Colonel Marion “Barney” Barnwell, a longtime resident and community activist in the Mount Vernon District, passed suddenly last week and will be missed by the many people that he connected with and whose lives he touched.
I was incredibly saddened to learn of Barney’s passing. Our community has lost a considerate, kind and true gentleman. Barney was one of the best and finest among us, one that I am deeply honored to have known and had the pleasure to work with for many years. His long and deep history of community involvement, volunteering at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital and service on the Fairfax County Human Services Council (to his last day) were well known, greatly valued and appreciated by all of us.
Barney was a pillar in our community, volunteering at Inova Mount Vernon Hospital in the Joint Replacement Division, where he has also served as Past President of the Auxiliary Board and as Parliamentarian. For over thirty years, Barney volunteered with Rebuilding Together, formerly Christmas in April; and at Fort Belvoir’s Main Chapel, as a Sunday school teacher and usher. He also volunteered with the Capital Area Food Bank for over twenty years, and with New Hope Housing, where he served as a Board Member, Treasurer and Trustee. Barney has continued to serve on the Fairfax County Human Services Council since 2003. He was a member of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. for over 60 years and was the Third District Representative (VA and DC Area) for four years.
Former Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland said: “What sad news — a more wonderful spirit would be hard to find. Such an unselfish person who showed his love for everyone in so many ways. Years ago, I appointed Colonel Barney to the Fairfax County Human Services Council where he served Mount Vernon conscientiously for many years. At Mount Vernon Hospital he was an extraordinary volunteer who always wore his heart on his sleeve and had a perpetual smile for every person he met. He was one of the gentlest and kindest persons I ever met. I will sorely miss him.”
In 2018, Barney was recognized as Lord Fairfax for his love of and dedication to our community. Barney had a “pay it forward” mentality every single day of his life. One example of this was the day he came into our office and said, “Every day I buy someone lunch, today it is your day,” smiling and handing one of our staffers lunch money. Wherever Barney volunteered, he put people at ease with his familiar smile and kind face. His passion for helping others was unequivocal and inspiring. Barney’s beloved wife of many years, Jimmi, was a constant companion by his side, especially in later years.
Community leaders and selfless volunteers like Barney Barnwell are hard to come by and his passing has left an irreplaceable hole in our hearts and community. If you want to know more about Barney, see this 2018 Old Town Crier article highlighting his commitment to service and community: https://oldtowncrier.com/2017/11/01/barney-barnwell-is-passin-it-on/.