Three Village Residents Remember Hap Barnes

Three Village Residents Remember Hap Barnes

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Hap Barnes, standing, with friends in a 2007 The Village Times Herald photo. File photo

Harold J. Barnes, better known as Hap, died July 8 from complications of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. He was 84 years old.

“Our community has lost an icon.”

— Robert Reuter

Barnes was a long-serving trustee of Frank Melville Memorial Foundation and for many years was building and grounds manager of Frank Melville Memorial Park where he oversaw all maintenance and improvement projects.

“Our community has lost an icon,” said FMMF president Robert Reuter.

The foundation president shared fond memories of the park manager.

“Nothing made Hap Barnes happier than discovering otters in the park or wood ducks checking out nesting boxes he provided,” Reuter said. “Hap was an ardent conservationist, a skilled craftsman who made split bamboo fly rods, and to regular visitors, a friend and the familiar face of Frank Melville Park. Proud, but humble and soft spoken, Hap quietly and effectively managed the park and its myriad tasks as if his own. Turtle caught in the mill wheel? He knew how to safely free the turtle and the wheel.”

Three Village Historical Society historian, Beverly Tyler, knew Barnes since at least the 1970s, and in the past worked with him on
the park.

“Hap maintained a daily, sometimes hourly presence in the park and the sanctuary as well,” Tyler said. “There was no one who was more dedicated to the park and its use and preservation, yet Hap always had a low-key presence with a no-nonsense attitude as well. I will especially miss his calm and reasoned approach to every subject we discussed, especially when I was president of the park. I didn’t always agree with Hap but his counsel was always appreciated and often the best way to go.”

There was no one who was more dedicated to the park and its use and preservation, yet Hap always had a low-key presence with a no-nonsense attitude as well.”

— Beverly Tyler

Town of Brookhaven historian, Barbara Russell, remembered him fondly. She and Barnes started on the FMMF board at the same time.

“We grew to understand the Melville gift of the park together,” she said. “Whenever we met, I was greeted with that shy smile and ‘How ya doin’?’ I especially loved the times someone would walk by us and tell Hap a type of bird or duck they had spotted. He was always interested but rarely surprised as his eye was sharp. I feel I am one of many who will miss his presence in the Three Villages.”

According to a post on the Three Village Historical Society website, Barnes was also involved with the society and took on the responsibility of building and grounds when the society acquired the Bayles-Swezey House.

“We could always rely on him whether it was a large or small project or repair,” the post read. “He always made sure that the electric candles were placed in all the windows of the society’s history center and that a lit tree graced the field for the holidays.”

The society remembered him, too, for helping with traffic and various tasks at events. He also led community parades with his vintage cars. In 2000, he received the society’s Gayle Becher Memorial Award which honors volunteers whose work consists of repeated and regular loyal support.

In a Sept. 13, 2007, Village Times Herald article, Barnes spoke of his admiration of the area.

“We are very lucky to have the Three Village area,” he said. “If we didn’t have this I don’t think I would be on the Island anymore.”

Barnes is survived by his wife, Cynthia, five children, 12 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A memorial service is planned to be held in the Frank Melville Memorial Park in early September.

An extended obituary with more of Barnes’ accomplishments will be published in a future issue of The Village Times Herald.