Tribute to Dick Barney, '60
By Scott McQuilkin, '81, Vice President for Institutional Advancement
January 7, 2017, Memorial Service at Knox Presbyterian Church, Spokane
On behalf of President Taylor, President Emeritus Robinson, The Whitworth Foundation Board, the entire Whitworth community, I'm privileged to offer these words of gratitude for the life of Dick Barney. My voice represents so many others who were the recipients of Dick's friendship, his generosity, and his servanthood.
Of course, we'd all rather not be sharing memories right now. We'd far prefer that Dick be in his seat at 4 o'clock this afternoon in the fieldhouse, cheering on Whitworth's basketball teams. We'd prefer that Dick be . . . assisting the referees to call the game as Dick would see it—Whitworth rarely commits fouls or violations; our opponents do. Often. Or come spring, Whitworth softball pitchers throw far more strikes than they are given credit for by the umpires. One part cheering. One part keeping the refs and umps in check. As Bill Curry said to me the other day, "It's not just that all Whitworth games will have one fewer attendee; it's that all Whitworth basketball, volleyball, and softball practices will now be shy one person."
In the 17 years since Dick and Mary Ann moved to Spokane, we've gotten to know quite a bit about Dick. But through the work of Whitworth archivist Janet Hauck, it's clear that Dick chose note to reveal everything about his Whitworth past. There are some things he never let on.
He was a dorm vice president; he participated in every intramural sport offered; he was a thespian cast in the role of Judas in one religious drama; he was a member of what the Whitworthian called a reactionary group known as the Barf-on-Snow Club, the membership criterion for which required that you didn't like winter or the ski season. But Dick earned his greatest renown for organizing the "One-Date-a-Month Club." The goal of the group was to combat the social stigma of low cost, casual dating. In other words, Dick and his friends wanted license to be cheap. The rules stated that club members were permitted only one big date per month, not to exceed $5; the monthly total for casual dates could not exceed $2.50, with a maximum of 50 cents being spent on any single date; and finally, that no woman could be dated more than three time in a row by the same man without said male taking out another woman. The group lasted two weeks, and we can presume, dateless. Chivalrous.
But then this Whitworthian profile of Dick concluded by saying: "To find out more about Dick Barney, you'll have to see him. And knowing him as a real fun-loving friend is one of the easiest things on campus to do for a high reward and a good time." That same paragraph written in 1959 could have been written in 2016. Not a word would be different—"knowing him is one of the easiest things to do."
New York Times columnist David Brooks has been writing a lot over the past two years about what he calls "eulogy values." These are values different than resume values. The resume virtues are the ones we list on our resumes, the skills we bring to the job market; those things that contribute to external success. Eulogy values, by contrast, are deeper. Those are the virtues people talk about at our memorial services, when our lives are honored; those values that exist in the core of our being—kindness, courage, honesty, faithfulness, the relationships formed.
Dick had plenty of resume values—as an administrator for the Seattle Housing Authority; as the manager of one of the best fastpitch softball teams in the country; as a Hall of Famer for his fastpitch softball career.
But I'd be surprised if many of us know much, if anything, about Dick's resume values. What we do share is knowledge about his eulogy values. Those are the virtues he lived in relationship with us.
So what did those virtues look like?
When the Barneys moved to Spokane in 1999, they wanted to be closer to their alma mater. Good luck to any of us attempting to match their service to Whitworth. Dick was the liaison for theater ticket sales and for Christmas concert tickets, which he also did while living in Seattle; he was available for any request from the alumni office—making calls to attendees, sitting at a registration desk, helping with class reunions; serving on the Crimson Club board, and for years as its president. Dick and Mary Ann traveled as well with the Core 650 programs to China and London. Tad Wisenor said that Dick was a pillar of support for Whitworth; and Whitworth was also a pillar of support for Dick. That interdependence was a beautiful thing.
Before the Barneys moved to Spokane, Whitworth had two Alumni Ideals awards. After the Barneys moved to Spokane, we saw the need for two more—one of which was the "Alumni Service to Whitworth Award." Dick and Mary Ann were the first recipients in 2002, and rightly so.
The breadth of their generosity has been astounding. Athletics teams, theater, music, student scholarships, the Whitworth fund, the library, technology needs, the campus grounds—Dick and Mary Ann have made sustaining gifts to 44 different campus areas or groups or teams.
Helen Higgs shared that her first thought of Dick is of his generosity—his time, his resources, his encouragement. He often stopped by the office to express his appreciation for her or for the team's hard work. In fact, Dick watched more practices than anyone else watched actual games. He never tried to be the center of attention, but somehow he drew people to him.
Warren Friedrichs and Steve Flegel shared similar themes—that it was a treat to have Dick stop by the office and talk Whitworth athletics, and even provide a scouting report of our teams, which always seemed to be generous. He always made it a point to ask about family and children, and to offer his support in any way it could be used. This is the point where it would probably be appropriate to apologize to Mary Ann for all of those 4 am alarm buzzers going off in your master bedroom. That alarm signaled that Dick was up and at ‘em, out the door, and taking a coach or a team to the airport. It was his way of saving them gas money, or parking charges, or the hassle of driving themselves. And the annual barbecue Dick hosted between softball doubleheaders was special for everyone. Dick fed the Whitworth team, their parents, and fans . . . and he invited the visiting team, their parents, and their fans. At the end of the day, Dick would smile and laugh and say, "We fed 250 people today." The more, the better.
Celebrations of life afford us the opportunity to reflect and take note of a life well-lived. As we celebrate and honor Dick Barney, what might we take from having observed and interacted with this dear man. What are those virtues that Dick modeled that would cause to us to say it wouldn't be a bad idea to have a bit more Dick Barney in me.
Presence: So many people were the recipient of Dick's presence at their events. Simply by being present, so many of us were provided the message that we had value, that what we were doing had value. We were appreciated. We were known. That message was sent through Dick's presence even when he didn't say a word.
Friendship: When a retired couple moves to a new city in their golden years, their social circle is supposed to shrink. It should be pretty small. It's not supposed to expand. The attendance here today offers a different testimony. Dick and Mary Ann returned to their alma mater, cast their net of friendship, and reeled us all in.
Marriage: Dick adored Mary Ann, and we all knew it and saw it. Partnership on display.
Encouragement: With a capital "T" for the word "today," the book of Hebrews tells us to "Encourage one another as long as it is ‘Today.'" It is always today. Every day that he set foot on campus, Dick encouraged someone.
Service: Dick was other-centered. His use of the pronoun "you" far surpassed his use of the pronoun "I."
Faith: Martin Luther once said that one of the very best things we can do is to "Take Jesus at his word." That is, to give one's life to a God who promises to love, and to restore, and to redeem; a God who will never leave us or forsake us; who will never walk away; who calls us into relationship with him. Dick Barney did that. He took Jesus at His word.
In the Quaker tradition, they use the expression "luminous trail" to illustrate the Holy Spirit-filled life. The Holy Spirit-filled life, this light within, leaves a luminous, illuminated, lighted trail that marks the course of our lives. It's a trail that gives evidence of a life of faith and ministry. Other lives intersect with this luminous trail, and can then be affected for good simply for having crossed paths. That is true for the Whitworth community, as individuals and in the whole. By God's grace, Dick Barney chose to be among us – to offer his presence, his friendship, his loyalty, his service, a model of a Holy Spirit filled life. To our good fortune, his path crossed ours. We came across his luminous trail. And we have been affected for good. Knowing him was easy. And the high reward and good time was ours.