J.T. (“Jay”) Barnes - 2003-09-23

From Hickman’s halls I turned immediately to those at MU in the fall of ‘63.  Two unremarkable years there concluded with enlistment in the Marine Corps, and that in turn led to service in Viet Nam.  I paid much more attention there to the workings of rifles and machine guns than I had to any of MU’s courses.  Studies were resumed after discharge in 1968, this time aiming for a degree in Public Administration, and now with the personal encouragement and financial support of a new wife, a Viet Nam pen-pal, the former Shirley Bigham, an elementary school teacher from Bisbee, AZ.  Things went much better this time and the BS in PA finally came in 1970.

On graduation I took a job with the Veterans Administration in St Louis as a Claims Examiner, the first of many jobs and assignments covering a 30 year career with the VA.  Job transfers eventually took us from St Louis to Reno, NV, to Honolulu, HI, to Wichita, KS, to Waco, Tx, and back to Wichita in that time, working initially in Management Analysis and later in station management administering veterans benefit programs, and during the last three years, in hospital administration as well.

I took early federal retirement in 2000 to work in environmental education and advocacy in Kansas.  I now have three years in as Executive Director of Kansas Natural Resource Council, a statewide nonprofit working for a healthy environment and official policies of sustainable use of natural resources.  Legislative lobbying, state agency monitoring, membership recruitment, fundraising, and newsletter publication are all included activities of the ED position.  I also serve on the board of three other nonprofits.

Shirley and I celebrated our 35th anniversary this summer.  She worked for many temporary services as my job opportunities required moving around.  She works now for Koch Industries, largest privately held oil co. in US, as a Legal Technician in their international section, a job that has led to many contacts and friendships for both of us in the UK, Europe, and around the world.  We also ran a small mail order book business (“Wolf Song Books, Maps, and Paper Collectibles”) out of our home from the mid-‘80s to the late ‘90’s.

We long ago purchased property for retirement in a forest community along The Rim in northern Arizona.  We enjoy traveling in the southwest US and the UK and plan to continue that in “real” retirement at some unspecified future time.  I enjoy a substantial collection of rare Western Americana books and occasional writing as a member of the Prairie Writer’s Circle, a syndicate for op-ed writers focusing on environmental and other progressive issues, and three years ago I was introduced to the quasi-religion of trout fishing and became a devout follower.

Personal Philosophy:  It’s been a good go-round so far and there is much work to be done before I’m through.

Favorite Quote:  “Saving the planet is not a spectator sport.” Lester Brown, Worldwatch Institute

November 15, 2012

Thanks, Charley, for the opportunity to post a bit of my personal information to the Class of '63 logs. You'll find I have shuffled the topics that you suggested we address in these messages, but I think I have dealt with most of them in some form in the following missal.

It is difficult to break my first 6 post-Hickman years down into clear segments of school, VietNam, school again, marriage, and finding that all important first job. By the end of that 6 years though, I was married, I was a veteran, I had a degree, and I had a good job. Initially, two minimally successful years at MU gave me the opportunity to answer the country's call for VietNam. The US Marine Corps provided my training in infantry rifleman and machine gun specialties and sent me off the defend democracy in SE Asia. During those Marine Corps sponsored adventures, I found a new friend by what we now refer to as "snail mail", and married her once I was discharged and re-enrolled in the University. (Ask Shirley about it when you meet her in October at the reunion - she loves to tell the story of the set of seemingly unrelated coincidences that brought us together. )

Shirley's teaching at third and fourth grade classes at Parkade Elementary school, the GI Bill, and a part time job at Shelter Insurance supported my renewed education efforts, and I received MU's Bachelor of Science Degree in Public Administration, minor in political science, in 1970. My grades had responded quite well to Shirley's support, encouragement, and occasional threats. (Ask ME about that part when next we meet...the story is funnier when I tell it. )

I took the Federal Service Entrance Exam before graduating and, when I had the degree in hand, received an immediate job offer from the Veterans Administration in St Louis. That began a nearly 30 year long career in VA benefits delivery that included Claims Examiner, Management Analysis, Administrative Officer, and Assistant and Associate Director positions, and took us from St Louis to Reno, NV, to Honolulu, HI, to Wichita, KS, to Waco, TX, and back to Wichita again. I finished the career in 2000 in management at the VA hospital here in Wichita.

During the VA work, I had also become involved with related volunteer organizations from the Federal Executive Boards to the local United Way, and had devoted a good deal of time to the Kansas Rural Development Council as a VA representative, trying to improve rural veterans' access to healthcare. In that nonprofit collaborative work I found what I still think of as my most important work, the organizing, educating, lobbying, and promoting of a wide range of Progressive issues, from the environment to public health to voting rights to citizenship. My first post VA position was as Executive Director of the Kansas Natural Resource Council, working in environmental education across the state and in the state legislature. I followed that with co-founding the Center for Environmental and Human Health at Wichita State University, and then independent contract consulting work with the state of Kansas and a variety of nonprofits in Kansas.

Health issues have intervened now in that busy life but I have been able to spend a great deal of my time with my parents (both old Kewpies, by the way ! ) and caring for them and their interests in their final years. Mom passed away in January, 2012 at age 95, and Dad, 90 years old this year, lives in a nursing home nearby. The latter years with them have been difficult and time consuming for both Shirley and I, but they have also been some of our most rewarding.

While we were up to all the moving around for what Shirley always referred to as "our jobs" with the VA, she has taught school, worked at probably 30 different temporary jobs, and kept things together while I was off to yet another assignment. She retired as a Legal Assistant in 2010 and immediately hung out her shingle as a Corporate Administrative Law Legal Consultant. Her first client was a Bermuda law firm working in international corporate law, and both of us have enjoyed getting to know Bermuda and our international friends there while she works for them.

Shirley's work continues, though now with much reduced travel, Dad still enjoys hearing about old friends and relatives in Columbia....I have a phone app that brings in Boone County emergency notices and he enjoys being in close touch that way - he also feels like Stadium Boulevard and the 63 south interchange areas are the most accident prone and should be avoided when possible ! For now, Shirley and I are set for awhile, but as they have been for the 44 years we have been together, our eyes remain on the horizon, always alert to new friends and new adventures.

Where though, you ask, is the enfluence of Hickman High School in all that?

My lessons of high school were perhaps a bit slow to emerge, but I look back now and realize that's where I first realized the hard lessons that lack of effort was seldom rewarded in any way, that coasting on the basis of one achievement could only last so long, and that applied knowledgeable effort had far better results than a glib tongue or serendipity. Those lessons put me in the books late at night, and rolled up my sleeves each morning throughout my assembly of careers.

The teachers we had, Mrs Thomas, Miss Kitchens, Mr Ekern, et al, who worked so hard to get through to us, not only with facts and formulas, but with insights, those who waited sometimes when hope for the glow of understanding in our eyes should have been abandoned, those are the heroes and heroines we are not able to thank now, but to whom I owe much. Their guidance and patience was not always immediately appreciated, but their confidence ultimately provided worthy measure in my mind.

Can friendships endure years of no or very limited contact, is a question every first time reunion goer must ask themselves. Oh, Classmate, I wish you could have been there to see me at my Mom's funeral when I felt the world was now half empty and Bill Ballew and Jim Woodruff showed up to provide their support ! Some friendships are like pilot lights....they remain burning until they are needed, then they light up as bright as ever once again when they are called upon.

I'm looking forward to gathering once again as Kewpies and eager to hear all that our classmates have done with the wings that Hickman gave us to fly with. Thanks once again to Charley Blackmore for his hard work and constant persuasive efforts over many years. See you in October.

Be well,
Jay ( You'll hafta ask Shirley about that too. ) Barnes

PS: Shirley also invites inquiries about our memories of Jack's Steakhouse. That was another lesson for me, one that she stills tells better than me after all these years.

Update, May 22, 2017
Dear Family and Friends,
Oh dear, oh my and golly gee,
You are finally hearing from little ol' me.
The move we have talked about from last year to now,
Is officially scheduled, oh wow, oh wow...
And ready or not the green light has been turned on,
So stay tuned below to details of where we will have gone.

We bought our new home in Sedona the end of last July and have been going back and forth since then. Finally things have come together to finish the move.

We have sold the house in Wichita with a closing date of June 30, 2017. Then the official move begins. Jay and I and Frosty and Boston will head out to Sedona in the Jeep on May 27th. I will fly back to Wichita on June 4th to be here to direct the movers with packing and they will load up our last phase of 'Moving STUFF' on June 6th and head for Sedona. I will leave for Sedona in the Lexus on the 6th, as well, and then the rest is ready for our "Estate Sale" lady. She will be working from May 29th to June 20th sorting through the STUFF (and I do mean an unbelievable amount of stuff with the question being, how could 2 little old people accumulate that much STUFF??? Jay said it takes Determined Effort for 48 years! ). "Here To Help Estate Sales" plans to hold the living estate sale on June 21-23. We are using the opportunity to downsize, so many unique and cherished items are included in the sale.

The silver lining here is that we still have our memories of all of the places we have lived in where we accumulated all of the STUFF (Columbia, MO., St. Louis, MO., Reno, NV, Honolulu, HI, Wichita, KS, Waco, TX, and Wichita, KS (the 2nd time). So even when you have to rid yourself of all of your STUFF you can always remember how much fun it was acquiring it. (I keep reminding Jay of this so he can leave his 20,000 or so books (or so it seems to me that estimate is pretty accurate). The very favorites get to make the trip and the rest is history, as the saying goes.

New contact details: *Note: We will keep the Wichita home phone number (but not the cell phones) until June 6, 2017 (316-686-6043)

New Address:
Jay (John T.) and Shirley Barnes
SEDONA AZ 86351-6304

New Phones:
Sedona Home Phone # is 1 928-862-2860
Jay's Cell Phone # is 1 928-821-9566
Shirley Cell Phone is 1 928-821-9567

New Emails:
Joint: jsbarnesB68@gmail.com
Jay's: jbarnesB66@gmail.com
Shirley's: sbarnesB67@gmail.com

It all started for Jay and I in the Warren Community Church in Bisbee, AZ on June 13, 1968 and it seems fitting that we are finally closing the circle by going back to Arizona where we started our long adventure together. And so as we "ride off into the sunset" to our new Arizona adventure we say to all of the wonderful people we have met and known here in Kansas for 30+ years and to all of the many others in various parts of the US and around the world, it has been wonderful and both a pleasure and a a privilege to know all of you.

We are not falling off the edge of the Earth. We hope that you find your way out to Sedona sometime and look us up. It is a most beautiful and awesome spot in the Red Rocks. You can find us with our feet propped up sitting on the patio enjoying the sunshine and sipping lemonade and just relaxing, reading, or dangling our feet in the pool. (But of course for our Bermuda ASW friends Shirley will still be on-line with you).

Please keep in touch.

Big hugs and lots of love to all.

Jay and Shirley (or as Jay likes to refer to us as J & S)


March 2, 2009 - Jay with parents

January 16, 2012, Columbia MO - Jay's mother funeral
Shari & Bill Ballew - Jay & Shirley - Jim Woodruff

Kewpie Headquarters January 16, 2012
Jay - me - Jim

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