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My Turn

December 21, 2009

My Turn: Fire chief was never 'off duty'


What the people of Oneonta rarely got to see was the Bobby who was "on duty" at all times. Not only here, where it would have been expected for him to aid a fellow parishioner in church or stop at a traffic accident to make sure everyone is OK.

But on every vacation, every weekend away, every person within his sight was part of his moral obligation as an emergency responder.

There are dozens of examples through the years "¦ the fishhook in the little boy's ear on the Florida pier, the car fire on the thruway that he put out (much to the amazement of the state trooper), the elderly woman on the tour in Gettysburg having chest pains. (To disguise the fact he was taking her pulse, he told her he just wanted to hold her hand.)

I can't count the times we have turned around "just to make sure" that the fallen ladder or the open car door or odd glow in a house wasn't a sign of trouble for a complete stranger.

A friend of ours who works in advertising once said, "If you called Central Casting and said Send me a fire chief,' they would send you Bob Barnes." He is that classic American hero.

On behalf of Eric, Angela and David Barnes, we were proud to share him with you for all these years. I have no illusions that he will stop going out of his way to assist people, known and unknown, who are in distress.

Quite the contrary, this retirement means Bobby can move on to new and expanded ways to use his talents to benefit more of our region and state. But 36 years is a long time to wake every morning with the safety of the entire community on your shoulders.

I love you, Bobby. And chief or not, you will always be my hero.

To write for "My turn," contact Daily Star Publisher Tanya Shalor at or 432-1000, ext. 214.

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