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Remembering Jimmy
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Jimmy and Paula Barnes have three children. Pictured, from left, are Rebecca Walker, Jimmy, Jennifer Mu, Paula, and Jimmy Barnes Jr.

It has been over a year since COVID-19 was first detected in the United States. 

The virus has shown little mercy, which makes the compassion of remembering those lost even more important.

Warren County has lost 78 residents to COVID, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Born on June 17, 1954, Jimmy Barnes is one of them.

As were most Warren County residents of the day, he was born at The Medical Clinic and Hospital by Dr. Bethel Campbell “B.C.” Smoot. He was raised in the Centertown area by C.D. and Lucille Barnes on their dairy farm.

If a definition existed for what a real country boy is, it would likely fit Jimmy to a T. He wore boots, drove pickups, listened to country music, enjoyed hunting, worked hard, gave praise to the Lord, loved family, was good-natured, easy-going, genuine, generous and polite, and always treated his wife with respect. 

All those adjectives were used by Jimmy’s wife, Paula, and their three children, Jennifer Mu, Rebecca Walker and Jimmy Barnes, as they remembered the patriarch of their family. 

“He was a very giving man,” said Jennifer. “He would give you the shirt off his back if you needed it. He wouldn’t hesitate to help someone. It didn’t matter if it was a friend or a stranger.” 

Rebecca corrected, “Dad never really met a stranger. He’d talk to people he didn’t know as he was waiting in line at the store like he knew them. He loved everybody. He loved family, friends, community and church. He was a very special person.”

“I’ve learned things about him in the last few months that I didn’t know,” said Jimmy. “Customers telling me that he’d call and check on them when there’d be a bad storm in their area. He reached out because he cared. They weren’t just customers. He never called them customers. He called them friends.” 

Father and son worked side-by-side.

“He’s always been my hero,” said Jimmy. “I’m named after him. I’m very proud of that. We worked together for 20 years at the nursery. He was my mentor. He showed me by his actions what kind of man I wanted to be.”

Paula and Jimmy dated as teens and married in 1976. The couple eventually started two businesses together: Heritage Farms and Paula’s Dance Academy.

“He worked long hours,” said Paula. “He’d get up at 4:30 a.m. and worked all day, but that didn’t stop him from being a huge supporter at the studio. He attended so many recitals and was backstage helping with the set and everything else. He went to all the competitions and cheered everybody on.”

Jimmy had a sense of humor.

“Dad used to tell people that he was the farmer who married the dancer, but he taught her everything she knows,” said Jennifer. “He loved our mother so much. He loved being at the studio and he was proud of what she accomplished.” 

Paula credits Jimmy’s relationship with God in teaching him to live out God’s love for others and lead a fulfilling life, “He was devoted to God and church. He put God first and allowed that relationship to guide him.” 

“We’d be at a steakhouse with 10 other nurserymen and he’d want to say prayer,” said Jimmy. “Talking to God was something he wasn’t shy about. He’d always bless his meals. It didn’t matter if he was eating a meal or just a sandwich he’d say a blessing.”

Jimmy developed some “annoying” habits as he entered the golden years of adulthood.

“He was the kind of person that would annoy people by talking about his grandchildren all the time,” said Rebecca. “He got to relive our childhood through them. The joy that he had for my kids and Jennifer’s kids. We could see it in his eyes.”

The Warren County A&L Fair and holidays like Easter, Christmas and Halloween were all celebrated with child-like vigor by Jimmy.

“On Christmas, he was Santa,” said Paula. “Jimmy would dress up like Santa. He loved it. Everybody loved it. Holidays at our house were a big deal. He made sure of it.” 

Jimmy went by many nicknames over the years, including Big Jim, but “D” was given to him by his grandson.

“He’d play D’s Clues where he’d leave little clues all over the house for the grandkids to follow,” said Paula. “They loved finding and following the clues, but probably not as much as Jimmy loved doing it. There were so many good times.”

While the isolation of COVID-19 brought some people closer together, the virus tore others apart.

Jimmy was diagnosed in the last week of October.

“Things moved very quickly and badly,” said Paula. 

With family standing vigil, he passed on Nov. 23 at the age of 66.