Geneva Remembers: John Barton, 1941-2012

Part 4 of a multipart series in memoriam of the many amazing people Geneva lost in 2012.

  • Part 4 of a multipart series: John Barton's character and coaching is fondly remembered by so many Genevans.


It's probably not socially appropriate to consider "the best wake ever," but as I said in an earlier article, John Barton's visitation at Malone Funeral Home earlier this year would be right at the top of my list. It's just the way I think we should remember the lives the people we've lost—with love and affection, joy and reflection, testimonials and funny stories.

A good life is something to be celebrated—and John Barton led one worthy of the loudest cheers.

There's not much I can add to the excellent stories written about John by my friend, Kurt Wehrmeister: John Barton: The Coach Who Cared So Much and Coach John Barton's Fire Puts Him in GHS Hall of Fame. Read them and enjoy.

And I wish I had videotaped all the stories told by family members, friends and Geneva High School grads John taught and coached. Many were touching, many were flat out hilarious—all were told with the same kind of heart that made John Barton such a special guy.

John was, believe it or not, my golf coach during my junior year at Geneva High School. I wasn't much of a golfer—then or now—but I scraped it around well enough to make the team. John didn't know a lot about coaching golf, but I'm pretty sure he knew that the ingredients of my game were sheer luck and force of will—not natural talent.

He called me a competitor, and I'll never forget that. Because John Barton calling you a competitor was like Michael Jordan calling you a basketball player. It was the highest compliment because it came from a man who embodied the word.

Later, I had the privilege of covering Geneva basketball when Barton was coaching. His teams didn't always have the most talent, but his players—to a man—played with passion and put every ounce of energy they had on the hardwood. "Work!" and "Board!" were two words his players heard over and over again, and they were emblematic of the fundamentals Barton taught and the ethic he exemplified.

I was there when John made the hard decision to retire from coaching, and while I knew I would miss covering the games he coached, I also knew it was the right thing to do. His health was on the line, and there was no way he could do anything but give 100 percent to every practice, every game, every challenge.

I think the original headline of Kurt's article was "the coach who cared too much," but I changed it to "the coach who cared so much," because I didn't want that qualifier to suggest that caring should have its limits. Like love, John Barton's caring was infinite—and one more reason to celebrate a life well-lived.


Rick Nagel
Geneva Patch editor
Dec. 26, 2012




Related Articles

  • Geneva Community Remembers Coach John Barton
  • Beloved Geneva Coach John Barton Dies at 71
  • John Barton: The Coach Who Cared So Much
  • Coach John Barton's Fire Puts Him in GHS Hall of Fame
  • 3 Beloved Coaches To Be Named to GHS Athletic Hall of Fame Jan. 22
  • Class of '75 Reunion is a Busload of Fun


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