A dictionary defines “friend” as “one attached to another by affection or esteem.”
Wife Pat and I define friendship as “Johnny Barnett, bedrock friend.” (More about bedrock later.)
Sad we are to lose our longtime friend, at age 83, recently to pneumonia.
But happy in knowing where Johnny is today, there is no pneumonia or other human body frailties that severely limited our friend and his walking stability these past few years.
In his life here on earth, friend Johnny had a contagious personality that encouraged others with warm wit and gentle wisdom.
As a young plebe at old Castle Heights Military Academy in Lebanon, Johnny was an accomplished trumpeter, so good at playing the instrument, he was named student commander of the school’s marching band.
Later in life, Johnny, an ordained deacon, sounded his trumpet to the heavens, faithfully serving as trumpeter for multiple decades at old former First Baptist Church in Smyrna.
So, to me and others humbled to be considered close church friends to Johnny Barnett and his gracious pretty wife, Dorothy Jean Allen Barnett, it’s not hard to envision in our earth-bound souls that Johnny is now tooting his horn boldly for ol’ Gabriel and other angels in God’s heavenly sounding orchestra in the clouds.
Now, more about that earlier bedrock notation.
Johnny comes from a Rutherford County bedrock family, whose generational exploits have touched hundreds of families positively over parts of the last two centuries.
Johnny Barnett Jr. was born the son of the late John Norman Barnett Sr., a highly respected banker back in the first part of last century, when Smyrna was a small town with a few hundred residents.
Johnny’s older brother, Frank, preceded Johnny in death.
Retired Murfreesboro banking executive Hilda “Mammie” Stuart, also a founding member of mighty Smyrna Parkway Baptist Church 10 years ago along with Johnny and Dorothy Jean, recalls the banking family.
“Sometimes, Mr. Barnett, from his bank in Smyrna, would exchange currency when one of us would run short of twenties,” Mammie traced back in time when community banking was vastly different from this century’s more impersonal computerized banking system. “Always the consummate Southern gentleman, he was steady and courteous to customers and fellow bankers alike…and Johnny was a bright ray of sunshine and fellowship at our little new Parkway Baptist congregation on Lee Victory Parkway here in Smyrna.”
Surviving children John Barnett III, Stephen Allen Barnett and Betty Barnett Howell can, prayerfully, take solace in their honorable bedrock family name.
In an interview last decade, Johnny was asked to describe his fathers’ legacy as one of Smyrna’s first professional bankers.
“When it came to loans, our father knew who worked hard and who did not work hard to provide for their families,” credited Johnny. “Back then, a ‘hand-shake’ meant much more than a sheet of paper. He often told us that maintaining a good family name is vital to living an honorable life, especially in a small town like Smyrna used to be.”
Food, fun and fellowship were priorities for Johnny, Claude Cooper, Ray Goad, Jerry Cates and me, as founding organizers of our Wednesday noon roaming dining group, officially named ROMEOs, as in “retired old men eat out.”
For nearly a decade, as retirees, we’ve gathered at various eateries throughout Middle Tennessee, ranging from Buster Burgers in Murfreesboro, to pork chops in Bell Buckle to country breakfast feasts at historic Readyville Mill.
So much food, fun and fellowship did we share, that there’s an auxiliary ROMEO’s group in Texas patterned after our tight-knit, meet-and-eat fellowshipping band of church-going brothers here in Middle Tennessee.
Johnny, a solid bedrock devotee to his family, is now hitting the high notes with his trumpet, sounding his triumphant entry into his beloved God’s heavenly resting place.
And the next Wednesday when his still earth-bound church friends meet and eat, there’ll be a hole in our hearts, until we all meet again.