I’ve often said that my husband George was the best man I ever knew, but Wayne Barnett is a pretty close second. The friendship between George and Wayne stated at church camp in 1958 when they were in high school. George lived in Pewee Valley; Wayne, in Cropper. They were reunited on their first day at Transylvania College in 1960.
In 1963, on a retreat, George fell from a cliff into the hard mud of a creek and broke his back. Doctors predicted he would not survive. He did but a difficult recovery lay ahead. Dr. Perrine hired Wayne to live with George and push him in his wheelchair. Since Transylvania and most of Lexington—and, indeed, most of the world–had yet to adapt buildings and curbs that were wheelchair friendly, George and Wayne were almost like conjoined twins, rarely separated.
After George’s graduation his dad purchased a home where George and Wayne lived while attending Lexington Theological Seminary. Wayne married LaDonna on June 4, 1966, with George performing the ceremony. George and I married two weeks later with Wayne as best man. Both graduated, were ordained, and began their full-time ministers. They wrote sporadically, visited a few times when George returned to visit family in Kentucky, and saw each other at church assemblies. After retirement, they renewed and deepened that friendship with several visits between Northern Kentucky and Austin, Texas. With George a huge fan of the University of Louisville and Wayne a long-time Kentucky fan, basketball season was filled with teasing and taunting. They kept up on email. When George realized how sick he was in October, 2012, I email Wayne and asked him to call George, to help keep his spirits up. Wayne called at least weekly, every one of them a joyous event for George.
All of his life George battled health issues and had numerous surgeries. On January 31, 2013, the doctors operated again. Everything seemed to go well, but after the surgery, he couldn’t breathe. Although brought back, George never fully recovered. s
In February, when George knew he was dying he scribbled his last message, “Call, Wayne.” He wanted the man he considered a brother to be with him. Of course Wayne came. I never doubted he would. He left for Austin the next day and stayed until 18 days until after George’s funeral March 5. I’m grateful because he supported me and helped with decisions regarding George’s health care but I’m most grateful because this best of all friends came when George asked him, no questions. No excuses. No delay. Wayne came and was here for George as he always had been.
On March 2, the day George died and although George was probably too sedated to know this, the Wildcat fan watched a UofL basketball game in the hospital room and cheered for George’s Cards against Syracuse. Then he watched George being taken off life support with George’s sister, Diane, and me. He cried with us.
As sick as Wayne was with some bug he picked up in the hospital, he attended the Monday evening visitation, coughing his lungs out. Fortunately, he got a prescription that night. He didn’t cough during the funeral but was there to remember George.
Wayne was George’s best friend, always there to love and care for and support and joke with him. I will always admire and appreciation your loyalty and friendship, Wayne. You truly are a fine Christian man. Thank you.