On November 11, 2022 our friend, Tom Barr will shut down his computer for the last time as editor of the Wilmington News Journal. After serving eight years leading our local newspaper, he is retiring.
Brenda and I met Tom and his wife, Krista, after they moved here in 2017. They were excited to make Wilmington their home.
Tom is a newspaper man. He graduated from Mason High School and went to college at Miami University, where he majored in English and Journalism.
During the golden years of the newspaper business, Tom served 17 years with Brown Publishing and Cox Ohio based in Lebanon as editor of The Western Star in Lebanon, one of the most respected newspapers in the area, while serving as executive editor over several other local papers.
I have always enjoyed Tom’s sense of humor. Often, when I sent him my columns, he had something amusing to say about them, but he was always most gracious and complimentary of my writings.
After reading one of my columns that was “well under par,” he quipped, “I’ve already given your weekly column-writing stipend to Randy Riley.”
Tom wasn’t above a bit of sarcasm now and then. “Thank you, Pat! I’m glad I won’t be here tomorrow when citizens storm the newspaper with torches and pitchforks because your column didn’t run on Wednesday!” he wrote.
Yet, he touched my heart one day when he told me he had submitted four of my columns as entries for the annual AP Ohio awards. “As you might imagine,” he said, “the competition is stiff, but your columns are right there with the best of them.”
Not too many years ago, I wrote an article for the Wilmington News Journal about a game our family played occasionally. It’s a little game you can play with about any family member or friend, old or new.
A friend introduced me to the game with these words: “Maybe the next time you go to lunch with someone or find yourself on a lengthy road trip or just sitting around drinking coffee and lying to one another, you can enjoy this game. “Tell me three things about yourself that most people don’t know.”
To kick off the conversation, my friend told me three things that might be unknown about him.
1. “I seldom eat breakfast.”
2. “I have a drawer full of old watches I can’t bring myself to throw away.”
3. “And I kiss my dog on the top of her head many times every day.”
I joined in the fun and describing three things most people don’t know about me.
1. I belong to the Andy Griffith Rerun Watchers Club, “Just Arch Your Back and Purr.”
2. In 1967, I predicted “My Way” would not be a hit for Frank Sinatra because I felt it was out of his vocal range.
3. And, I have never eaten a piece of pie in my life.
I have wanted to play this game with Tom, but never had the opportunity to sit down with him to do it.
So, I did what any good newspaper person might do. I checked my notes.
1. Tom is an expert on the career of former Cincinnati Red Tony Perez.
2. He played the lottery every week when he worked in Lebanon and joined a lottery pool with about 30 others. Twice they hit five numbers, winning about $1,000 total each time.
3. His dad, Joe Barr, was a war hero, landing at Omaha Beach. Joe Barr American Legion Post 194 in Mason, Ohio is named for his dad.
It is fitting that Tom’s last day of work is this Veterans Day.
How does one say goodbye to something that was such a large and significant part of one’s life? One cannot. One can simply take all the wonderful memories — cherish them and keep them close to the heart. And with a breath of kindness, gently blow the others away.
We wish Tom the best of luck as he turns this page into a new chapter of his storied life.
Pat Haley is a Clinton County native and former county commissioner and sheriff.