Thursday, March 6, 2014

#6 - The Barnwells and post by guest on Dick Barnwell, Changed by Travel

Guest blogger writes about his uncle, Dick Barnwell

John Joseph Lawrence Barnwell was my paternal grandmother’s father (my father’s mother’s father). Catherine Barnwell was also known as Kitty and as Kate
Her father (JJL Barnwell, mentioned above) was born on Dec 16, 1881 in Brooklyn, Kings County in New York. He died in October of 1948, likely in Long Island City (Queens), NY. 

He married Agnes McCune at the turn of the century in NY, NY, when he was almost 21. They had 8 children who lived to adulthood. 

 In this Christmas photo:   
Top: Vincent (m. Ronnie); Gerard (m. Lucy), Thomas (m. Vera)
Bottom: Richard (m. Mae), Larry (m. Helen Hannon)
The counterpart Christmas photo has their wives
L to R: Vera (wife of Thomas), Ronnie, (Wife of Vincent), Lucy (wife of Gerard), Helen (wife of Larry) 
Bottom: Mae, (wife of Richard)
*One of the sons was married more than once 
A Little Barnwell Family History 

GUEST BLOGGER – John Higgins, Sr.
October 22, 2010 

My maternal grandfather,[mentioned above-John Joseph Lawrence Barnwell] was a little guy, about 5′ 2″ and 125 lbs. He was teamster and worked for the Railway Express. In the early 1920s he fell down a flight of stairs while carrying a trunk up the stairs. He received a leg injury, which never was corrected and he could not work. Railway Express put him on sick leave, but in that era there was no sick time or workman’s compensation. Thus, the family lived on NYC Home Relief and my grandmother’s earnings as building superintendent and charwoman. 

The children, 5 boys and 4 girls helped out as they came of age, but none of them finished high school.  

Richard (Dick) Barnwell (Catherine Barnwell Higgins’ brother) - A Man Changed by Travel. 

My uncle Dick, Richard Barnwell, was a man of natural intelligence and taste, but little schooling in his youth. Before World War II Dick was self-educated. He introduced me to poetry at an early age, via “The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.” He was also a card-carrying Communist, a Marxist, as were most in NYC, not a Stalinist. The WPA (not to be confused with the PWA) ran a lot of training programs, including a program for aircraft mechanic. Dick must have enrolled. 

When we entered World War II he volunteered and was assigned to a P-38 squadron for the North African invasion in 1942. I don’t think he came back during the war, serving in North Africa, Sicily and Italy; he was too interested in new sights (sight-seeing at government expense?) When we finally got to Rome much of the population had fled and things were pretty loose. Dick went to see the Vatican and walked into the Sistine Chapel by himself. He looked up and was thunderstruck. I suppose he knew of it, but the art books of the time carried small black and white pictures, if that. He said he didn’t know how long he stood there. We have been there, but we were prepared and in a crown of other tourists. It was magnificent, even at that, but I can’t imagine the impact on sensitive, self-educated person who wasn’t prepared for the experience. 

Dick came back in 1946, when the occupation ended. He took advantage of the GI Bill to get his secondary schooling and get a BA at school for GIs setup in Plattsburg, NY. There he met another GI, female named Mae Jones who was the brightest student in the class. They married, got their degrees in engineering and then went to Ohio State for their masters,’ where she was still the brightest student in the class.

They took jobs with Martin Aircraft in Baltimore and went with Martin when it moved to Denver. 

We visited them in 1961. She seemed to be an average suburban housewife but by that time she was in charge of on-line modifications. Later, she opened her own engineering consulting office. Later, I think she was president of Society of Women Engineers, but I’m not sure, because I never bothered to learn her maiden name, so I can’t look her up. 

By the time we visited him Dick was into real estate development and local politics, out of engineering. But what really surprised me was his attitude. From a typical New Yorker, who wouldn’t turn around to see the Statue of Liberty walk down 5th Avenue on her hands, he morphed into a man who loved his adopted city. On the night we got there, he took us up on a hill to see his beautiful city. Time does wonders. 
 - GUEST BLOGGER – John Higgins, Sr.

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