Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Remembering Uncle Barney

Uncle Barney with his sons at the 2010 family reunion
I am thinking about my Uncle Barney tonight; he passed away this week at the age of 86. Barney (actually Bernard) Connelly was my father's younger brother and the last of that generation of my father's side of the family. He was our patriarch, a man with a beautiful singing voice and brilliant mind, a man who became a chemist, later owned a Radio Shack store and moved on to learn about and install computers before most of us realized the electronic age was upon us.

Barney was still in high school when my father shipped out to England during World War II. He was still living at home when my mother, a young bride, came from England to live with my grandparents in the first years of her marriage. Barney was her friend, someone her age she could talk to, and she loved his company and later that of his girlfriend and eventually wife, Georgette.

My father and his siblings grew up in New Orleans, and Dad had many stories of their time in that city--tales of camping trips, of swimming in rivers where they sometimes saw cottonmouths, of catching eels and going on banana boats. The above photo was taken during those years. (From top left and clockwise: Uncle Bud, Dad, Grandma, Aunt Ellen, Uncle Barney and Uncle Cincy.)

Uncle Barney with his mother (my grandmother) on top of what I think is Cranny Crow, a mountain in Lost River State Park, WV, where we now have our family reunions. My grandparents visited the park regularly in the 1940's and 50's, and Uncle Barney and Aunt Georgette honeymooned there.

I remember my uncle telling me about one time when he was home from college, I think, and helping my Dad put an addition on the tiny house we lived in then in Centreville, VA. Dad and Uncle Barney were up on the roof when they heard a little voice say "Hi, Daddy." They looked around and there I was at the top of the ladder--and I was only a year and a half old.

Barney was the one who nicknamed me "Bunky." I never knew where the name came from and he was the only one to call me that; I remember how delighted I was to hear him calling me whenever he came to see us. We looked forward to his visits because he usually brought with him his young and growing family of mainly boy cousins. We'd mess with our chemistry set, play cowboys and Indians and have the very best time. After my uncle moved to West Virginia we saw them less often but looked forward to every visit because we knew our house would be filled with laughter and even more noise than usual.

My uncle loved jokes. He often called my father just to share a good one, and Dad usually had one to share back. In the days of typewriters my Dad's family would type jokes and mail them to each other.

Uncle Barney was quite a storyteller, a lover of jokes and riddles, a man with a gentle smile and loving eyes. His health deteriorated slowly over the last few years, and while we knew he was not well, it seems one is never prepared when the time to say goodbye suddenly arrives.

We will surely miss him.

Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.


momalizzie said...

A beautiful tribute, Sue.

Mac n' Janet said...

Lovely memories, sounds like he had a long, full life.

JJM said...

A lovely, and loving, tribute.

And I might have an explanation for "Bunky": that was one of the characters in a "topper" strip (a "topper" strip is sort of a "guest star" in a comic strip series) to the old Barney Google & Snuffy Smith strip. The precociously intelligent and educated baby. Your Uncle Barney would almost undoubtedly have read the strip, it was quite popular. (Indeed, the Barney Google strip still exists, although taken over by subsidiary character Snuffy.)


Sue said...

Clearly, he will be remembered with much love by his family. And what more could any of us ask?

Sorry for your loss. Glad for the man he was in your life.


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