Jane is correct that my older brother Wayne Barnett is a fine man, but I’d like to add that his friendship with George immeasurably contributed to Wayne’s accomplishments, as a student and as a minister.
Our parents raised us in the church, as they had been raised. On both sides, church had been an integral part of family life for generations. They were Disciples, Baptists, Methodists, and Presbyterians, but few lacked any church affiliation. Our Grandfather Barnett’s maternal grandfather had been an itinerant Baptist preacher. Upon Granddaddy Barnett’s parents’ marriage in 1859, his mother adopted his father’s church and became a Disciple (Christian Church, Disciples of Christ), the church in which we were raised.
To my knowledge, Wayne is the family’s first formally trained and ordained minister. (Our younger sister Sally Barnett McClain is the second.) I remember well Wayne’s teenaged announcement that when he grew up he wanted to be either a test pilot or a minister. This didn’t make much sense then, but now it does: both professions are all consuming and life threatening. Wayne’s myopia precluded his first choice. But his vision was sufficiently far-sighted for the ministry.
And that’s where George comes in. Wayne, not an exceptional student in high school—he was popular and busy with social activities, and he put in long hours on the family farm—has always credited George with teaching him to study. Once Wayne started spending hours each day with George, away from the farm’s demands, his analytical processes matured, and his grades improved.
But, even more important to his chosen profession, Wayne, through caring for George, learned attentiveness and compassion, essential qualifications for a minister’s calling, and they both approached Wayne’s job of getting George around and through his day with two other essential qualifications—good humor and determination. This was poignantly evident in LaDonna and Wayne’s marriage ceremony, at which George officiated. Upon being asked, George demurred, saying he had never before performed a marriage ceremony and that they should choose a minister who wasn’t disabled. LaDonna and Wayne countered that they hadn’t been married before, and that George should be their minister for that milestone. Faced with this challenge, George met it, courageously and eloquently, as he met all that came his way after his accident.
Accompanying our mother, I attended Wayne’s retirement service and celebration in September 2007 at the First Christian Church of Maysville, Kentucky. George and Jane, living in Texas, couldn’t attend, but they were present. By his constant example, both in school and throughout their careers, George had helped teach Wayne to minister and to enjoy a loving relationship with his congregation and the community he served. On behalf of our family, I offer our gratitude.