Nearly old but not quite there yet

Like most of us busily generating, Johnny Barnes continues his commitment of morning meet and greets at the round-a-bout near where Crow Lane Bakery was. As I was reviewing Facebook just before Christmas, I glimpsed some guy whining about the ‘grumpy old man’. Judgments aren’t always easy to deal with. I tried opening the thread to possible scenarios that might make J. Barnes initially seem unapproachable…A few jokes exchanged and it seemed like the thread became a little more understanding.

This sparked my interest in J.Barnes, so I looked for more information about him. Wikipedia was, unfortunately, the first source to pop up. Nevertheless, I noticed that his birthday was stated to be June 23, 1924. I immediately thought it would be cool to throw a party for his 90th in 2014.

So, sometime in mid-January, I figured I’d get to know him a little more and find out if anyone else had approached him about his big upcoming birthday. After spending only a few minutes with him at his spot down on the round-a-bout, I found that his 90th birthday is in fact this year! I said to him, ‘The website said it was next year.’ He said, ‘Well, you can change it.’

I was amazed when he said that. How did he know that I could change the information on the website that I was referencing? I doubted his computer literacy and his memory. I contacted the official government records to double check and make sure Johnny Barnes was true.  Everything checked out to indeed prove that he'll turn 90 in 2013. Here I was thinking that I had plenty of time to plan and co-ordinate a party for the guy, but the months are rolling by. June will be here before we know it.


Here I was thinking I had plenty of time to plan and co-ordinate a party for the guy... Months are rolling by. June will be here before we know it.

After talking more with J.B. he confessed his sensitivity to being inside large buildings. He gets faint and weary. So my initial plans to host a 6 course gala event was shot.

So far, I've submitted J.B's nomination for the Queen's Certificate & Badge of Honor. It required a comprehensive but succinct description of why the candidate is worthy of such an award in 250 words or less. Here's what I submitted:

'A charismatic and symbolic ambassador of Bermudian hospitality and culture, Mr. John James Adolphus Mills, born June 23, 1923 is reigning in his 90th Birthday this year 2013. As much of the island's populous focus in on the rush of life's trends, business and societal grievances,  John Mills known as Johnny Barnes remains a consistent beacon of light and joy for the community to embrace.

His dedication to spreading love across the nation started almost 3 decades ago. This unpaid, faithful gesture has become world renown along with a few other distinctively Bermudian features such as our pink sandy beaches and the myth of the Bermuda Triangle. Johnny Barnes, an iconic representation of Bermudian tourism, island culture and authenticity, deserves to be rewarded with generous honor.

Crowned Mr. Happy Man by award winning production Matt Morris Films, the humble humanitarian dedicates at least 25 hours per week to meeting and greeting early morning commuters, bestowing a little love upon them to get them through the day. Many locals and visitors have inspirational stories of interactions with J. Barnes and how his presence encouraged them to be better.

The enchanting character keeps his message simple by honing in on expressing the importance of kindness, courtesy, compassion and spirituality. Expressing his mantra with smiles and waving, his cheerfulness is contagious.

If nothing else, this token of respect and acknowledgement is most worthy for this captivating creature of love’


I’ve contacted the Dept. of Tourism’s, Tashae’ Thompson in hope that she would be able to help pull things together in time for this grand opportunity. I’ll see what happens… I’ve emailed her a couple of times to follow up on the idea that was pitched to her on 21/2/13. We need to start planning now to ensure a smooth successful event.
Not long after our initial meeting, I spotted him in a grocery last week. I crept beside him as he was picking over a pile of packaged nuts. I initially wanted to yell ‘I LOVE YOU!’ but I figured it wasn’t worth humoring myself, and that I’d save him any discomfort. As he continued to gaze at the tree nuts, I removed my shades and gently voiced, ‘I love you!’

He looked up at me and seemed a little surprised with his crinkled eyebrows and furrowed forehead. Once he realized it was me, he smiled and said ‘Oh, I love you too you know!’

Fast forwarding to today, I was invited to his house for loquat picking. ‘You like loquats?’ He said sometime last week… How could I resist such an experience? After more chit chat today during our brief but meaningful encounter, I found out that he’s been vegan for ’25-30 years’. He was raised on goats and their bi-products, but he said that one day while he was driving the bus he noticed bumps on his arms rising through his skin. Dr. Outerbridge ‘He’s dead now’, recommended he get off the dairy and meat.’So that’s what I did,’ J. Barnes said.

J. Barnes admits to ingesting dairy again and having the same reaction but ‘Ever since that, I’ve just left it alone’.  After nearly 45 minutes together, I had to get going to attend to other commitments and he too had his rituals to attend. ‘When will I see you again?’ he asked.

I told him he could call me anytime. Displeased with that answer, he walked me over to his pile of bananas that were picked and soaking in a tub of water ‘to get the dirt off them’. ‘I’m gonna clean these up later today. If you like, you can come and get some from me tomorrow.’

My hero.

I’ll see him in a few hours down at his post…I’ll wake up extra early to sit off with him before I make my way into Bermy Cuisine to make the coffee.

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