist of the 1950's. Her 80 pop chart hits topped $100 million in sales with hits, "Old Cape Cod," "How Much Is That Doggie In The Window," "Mockin' Bird Hill" and the theme for the film, "Hush, Hush Sweet Charlotte." Her hit, "Tennessee Waltz," was No. 1 on the pop charts, selling 10 million copies. She later hosted her own television show.
Gene and his dad converted a one-car garage into a family room for his his mother and father in-law, Orlo and Neva Miller, at their home located at 2106 S. Gold Street. This family room was the site of many sunday dinners and other important events in their grandchildren's lives.
E. H. Barnes and Son built a house for Harold S. Carnahan and another house located a short distance west on the same road. Both are situated about 1/4 mile west of Interstate 35 on 125th Street N., near the Sedgwick County/Harvey County line. The Harold Carnahan house was built about 1963-64 at a selling price of about $12,000-$14,000.
As in most cases, a handshake was their business contract. Gene said his dad was involved in building the cabin for Harold Carnahan several years before, located on what we called "Caranhan's Lake." Gene and family and friends made many visits to this lake and were given full access to the cabin by Mr. Carnahan. This small lake and cabin are located nearby Harold Carnahan's house. The lake and cabin can be seen along the west side of Interstate I-35 and just south of the Harvey County/Sedgwick County line. Another house they built in that area was for Larry Carnahan and is located on the s.e. corner of 101st St. N. and Rock Road.
They worked on the home of an African-American couple, their name was possibly Menifee? It seems Mr. Menifee's first name could have been Charles. Gene and his dad said they were wonderful people.
Gene spoke of doing remodel work at the Hillcrest Apartments located at Rutan and Douglas Ave. in east Wichita. Nearly 90 years later, this 1927, 10-story, 97 luxury apartment building still commands prestige. Gene's brother-in-law, Mel Miller, helped on this project and said that a Hillcrest resident jumped to their death about that time.
Gene and his dad remodeled the home of Bob and Joanne Lytle located at 2106 S. Ellis in Wichita. Joanne is a former classmate and long-time friend of Gene's wife, Vada.
Gene and his dad built an addition on the home of a Mr. Postalwaite in Wichita. Further details are unknown at this time.
In 1966, they did remodel work on the home of the Pete Petersens, the mother and father-in-law of Gene's brother, Bob.
One of the most recognizable projects of E. H. Barnes and Son is Toc's Coffeehouse Restaurant located on the n.w. corner of east Harry Street at 1519 S. George Washington Boulevard, a structure Bob Barnes says they built from the ground up, which was likely in 1967. Amazingly, this 3,700 square foot restaurant operated continuously under the same name and same location for about 44 years until its closing in 2011. On December 15, 2011, The Wichita Eagle newspaper announced, "Jimmie's to go in Toc's space," explaining that Jimmie's Diner will open in the old Toc's Coffehouse building in the spring of 2012. This is the 2nd Jimmie's Diner in Wichita, named for Jimmie King, a cook who became a manager at White Castle when it was founded in Wichita. When White Castle left Wichita, Jimmie purchased several of their locations, turning them into Kings-X Restaurants. Jimmie operated them along with Toc's for decades. The Jimmie's Diner on Rock Road was dedicated to him. Gene (Barnes) always said the Toc's name is from owner Larry Scott's name spelled backwards. The construction of Toc's actually started with Gene and his dad tearing down Poor Richard's Restaurant at the same site. Bob Barnes said part of the materials from Poor Richard's was used for the walls of the kitchen for Toc's. Note that Harry's grandaughter, Elnora's daughter Diane, worked as a waitress at Poor Richards. Toc's tall, steep roof was so steep that both Bob Barnes and Jimmy Morris accidentally slid off of it while nailing sheeting on the roof. Fortunately, they both slid into a pile of sand. I (Larry) recall some of us delivering lunch to my dad there when the building was near completion. Also, the mother-in-law of Gene's daughter, Karen, once worked as a waitress at Toc's. In the mid-1970's, Gene's sons Larry and Mike would stop at Toc's with their bowling team after their weekly league at the nearby Boulevard Bowl. So, today the old Toc's Coffehouse building begins a second life as Jimmie's Diner. In 2012, Vada and Larry Barnes, Gene's wife and oldest son, had lunch at the former Toc's Coffeehouse, now Jimmie's Diner. We hope it stands for many, many years to come.
In the summer of 1969, E. H. Barnes & Son built a house for Harold H. and Lou Huckins located in a secluded area at 6314 N. Legion Street in Wichita. This 3-bedroom brick home (about 1,500 square feet) with 2-car attached garage and full basement was built at a cost of about $16,000-$18,000. Those that also helped on the Huckins house were Bob and Larry Barnes and cousin John Barnhart. The Huckins house was the scene of the "toad incident." Sitting on the front lawn during a lunch break, a number of us noticed a toad nearby. As the toad hopped closer someone half jokingly said to John that it might jump in his cup of milk. I doubt if anyone actually thought that would happen. Well, of course the toad jumped perfectly into the cup of milk! John's mother, Lucille, said John never used that cup or the thermos again. It was also during the building of the Huckins house that John Barnhart mentioned that it didn't seem to matter how hot it was, Gene would drink hot coffee.
Through their business, Gene and his father formed countless friendships, many of which were life-long. This certainly says a great deal about the quality of their work and how they treated their customers. Gene and his dad felt that their name was on their work. Their customers did too.
One very close relationship was formed with Charles E. "Ewing" Lawrence (1904-1999) and his son Richard. Ewing owned and operated Lawrence Lumber Company, moving it from 802 W. Douglas Avenue to 200 N. Osage Street in 1955. Gene and his father didn't just use Lawrence Lumber Company as their primary source of materials for their construction business, Bob Barnes stated they also built the Lawrence Lumber buildings at 200 N. Osage. As of 2014, "E. H. Barnes 1955" can still be read on the sidewalk and curbing in front of the former Lawrence Lumber Company at 200 N. Osage Street. Years before, Ewing's grandfather, Robert E. Lawrence (1847-1911), owned an enormous stone mansion called Maplewood. This mansion and part of their land, at Seneca and Maple Streets, was later used by the Kansas Masonic Home. Robert donated property for Garfield University, now called Friend's University. He also planted maple trees, his wife's favorite, on the north side of their property, causing the road to be named "Maple Street." Ewing's father, Charles S. Lawrence (1876-1934), was a business man, civic leader, former city commisioner and two-time Mayor of Wichita. Charles would throw the very first pitch at Lawrence Stadium, named in honor of his father. Lawrence Elementary School, located at 3440 W. Maple Street, is named in the family's honor, and the cornerstone of Lawrence School is from the old Robert Lawrence home, "Maplewood."
Another friendship Gene and his father formed was with several generations of the Reeves family. Harry knew three generations of this family, and Gene actually knew four generations, from blacksmith Roy Reeves (1880-1970), to his son George W. Reeves (1908-1991), to his son "Bud" Reeves (1932-1996), and to Bud's sons who operate Reeves Engineering today, a business that Roy and his brother Ted Reeves started as a blacksmith shop in 1897 at 721 W. Doulas Avenue. In 1964, Gene and his dad built a house for George Reeves located at 815 N. Sheridan Street at a cost of about $13,000. Gene would say the kitchen cabinets he built in this house were among his favorites. George Reeves, who was a big guy and built like a blacksmith, would later serve as one of the pallbearers at the funeral for Harry Barnes in 1973. In the 1990's Gene would purchase a small trailer as well as a gate for the west side of his house from George's grandsons at Reeves Engineering.
Gene and his father knew O. Dean Bell (1931-2000) of Bell Mirror and Glass Company. Gene and Mr. Bell saw each other in a restaurant after many years and had a long talk about old times, with Mr. Bell speaking of Gene's dad. Unfortunately, details of that conversation, and work they did for Mr. Bell, are unknown.
Another E. H. Barnes and Son project involved work on Dr. James A. McLaughlin's home in Wichita. The doctor asked Gene if he had a girlfriend and Gene said, "Yes, her name is Vada Miller." The doctor, who'd practiced medicine in Vada's hometown of Greensburg, Kansas, replied that he had delivered her when she was born! Dr. McLaughlin was highly respected, also tending to other family members in Greensburg as is shown by the doctor's signature on the death certificate of Vada's grandfather, James W. "Bill" Wheeler, in 1940. Dr. McLaughlin attend Gene and Vada's wedding, identified in one of the photos by Vada.
Gene and his dad remodeled offices at the car dealership, Quality Chevrolet, located at 1520 E. Douglas Avenue, and a used car office located across the street to the east. In February 1991, Gene's son, Larry, would buy his first new vehicle there, a truck.
Located near Quality Chevrolet, on south Hydraulic St., was the Glen Rodman Insurance Company. Glen was mentioned by Gene on several occasions. It is unknown if they had insurance through Rodman or did some kind of remodel work at his business. The building is still there (2013).
Gene and his father, with sons Larry and Mike helping, remodeled the offices of Dr. Burditt on the s.w. corner of Central and Sheridan Streets in Wichita. This medium-sized, cement block office building is now gone and was located next door (on the north side) to the former Barnes family home at 641 N. Sheridan Street.
When helping his brother Bob at Bob's house at Douglas and Sedgwick Streets in Wichita, Gene realized that he and his dad had installed a picture window in that same house. Not far south of that house is evidence of some of their cement work, as you will find "E. H. Barnes" imprinted into the sidewalk at 143 S. Sedgwick Street. They probably also did some type of repair or remodel work on this house, but at this point we will probably never know.
"E. H. Barnes, 55" (55 is for 1955) can be seen in many places in the sidewalk and curb at the old Lawrence Lumber Company building located at 200 N. Osage Street in Wichita.
In about 1967, Gene, his dad, and with sons Larry and Mike, were remodeling a family business called Equitable Loan and Finance located on the s.e. corner of Douglas Ave. and Osage Street, now part of the Credit Union of America parking lot. What everyone found to be unique was that three generations of the Barnes family were doing work for a family business which also included three generations, Vic Tanner, his son Bob, and Bob's son, Rod. A few years later, while working for Hawks' Exterminators, I (Larry) met Vic Tanner at his home in east Wichita. I told Vic who I was and later mentioned the chance encounter to my dad. I'm sure he gave Vic a call as soon as he heard.
Gene and his dad also built the dark red brick home for Willard H. Casey located at 830 N. Kessler in Wichita.
E. H. Barnes & Son built an addition on the back of the home of the Russell Fiant family located at 767 N. Doris Street. Bob Barnes, Larry and Mike Barnes, and Jimmy Morris helped on this project.
Gene did remodel work on the Dairy Queen ice cream store located on the s.e. corner of Sycamore and Maple Streets, roughly across the street from Lawrence Stadium.
About 1971-1973, Gene did a remodel job on the residence of a Mr. King located on Erie Street, just north of Pawnee Street in Wichita. Larry Barnes and Charley Bowers helped on this project.
Gene spoke of working on the home of Gwynne Meeker. This beautiful home is located at 1330 N. Amidon Street, a property hidden on a dead end road right along the bicycle path on the south side of 13th Street on the east side of the Big Arkansas River. Gene really liked Gwynne, who was a railroad employee and basketball organizer at St. Paul's United Methodist Church.
There were a number of sub-contractors that regularly did work on the houses that Gene and his dad built. These people became old friends, and included a fellow with the last name of Crabtree who was a bricklayer. There was Glen Merifield, a painting contractor, and Don Graves, also a painter. Harley Riggs was a plumber. Dick Turnbull, also a plumber, had been a U. S. pilot shot down over Germany in World War 2. Also, there was Henry Hedgepath, a plumber who was able to put a cast iron bathtub on his back and take it up a stairway by himself!
While working on a project on Peach Tree Lane or Bonnie Brae Street in east Wichita, Gene said a storm quickly came in, creating what he always thought was a small tornado, striping all the boards off of a nearby wood fence and taking them high in the air. He or another contractor took cover under their truck. It also did other damage nearby.
Gene worked on the home of noted local artist Lloyd C. Foltz (1897-1990) located at 1320 Woodrow Ave. in Wichita. At the age of 88, Foltz's landscape artwork was the winning entry in Southwestern Bell's 125th Anniversary contest and soon graced the cover of the Bell Yellow Pages for Kansas. The Spencer Museum of Art at the University of Kansas lists 10 of Foltz's works in their collection. Note that Gene had a copy of Lloyd's print, "The Sante Fe Builds Into Wichita," hanging on the wall of his bedroom.
Gene did interior remodel work on a house located at 202 N. Vine Street, and later (in the early 1970's), the same type of work on the Dusenberry's house at 308 N. Vine Street where sons Larry and Mike helped.
Starting in June or July of 1972, Gene, his dad, and with just part-time help from sons Larry and Mike, built a home north of Goddard for the Clifford Omo family at 2051 N. 215th St. west. Grandpa's heart trouble was getting much worse and was only able to work when he felt well enough. I (Larry) remember Mike and I helping dad roof a major section of the back of a house in late December, just before Christmas. I was wearing gloves, and probably Mike, but not dad, and most times he didn't wear them when he was working outside when it was cold.
In August-September 1973, Gene, with the help of sons Larry and Mike, built a large room over the double car garage and dining room of the W. W. LeClerc home located at 1604 N. Sheridan Street in Wichita. Mike mentioned that grandpa (Harry) assisted at the LeClerc house, and seems clear that this was the last official project of "E. H. Barnes & Son" since grandpa died (August 15, 1973) before the project was completed.
Gene's sister, Margie Barnes, was first married to Clarence "Gene" Wright (1929-1973). Gene Wright once said that unlike his work for Federal Bureau of Investigation (F.B.I.), Gene and Harry could stand back and literally see their work, admiring what they had accomplished. That is true. Many of these houses and commercial buildings stand to this day, in silent testimony to their labors. By identifying these projects and the stories behind them, I believe the silence is broken.
Gene was married to Vada Lucille Miller on April 12, 1953 at St. Luke's Methodist Church located at 250 N. Meridian Avenue in Wichita, Kansas in a ceremony conducted by Rev. Claude Scheuerman. Gene and Vada moved into a 4 apartment complex located on the 600 block of S. Kansas Street in Wichita. Also living there were Larry and Charlotte Buckmaster, who would become life-long friends.
Gene and Vada purchased a lot for their home located at 2228 W. St. Louis Street in Wichita from real estate agent Robert Lawrence, brother of Ewing Lawrence. This location would be just 3 blocks north of Martinson Elementary School and about 4 blocks away from St. Luke's Methodist Church. On Memorial Day of 1956 Gene, his dad Harry and brother-in-law Scott Daymond started construction on a new house for Gene and Vada on that site at 2228 W. St. Louis Street. It is thought that they were the only carpenters on this project. Don Alphin was the brick layer. Primarily, this house was built in the early evenings, after they had gotten off work from their regular jobs. This lot had previously been used as a garden for growing peanuts, etc., by John J. Hiatt (1875-1957) and family, who lived in the two-story house (built ca. 1913) to the east, at 2222 W. St. Louis. The next residents of the house at 2222 were John Hiatt's daughter, Ruth (1908-1995), her husband, John P. Haun (1911-1966), and children Mary, June and John. Probably in the 1980's, Gene moved a large storage shed in the backyard some 50-60 feet to the northeast. The cement floor where this shed stood is where the Hiatt/Haun chicken house had once been. The northeast corner of this cement floor shows the initials R. H. and S. H., which surely are initials of Ruth Hiatt (Haun) and her younger brother, Stanley.
On September 26, 1956, Gene, Vada, sons Larry and Mike moved into their new, two-bedroon brick home. The house had one bathroom, a one car garage and no basement. Later, the garage was converted into a bedroom. That was followed by a family room on the north side of the house, and later, a large wooden deck with cover. Gene and Vada would eventually have a total of five children, and all would grow up in this home: Larry, Mike, Chuck, Ken, and Karen. Gene and Vada would eventually have five grandchildren: Clint McCorkle (son of Karen and Mark), Jacob Barnes (son of Mike and Chrystal), Kelsey McCorkle (daughter of Karen and Mark), Matthew Barnes (son of Chuck and Jeananna) and Logan Barnes (son of Ken and Sheri).
Gene began attending Bethel Methodist Church, a wood frame church building, in about 1946. This church later became St. Lukes Methodist Church, and later, St. Luke's United Methodist Church. Engraved stonework by the front door shows the new church building was completed in 1950. It was built from stone from Silverdale, Kansas and was the work of stonecutter and stone mason A. J. "Jeff" Owen (1905-1981) born in Arkansas City, Kansas. Jeff also cut and laid stones for St. John's Episcopal Church, the First Church of God's Regional Center and the Lorraine Mennonite Church. Jeff Owen was also the grandfather of Jill and Don Burris, St. Luke's members and Martinson Elementary schoolmates of Gene and Vada's sons Larry and Mike. (Obit for A. J. Owen, Wichita Eagle, Oct. 24, 1981) Gene loved singing in the choir, and did so for nearly 60 years at Bethel and St. Luke's with his children, Bob and Edith Page, Adolph Weigand and so, so many others. Some of the songs chosen for the choir were beautiful, and others were definitely not, but Gene felt it was the choir's job to make them all sound like something wonderful, always concerned about how well they sounded and what the congregation thought. Gene served on many committees and was the head coach on the boy's basketball team for a number of years, winning several trophies. One trophy located states, "WCAA H.S. A League 3rd place 1974." Gene knew that this team would bring young men into the church and would be a benefit to both. A few of the players were; Gene's sons Larry Barnes, Mike Barnes, Chuck Barnes and Ken Barnes, Johnny Ellison, Brad Smisor, Leroy Caldwell, Evan Peacock, Joe Herridge, brothers Don and Mark McCorkle, Tim Berlin, David McBeath, Robbie Custer, Steve Rogers, Gary Hays, brothers J. R. and Mike Washee, Robert Koehn, Kenny Waldo and Jim Ward.
Gene's birthday on August 13, 2000 was one he was especially looking forward to and would be one he would talk about forever. On that day, 11 year old granddaughter Kelsey played "Amazing Grace" on the piano during the Sunday worship service at St. Luke's Church. Gene made sure that this moment was videotaped, and enjoyed it more each time he watched it.
Gene and Vada celebrated their 40th and 50th Wedding Anniversaries in the basement of St. Luke's Church. These events were well attended by many family members and old friends. This stone church building with its beautiful stained glass windows and sanctuary was his place of worship and held so many memories of people and events for him that he continued to attend even after St. Luke's Methodist Church disbanded and the building was sold to another church group in about 2004.
Gene had many interests and hobbies. He was a big Wichita State Shocker sports fan, following them closely regardless of the sport, the season, or their record. Gene enjoyed archery, winning trophies in many local and state competitions, once defeating local archery legend and friend Al Weaver twice in the same day. Gene instructed his sons and neighborhood kids in archery in the target range located in his backyard. In October 1965, Gene and friend Al Weaver were hunting in the first archery deer season held in Kansas in modern times. They were hunting along the Big Arkansas River near the town of Peck, located about 8 miles south of Wichita, when Al shot what was thought to be the first deer taken by a hunter in a modern archery season in Sedgwick county. Not only that, this buck had antlers with 18 points and would eventually be scored as the number one non-typical whitetail deer taken by an archer in the nation in 1965. An article in the Sunday Wichita Eagle, dated October 31, 1965, covered this story complete with photo of Al and his deer, also mentioning Gene Barnes, 2228 St. Louis, as Al's hunting partner that day. The deer was listed as 300 pounds field-dressed, and said the local farmer loaded the deer in the truck using his tractor. This deer, with its 18 point antlers, would be scored at 185 2/3 points, and as of 1984 was ranked as the No. 22 non-typical whitetail deer taken by an archer in the world. This deer would bring Al not only great recognition, but also an all-expense paid deer hunting trip to Pennsylvania. Also, the Herters Sporting Goods Company would supply Al with any type of archery equipment he wanted for years to come, no doubt in the hope that he would take another record class deer using their equipment. Gene would hunt whitetail deer with bow and arrow for many years, impressed with the challenge of hunting the wary whitetail deer with their keen senses, on their own turf. He also felt a connection with modern bowhunting and the way American Indians once hunted. Also, there was only a fraction of the number of deer in Kansas in those days when compared to today. Gene primarily hunted with his sons, and occasionally with Al Weaver and Dale Lowe. Gene hunted mostly on the "Williams property," located along the north side of the Big Arkansas River on the west side of north Ridge Road. He shot at least two deer from his favorite spot, "the leaning tree," a large cottonwood located along the river, about 1/3 of a mile west of Ridge Road. Son Mike would also shoot a buck and a doe from this same tree. In 2011, former neighbor Bill Holcomb, younger brother of Damon, said that Gene was the first person he ever knew that had shot a deer with a bow and arrow. Bill went on to say that this led him to becoming a lifelong archer and deer hunter with 25 trophy-class (and counting) deer to his credit.
It has been said that the Barnes guys of that part of the family were similar in appearance. Gene stated when he once stopped in the town of Ford located in Ford County, Kansas, a stranger spoke to him saying he hadn't seen him in a long time. This person thought Gene was his uncle Floyd (Benjamin Floyd Barnes)! Note that Floyd had once lived in the town of Bloom, also located in Ford County.
After retiring, Gene had taken a photography class and enjoyed experimenting with the different ways of capturing nature as well as man-made structures with his 35 mm Pentax camera as well as his digital camera.
Frequently, Gene and Vada planted a garden in their backyard that would include tomatoes, potatoes, catalope and occasionally watermelon, corn and onions. After they bought the 3 lots behind their original property, the garden was located to the north of their 3-car garage. A photo shows their young granddaughter Kelsey helping grandpa planting seeds. Grandpa and grandma laughed as Kelsey would drop the seed in the hole, cover it up and then stomp on it.
Fishing was another long-time interest of Gene's and gave him another way to enjoy the outdoors and the people he was with. Besides fishing with family and also teaching his grandkids, some of his fishing friends included Larry Buckmaster, Shiney Breit, Cecil Vulgamore, and a guy who's last name was Whipple, but was known by everyone as "Whip." Whether it was Beech Lake, Carnahan's Lake, Sedgwick County Park, Lake Afton or Watson Park, Gene enjoyed fishing there. Sometimes they would fish at night from one of the local bridges, but primarily used the Seneca Street bridge on the Big Arkansas River and the Central Street bridge on the Little Arkansas River, using large treble hooks and their biggest tackle, searching for that huge channel cat or flathead catfish, all the while keeping in touch with the latest fishing stories in the area. Gene and his boss at Rainbow Construction, Paul Howard (H. Paul Howard, 1934-2004), had a great time on a fishing trip at Chokoloskee Island, Florida, catching several types of fish and bringing back many photos and memories. To understand how much Gene enjoyed fishing is evident by the fact that he was one of those rare people that actually enjoyed watching people fish on television.
Among his varied interests, Gene was a movie fan, feeling that films were yet another way to tell an interesting or important story. And long before the song was written, many of his heroes had always been cowboys. He spoke of Buck Jones, Johnny Mack Brown, Tom Mix, Tim McCoy and the other western movie stars he'd watched when he was a kid, but was quick to accept Roy Rogers and The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Western favorites of his older kids. Gene told of Buck Jones' tragic death in the Cocoa Nut Grove Nightclub fire that killed 400 people where legend says Jones died a hero helping people out of the fire. The on and off-screen lives of the early Western movie stars are fascinating. Movie stars of the past were bigger than those of today because there was no competition from television. Actually, the first narrative movie ever made was a Western. [We all doubt that would have surprised Gene.] It was a 10 minute long, 1903 silent film called "The Great Train Robbery" with actor George Barnes (no known relation), based on a real train robbery by the Butch Cassidy Gang, proved that films could be commercially profitable. While almost any Western, old or modern, interested Gene, he enjoyed any type of movie that had a good story. He liked all the good actors, from Bogart to probably his favorite, Jimmy Stewart. Inspired as well as entertained by movies, Gene, like the best of film critics, could re-watch the classic films, finding little things he had missed before. One such movie he never tired of was "In the Heat of The Night" with Rod Steiger and Sidney Poitier. Poitier immediately became another of Gene's favorites. This film won 5 Oscars, including best picture. It tells of a person who at first, was completely misjudged and underestimated. It hits at the roots of equality and respect. And Gene always pulled for the underdog.
As a volunteer, Gene helped pour and finish an outdoor cement basketball court at the old Martinson Elementary School located at 249 N. Athenian Street, a school that all of his children, wife Vada, and his father attended. The stately Martinson School building, which opened in 1910 and closed as a school in 1973, has been remodeled, now contains modern apartments. And if you look on the west side of this property along St. Clair Street, the cement poured for the basketball court is still there. Gene and the other volunteers received thank you letters from many Martinson students.
Gene's father, Harry, died August 15, 1973. Gene and his brother and sisters just called him pop. This was a big loss to the family and hard on Gene. Gene respected his parents, and to say that he held his pop in the highest regard is an understatement. I don't know how many times I heard him say, "your grandpa was a hell of a man." Amazingly, the only criticism of his dad that I can recall is when Gene said that pop's house on Central Street (built in 1960) should have been built with insulation in the walls.
Not long after his father's death in 1973, Gene went to work for Rainbow Construction Company located at 242 N. New York Street in Wichita. Eventually, sons Mike, Chuck, Ken and grandson Clint would also work there. This company proved to be a real good fit for Gene, and Rainbow soon found out that what they had with Gene was someone who would need no training. From his first days on the job he filled the role of carpenter, trainer, foreman, and supervisor, soon earning the nickname "straw boss" even before he had been promoted. Employees quickly wondered how he could do everything from laying out building sites, to hanging doors, to expert finish and cabinet work, and everything in between. They also discovered that he knew secrets to doing things faster and easier, most tricks you won't find in any written form. Gene had told everyone that he learned construction from the best, his father. Now they understood. After being consulted by superintendents and helping run several jobs, Rainbow Construction promoted Gene to the title of superintendent. In that role he would be in charge of the project, keeping track of its deadline and quality. He was supervisor, trainer, and worker, generally doing much of the detailed finish work himself. Gene was also known for getting more and better work out of his crew because he treated them as people, such as making sure that they got their morning and afternoon break times.
Gene worked on many projects in the Wichita area. A few of which include: Gene installed by hand much of the marble floor on the first floor (and elevators) in the historic Kress Building. The S. H. Kress Company operated five and dime department stores nationwide, and more than twenty still stand today. The 5-story Kress Building of Wichita, built in 1929, is a stone, Gothic Revival style building listed on the (NRHP) National Register of Historic Places. It is located on the n.w. corner of Broadway and Douglas Ave. in Wichita; remodel work at the 10-story Century Plaza Building, built in 1930, and located on the s.w. corner of Main and Douglas (111 W. Douglas); the Better Book Room, located on the s.e. corner of Main and 3rd St. N.; the Mycro-Tek Company located at 9229 E. 37th St. N. (Rainbow Const. Superintendent Floyd Brown stated that Gene was hanging tall doors at Mycro-Tek that weighed more than he did. To solve this problem, Gene built his own dolly that held the doors while he fit and set the hinges and hardware); the remodel of Cloud Elementary School and the addition to that school at 1212 W. 25th St. N.; the office remodel of the Mull Drilling Company, owned by oilman and world-wide big-game hunter, Jacob A. Mull, Jr. Gene led his family on a tour of Mr. Mulls' office which contained many of his hunting trophies from Africa. A man was there, but don't know if it was Mr. Mull. One of the founders and largest contributors of the Sedgwick County Zoo, a book details Mull's amazing life; Commtech Communications Technologies; the 1980 restoration of the historic Occidental Hotel located at 300 N. Main St. Built in 1873-74, it is the oldest brick building remaining in Wichita, now known as The Occidental Plaza; a large, multi-story office building with a modern design built from the ground up for Intellect Systems Incorporated, at 405 S. Holland Street; the Girl Scout Camp located east of Wichita; several remodel projects at One Main Place, the current name of 10-story 1st National Bank Building built in 1911, located on the n.e. corner of Main and Douglas; the bank building on the n.e. corner of 13th and N. Tyler Road; the First National Bank located on the n.w. corner of Central St. and Rock Road; the remodel of the Dr. Harvey Ellis medical office building located at 6611 E. Central. (A photo of Gene in the Wichita Eagle shows him high on a ladder, of course, swinging a hammer on this project.); the office remodel at Wildcat Construction Co. at 4421 W. Harry St. Gene gave his family a personal tour, showing his handiwork with wood; remodel work on Kansas State Bank and Trust (known as the K.S.B.&T. Building), at 123 N. Market St.; the Riverfront Building located on the n.w. corner of Waco and Murdock St.; Surgicare Wichita located on the n.e. corner of Lorraine and Murdock St. (In 2010, wife Vada was a patient here.); The Kansas Elks Training Center For The Handicapped (K.E.T.C.H.), main offices located on the n.e. corner of Washington and Waterman St.; and the Victor L. Phillips Company located at 3250 N. Hydraulic St. I think son Kenny helped on this one.
In Newton, Kansas the construction projects included; Methodist Youthville; the Administration Building at Prairie View Inc., located at 1901 E. First St.; Newell Truck Plaza and Motel (Generally known as Newell's Truck Stop.) located at 200 Manchester; and work on the historic Sante Fe Rail Mill.
Other projects for Rainbow Construction included the enormous Maize School building located on the n.e. corner of 45th St. N. and Maize Rd. (It was originally the high school, built from the ground up.); and the huge residence for the Marty M. Burke family located at 309 Kisiwa Pkwy. in Hutchinson, Kansas. Gene had been called in to finish the Burke house, a project that had stalled under the previous superintendent. Gene had been given a "punch list," items the owner felt were wrong or had not been completed. Not an easy task, but Gene was a person who knew how to deal with people and do things right, and was able to wrap-up this large job for a very demanding customer. (Former Rainbow Construction Superintendent Floyd Brown supplied some of this information.)
In the early 1980's?, Gene purchased the 3 lots behind the house on St. Louis Street. These lots had always been vacant, and years before had been known by all the neighbor kids as "the big field." The owner never did anything with the property and until later years, I don't recall that it was ever mowed. I know when our dog Prince was out there with us I would follow him by the white tip on his tail among the weeds and overgrowth. It was our huge playground and provided a place for endless games and adventures. We could dig holes, do anything, because nobody ever checked on the property. In June of 1993, Gene and many family members and friends, built a 3-car garage with a shop area on the lot directly behind the house on St. Louis. At least 3 people from Rainbow Construction helped as well as Shiney Breit and Bob McCorkle. Gene said many times that having this shop area meant the world to him as it provided a place for his varied and vast collection of tools and space for him to work on his various projects.
Gene's tools were like old friends, and were certainly an extension of him as a craftsman. He could pretty well tell you about when and where he'd first used them, and many were inscribed with his initials. At least one hand saw was his dad's and has the initials "E. H. B." A list of a very few of these tools include a table saw manufactured by Atlas Press Co. that he'd used over a span of 5 decades, a Rockwell radial arm saw, 2 old levels with wood frames, at least 12 hammers, 11 hand saws, a collection of skill saws, routers, planers, drills and at least 27 wood chisels.
Gene and Vada enjoyed seeing different performers that came through Wichita, including Johnny Cash, Tom Jones, Anne Murray, Ray Price, Frank Sinatra, and The Smothers Brothers. They also saw Ray Stevens in Branson, Missouri.
In about 1987, Gene became a member of the North High Class of 1947 reunion committee and served many posts including Treasurer. There were many details and arrangements that went into the reunions. Gene stated that he had been a bit shy in high school, but had long since made up for it. He really looked forward to every reunion, enjoying catching up on all the stories, travels and family information of his classmates and sharing plenty of his own. During his involvement, the meetings were generally held at his home. Some of the other committee members included Earl DeHaven, Jim Jeffress, Thelma (Hickok) Queen, Darrell Leason, Peggy Metz, Gene Miller and Marine Wolf. In 1997 he was presented a framed photo of an aerial view of North High School with the inscription, "To Gene Barnes from the 1997 Reunion Committee for a job well done." Gene proudly displayed this photo in his family room.
In 1991, a retirement party was held for Gene at Chuck and Jeananna's home (his son & daughter-in-law) in west Wichita. Many old friends and relatives were able to attend. It was a great event and one that Gene really enjoyed.
Gene and Vada really enjoyed being grandparents. It seemed to be a pretty easy for them. On the (inside of) the front hallway closet door Gene measured and recorded the heights of his grandkids at certain times. Being in attendance for every school play, sports function, etc., was something they just had to do. Several photos show grandpa Gene showing the grandkids how to fish at Sedgwick County Park and a small lake near Kingman, Kansas.
In 1997, Gene and Vada drove to Kentucky to see the Kentucky Derby. It was cold, windy and rainy that day. They stood in the infield of the track. Though they had warm coats they were cold. No umbrellas were allowed so they left before the race even began. Gene, not a gambler, placed a $5.00 bet on Silver Charm, the winner, and won about $20.00. Next day was nice weather so of couse they spent that day underground at Mammoth Caves. Out in the country they saw a sign that said "Barnes Flying School" or something like that. Gene made sure he met the fellow (whose first name is not recalled), saying that his Barnes people were from Kentucky and that they could even been related.
In January of 1999, son Larry began studying the Barnes family history. Well, this was something Gene, of course, was very interested in. He had mentioned many times over the years that our Barnes family was from Kentucky, his great grandfather's name and where he was buried in Missouri. The family members he knew, and had known, were important to him, so feeling a connection to family members from the past and their stories and adventures was natural to Gene. He quickly learned the names of all of his direct Barnes ancestors all the way back to James Barnes who died in Nelson County, Kentucky in 1795. One of the first surprises was when it was established that Gene's classmate and reunion committee member, Thelma (Hickok) Queen, was a Barnes relative. Amazingly, their great grandfathers, Armstead L. and Elijah Hicks Barnes were brothers, the 7th and 8th oldest of 12 children. In a letter from Thelma's mother, Adelaide (Barnes) Hickok, to Gene's father, Adelaide mentions how good the garage looks since the work was completed, and that she enjoyed talking about their Barnes family history. It is unknown if Adelaide and Harry had enough information to connect their Barnes families.
In the past several years Gene was a member of the Lewis Street Singers, a group made up of seniors that sang at retirement homes throughout the Wichita area. Family friend Lavon Lynch was a member and the one that told Gene about the group. He started out as one of the singers and was soon invited to also be the M. C., introducing the group and their songs. Gene really enjoyed singing with this group and the friendship of all of the members including Lavon Lynch, director Virginia Lightvolt (sp), pianist Hazel Douty and her husband Luther.
Gene loved building things, and helped people fix everything from cars to fences. He built many wonderful items before and especially after his retirement. He built everything from baby cribs, hat racks, toys, rebuilt old chairs that he found at sales, and made repairs of all types for people he loved. Some of his most cherished projects would be the baby cribs for his grandkids; bookends for his older grandkids; the turquoise colored rocking dinosaur, named Dino, for his youngest grandson Logan; and finishing the interior, as well as building the stairway, for the two-story club house located in their backyard for all of his grandkids. Gene had such a reputation as a builder that his grandson Matthew once brought him a piece of wood and asked him to make a treasure chest out of it, and he did. Gene's last large project was the remodel of the house located at 3034 S. Bennett Street in Wichita, a house purchased by son Chuck and his wife Jeananna to be used as a rental house. Son Mike and grandson Jacob became the first renters of this house.
A tree was planted in memory of Gene, about 50 feet southwest of the northeast corner of the property. It is a flowering crabapple tree and was purchased by Chris Schaeffer, mother of Ken's wife, Sheri. Appropriately, the tree is near the kid's clubhouse.
In planning Gene's funeral we immediately felt the only place to hold it was at the former St. Luke's Methodist Church. We quickly received permission. During the funeral plans, Ken said that dad wanted to be buried with a hammer in his hand and specified which hammer. Ken wanted the pall bearers to be us four sons and Bob Barnes. I stated that I wanted the old 1985 Mercury station wagon to follow directly behind the hearse. Of the three cars they had at that time, the Mercury was definately his favorite and had also been previously owned by his father-in-law, Orlo Miller. Gene bragged about that car, saying that Orlo really picked a good one. Yes, it was a good car, but we always felt that he also kept it because it had been grandpa Miller's car. It was partly cloudy the day of the funeral. Us four sons, grandson Clint, and Gene's brother, Bob, each wore one of dad's neckties. I wore one of his watches, one I'd given him. A very large crowd attended funeral services at the former St. Luke's Church at 250 N. Meridian Avenue. Son Ken spoke about how dad taught him how to be a husband and father. Tim Berlin, long-time friend of the family, also gave everyone his great rememberances of Gene. Ken and Tim both did a great job. Gene's North High classmate Marine Wolf also spoke, covering several things including the wheelchair ramp Gene had built for Marine's wife. Marine also supplied some needed humor, saying that when Gene spoke about his grandkids it was hard to get a word in edgewise. Gene's eulogy, part of which was from a verbal history by Gene himself, was compiled and edited by daughter-in-law Jeananna and son Larry, covering some of the hi-lights of his life. The eulogy was read by an associate minister. The Lewis Street Singers sang, now minus Gene, and sounded great. The funeral route exited the north side of church, went west on 2nd Street to Meridian Ave., north to McLean Blvd., east on 13th St. going right by his old school, North High. As a guy who would brag on North High, root for their teams, and attend their reunions, how perfect was that? It rained lightly during the graveside services which also included military honors and presentation of the American flag. Being a life-long carpenter, we made sure that he had a beautiful wood casket.
Gene was a family man and a loyal friend. And man did he live it. Every Memorial Day, weather permitting, he visited and decorated the graves of his parents, mother and father-in-law, his uncle Ray, sister Ellie (it's 60 miles one way to Ellie's gravesite in Caldwell, Ks.), and friends including Bob Page, Larry Buckmaster and Charley Bowers.
Elijah Harry Barnes (1902 - 1973)
Mary Ellen Hall Barnes-French (1905 - 1995)
Elnora Faye Barnes Sedam (1926 - 1993)*
Gene Harry Barnes (1928 - 2007)
Wichita Park Cemetery and Mausoleum
Plot: Memorial Section C
Created by: Larry E. Barnes
Record added: May 20, 2007
Find A Grave Memorial# 19455577
The record-setting 2013-14 Shocker men's basketball team finished 35-1. And that was with a poor bench. They'll be better this year. The NCAA Tournament announcers (CBS TV) showed the Shockers MAJOR respect.|
Larry E. Barnes
Added: Jul. 6, 2014
Added: Jun. 15, 2014
Added: Jun. 13, 2014
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