My friend Barney Watson passed away in the morning hours of Feb 18, 2023. He’d just turned 80 years old. His brother Rex, and Rex’s wife Tana were with him, along with Barney’s best friend, Roger Meinershagen. Barney is survived by his wife, Claudia.
My path to meeting Barney was a bit odd. It began in 2017 at Mototire, a shop specializing in motorcycle tires near my home. You had to be a real motorcycle person to know about Mototire. They did not advertise and you only ever found them by word of mouth. They were good, knew everything, and had fair prices. Waiting for them to switch tires on my rims one afternoon, I chatted with another customer. He knew all the best AZ motorcycle roads – even better than I did. He mentioned he’d written a book on motorcycling in Arizona and gave me his card. I read the name: Frank Del Monte. “Hey, I used to know a guy named Frank Del Monte years ago. He rented bikes to me and my friends. Strange guy – we called him the “Motorcycle Rental Nazi,” because he reminded us of the “soup Nazi” on the TV show Seinfeld.” The guy grins back and says, “Yep, that’s me.” Soon he’d invited me to join him and some of his fellow British motorcycle aficionados for lunch at Bobby D’s – which is where I met Brian E. Watson, alias Barney.
I came to know Barney as a soft and gentle soul, who cared most in life for his friends and spending time with them. He was the first one to arrive at every Bobby D’s lunch. His friends were the most important thing in his life, but he also loved beer (Moosehead for some reason) and the FOX TV Channel. Schemes to “own the Libs,” a group of which he justifiably assumed I was a member, always delighted him. Besides Bobby D’s he spent even more time with his friends at The Lifeboat Coffee shop — John, Doug, Padre Dennis, Greg, Bill Stahl, Tara (who’d braid his hair), and many others. A few weeks ago Barney fell and broke his shoulder, putting him in the hospital. Electrolyte balancing issues came to the front, then breathing became nearly impossible when pneumonia attacked. Barney just couldn’t fight anymore.
Barney’s passing comes at an auspicious time for me and others my age. We’re in our 70s and some of us are beginning the 80s decade. It bugs the hell out of us to have friends like Barney pass. Our own eventual demise unceremoniously thrusts itself into our consciousness. We find ourselves looking back at the expanse of our existence: those we’ve loved (and there are so many) and the far smaller number of those we dislike, trips we’ve taken and places we’ve been, the art we’re only now beginning to understand, the music still playing between our ears at the mere mention of a familiar singer or band, the families we started and see ever-expanding, cars, and motorcycles we’ve owned and their accumulated history, books we’ve read and wondered at for years and many others dissolved from our memory in weeks, movies which caused us to beg friends to watch and, tools we learned to love and hate. Where does all of this go when we are gone? Clues provided by those who’ve left before are not encouraging. As one mentor put it to me – “Want to see your impact after you leave the organization? Next time you get out of your pool, turn around and see the hole you left in the water.” Our spouse, old lovers, roommates, family, and friends are going to miss us but, hopefully, do just fine without us. The best we can hope for is that knowing and loving us has made going on easier, and not harder. Barney’s brother Rex read a poem at a gathering of Barney’s coffee friends at the Lifeboat Coffee Shop bringing it all home:
Miss Me – But Let Me Go
When I come to the end of the road
And the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in a gloom-filled room,
Why cry for a soul set free!
Miss me a little – but not for long
And not with your head bowed low.
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me, but let me go.
For this journey that we all must take
And each must go along;
it’s all a part of the Master’s plan
A step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart
Go to the friends we know,
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds.
Miss me, but let me go.
Edgar Albert Guest (1881 – 1959)
Rest in Peace, my dear friend. (Photos with fond memories, below)
Barney was a kind and sensible brother. He was my big brother and I looked up to him. Although not mentioned in his memorial, my wife and I were very much a part of his life up to my wife taking ill making current visits impossible. My last physical visit was in October 2022, but we visited several times a week on the phone including the day before he passed. I loved him. He left a hole in my heart.