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    Colorful veteran George Barnes’ last words were “Don’t give up the ship”

    May 04, 2015
    By: Jack Strickland

    George Elmer Barnes passed away peacefully on March 26, 2015, at the E.T. York Hospice Care Center at Gainesville, Florida. He endured an extended illness caused by chronic heart disease.

    The seasoned navy veteran went out in colorful naval style. He popped a smart navy salute, said “Don’t give up the ship!”, and drifted off into a permanent sleep as his ship of life sailed off into the sunset en route to eternity. He was 64.

    The colorful life of George Barnes was shaped by his 30 years in the U.S. Navy. He served with distinction at the Pentagon and on several ships. His riveting tales of experiences on the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal are memories that are cherished by his friends and fans.

    He was born on June 8, 1950 at Hillsboro, Ohio. He was the middle child of five children in his family. When he was five a breakup between his parents caused him and his brothers and sisters to be sent to an orphanage. They bounced around children’s homes and foster care until he was eight. At that time they were separated and George was placed in a foster home on a dairy farm where he was a source of cheap labor. He loved the farm with it’s hard work. He stayed there until he was old enough to join the navy.

    George was predeceased by the love of his life, Mitabe “Martie” Barnes. They met in Virginia while he was stationed at Norfolk. They were married 26 years. Martie remained the rudder on his ship of life until he died.

    The study of history fascinated George. He was a trivia buff with a steel trap mind. He loved television game shows and usually knew the answers to questions that stumped the contestants. He was addicted to classic television shows that included The Andy Griffin Show, MASH, Hogan’s Heroes, Gunsmoke, Bonanza, and most old westerns. Until the end, George’s infectious laughter delighted those around him as he viewed the old shows he has seen dozens of times.

    George attended Westside Baptist Church in Gainesville. He treasured the friendships and fellowship he enjoyed there. He adored small children and dogs and they loved him. They flocked to him and enjoyed his company and entertainment whenever he came around. Three year old Jordan Thomas was his “Hero” at the time of his death. From Jordan he found love,  joy, entertainment, inspiration, and courage as he faced end of life challenges.

    A large pit bulldog name Kilo hovered around George during the last weeks of his life. When George was moved to a more advanced care setting Kilo ran away from home. George’s friends are absolutely sure Kilo is out there somewhere searching for George.

    George’s final weeks were made comfortable by the kind and compassionate care of Haven Hospice. He formed a special bond with Ana, Jan, Tiffany, Joanna, and Pat. He treasured them and appreciated their excellent care and good work.

    A treasured friend and mentor was his banker, Ryan Grady, who provided stability and wisdom in the old sailor’s sometimes hectic life. One of George’s last wishes was that Ryan and his wife be treated to an elegant steak dinner at George’s expense as a token of his appreciation.

    George qualified for burial with military honors at Arlington National Cemetery. That was his second choice. His first choice was for his remains to be placed in Florida near those of the ones he loved and cherished. 

    Several friends and fellow veterans spoke at a memorial service in his honor. He was remembered as a true patriot who served his beloved country with dedication. A parade of speakers shared memories of his compassion and concern for the welfare of all those around him. A common thread running through their testimony was accounts of a life well lived by a sailor who did it his way. His fellow veterans said it is typical of George and is appropriate that his last words were, “Don’t give up the ship!”