Wallace "Wally" Barnes
The Barnes family mourns the passing of Wallace Barnes, known to many as Wally, who died peacefully on December 10, 2020, in Washington, D.C.
Wally was a modern-day Renaissance man. In his 94 years, Wally created a soaring legacy as an outstanding business leader -- he was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Barnes Group, Inc. -- elected official, pilot, civic leader, adventurer, and philanthropist. Despite his many accomplishments, he never lost his common touch throughout his long life. Friends and family remember his keen intelligence, high ethical standards, dedication to public service, along with a wonderful sense of humor.
Wally's biggest source of pride and joy was his family -- his wife Barbara, whom he adored, his son Tom Barnes and wife Melanie, his daughter Jarre Betts and husband Whit, six grandchildren, and 15 great-grandchildren. He loved them, and they loved him right back. He and Barbara celebrated their 34th wedding anniversary just days before his passing.
Wally was passionate about flying. He had earned a pilot's license as a teenager even before he had a driver's license. He was type rated in Citations and Lears and had an Air Transport Pilot Rating. Most recently, he flew a Beech Bonanza with a turbine engine, call letters N94WW. Wally and Barbara's Bristol, Connecticut home, Sky Bight, had a hangar for the plane within it, and Wally's landing strip was nearby. He flew throughout North America, South America, and Europe and often spirited his family away for vacations and quick excursions. Flying three of his grandchildren to Greenland was especially exciting, and flying across the Atlantic Ocean with his daughter Jarre. In 2012 his flying excellence was recognized by Federal Aviation Administration, which gave him their prestigious Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award for safely flying for 70 years. He thought being a pilot was his highest skill.
Wally was born on March 22, 1926, and grew up in Bristol, Connecticut, to Lillian (née Houbertz) and Harry Clarke Barnes. He was named after his grandfather Wallace Barnes, the founder of the Barnes Group in 1857, and was a direct descendant of Ebenezer Barnes, who became the first permanent settler of Bristol in 1728.
He was an excellent student, attended Bristol public schools, was an Eagle Scout, and graduated from Deerfield Academy in 1944. Immediately after graduation, with World War II raging, he enlisted in the Army and served in the Army Air Corps until the end of that conflict. He then entered Williams College where he graduated Phi Beta Kappa, cum laude, in 1949 and was the Commencement speaker. From there he entered Yale Law School, graduated with an L.L. B degree in 1952, and was a member of the Yale Law Journal editorial board.
After law school, Wally returned to Bristol and worked as a partner in Beach, Calder & Barnes in Bristol for a decade. In 1963 he joined Associated Spring Corporation, which became Barnes Group, Inc, and in 1977 became Chairman and CEO of the company. Under his leadership, the company went global and made strategic improvements that positioned the company for the success and growth it continues to enjoy today. He retired as CEO in 1991, continuing as Chairman until 1996. We think the company's founder, the first Wallace Barnes, would be proud of his namesake. Barnes Group has been a publicly traded company on the New York Stock Exchange for 57 years. Wally's son, Tom Barnes, is the board's current Chairman, and his grandson, Eli Barnes, is a board member.
Wally was a director of more than twenty companies and groups. Notably, in 1971, he joined the board of directors of Aetna Life and Casualty. In 1979, Barbara Hackman Franklin joined that board. She and Wally served together for years and then married in 1986 after a two-year courtship. Both have said, "It was not love at first sight. We first became colleagues and friends and had high regard for each other." In the following years, they commuted between homes in Bristol and Washington, traveled the world, and maintained a network of friends across the globe. Barbara served as U.S. Secretary of Commerce under President George H.W. Bush.
Other boards included: Rohr, Inc., San Diego, CA, where Wally served as Chairman (1994-1998), Loctite Corporation, the Rogers Corporation, the Insilco Corporation, and Tradewinds Turbine Corporation.
Among his many civic and philanthropic endeavors, Wally was appointed by the governor in 1998 and served as chair for a decade of the Connecticut Employment and Training Commission (CETC), which developed worker training programs to help people get jobs in new and existing industries. A federal program, the CETC received plaudits for its work and accomplishments. He was Board of Regents Chairman of the University of Hartford, where he received an Honorary Degree, a founder of the National Conference for Community and Justice, chair of the Metro Hartford Chamber of Commerce and the Connecticut Business & Industry Association, and a long-time board member of the Boys and Girls Club of Bristol, among many others.
Alongside his illustrious business career, Wally was committed to public service. His first foray into politics was a race for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1955 against incumbent Thomas Dodd. He lost that campaign but was subsequently elected to and served 12 years in the Connecticut State Senate. As Minority Leader in 1979, one incident is memorable. Believing the Democratic majority was mistreating the minority, Wally pounded his shoe on the chamber's podium to make his point, much as Russian leader Nikita Khrushchev had done at the United Nations. In a sign of support, the next day, a flood of shoes arrived on the Capitol lawn. He was also a Connecticut gubernatorial candidate in 1970, running in the first statewide primary.
Wally continued to be heavily involved in state and national politics for many years. He was a delegate to eight national conventions, and political leaders from across the aisle sought his advice on a range of topics. His first convention as a delegate was 1956 in San Francisco, which re-nominated Dwight Eisenhower. He remembered sitting on a windowsill in a sweltering room in a hotel, attempting to cool down. The 1956 nominating process was in the days of selecting presidential candidates in actual smoke-filled rooms.
Along with all his other activities, Wally had an adventurous side. He did yearly white water canoe trips with several friends, running rivers not even mapped in the Canadian Arctic. Wally was a black-diamond skier and loved skiing with his grandchildren, plus was a mountain climber and a sailor. He and Barbara sailed up and down much of the East Coast between the Chesapeake Bay and Canada. At age 77, he did an Outward Bound excursion in the Rocky Mountains with the Harford Chapter of the American Leadership Forum and received a "Geezer" award for completing it.
Wally received numerous awards during his lifetime, including the Jaycees honoring him as the "Outstanding Young Man of the Year." In 1967, the Boys Club of America gave Wally the "Keystone Award," which recognizes leadership and service. In 2008, the Tunxis Community College in Farmington, Connecticut, named their new art exhibition facility The Wallace Barnes and Barbara Hackman Franklin Art Gallery. In 2018 the Bristol Boys and Girls Club honored him with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
Wally is predeceased by his father, Harry C. Barnes and his mother Lillian H. Barnes and his siblings Oliver Barnes, Edith Mulligan, Harry F. Barnes, Nancy Deyfeter, and his first wife, Audrey Mink.
In addition to his wife Barbara Hackman Franklin, Wally is survived by his son Thomas O. Barnes, Sr. and his wife Melanie, his daughter Jarre Barnes Betts and her husband Whit, all of Bristol, Connecticut. He has six grandchildren, Tom Barnes, Jr. and his wife Emily, Joshua Barnes and his wife Emily, Lindsay Wilcox and her husband Max, and Elijah Barnes and his wife Amory, Amy Betts, Drew Betts and his wife, Amanda. His great-grandchildren Lilly, Anna, Aubrey, Toby, Ashley, Ethan, Oliver, Hadley, Maggie, Parker, Ella, Morgan, Maya, and Zachary. He was predeceased by another great-grandchild Kai.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions, a private funeral for the family will be held, with a public memorial service later.
To honor Wally's life of public service, adventure, leadership, and generosity, please consider donating in his name to the Wally Barnes Fund for Community Leadership Initiatives at the Main Street Community Foundation. Checks should be made out to the Main Street Community Foundation and sent to 120 Halcyon Drive, P.O. Box 2702, Bristol CT 06011-2702.
Funk Funeral Home, 35 Bellevue Ave., Bristol, is honored to serve the family. Please visit Wally's memorial web-site at www.FunkFuneralHome.com