In Memory

Paul Barrett

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09/21/09 04:22 PM #1    

Stephen Pribula

Who remembers the time when Paul had this idea for space travel. All you had to do, Paul maintained, was build a big tube, like from here to Mars, and then "remove all the space from the tube." That way, you could walk into one end of the tube and immediately walk out the other end, millions of miles away. He presented this idea speaking before the class one day and we all unimaginatively poo-pooed the idea. But Paul was not to be dissuaded and passionately maintained the idea was practical.

I wish I remembered something else as clearly about Paul. I've heard he had a tough life. At least he's now a million miles from those troubles.

Steve Pribula

10/03/09 09:14 AM #2    

Michael Slattery

The following was written by Jack McNamara in 2007 on learning of Paul's passing.

Thank you for forwarding the sad news about Paul Barrett. I had not heard.

About ten years ago, out the blue, he called me on a professional matter involving aviation law. That led to some visits with him and his wonderful wife, JoBeth. She is a lady who is beautiful in every way and was a great match for Paul. We would meet at the Experimental Aircraft Association meeting/fly-in held in Oshkosh annually. Paul and JoBeth had a motor home in which they traveled. They always invited me for drinks at the end of the day and we had wonderful visits. Paul and I did have the occasional professional question and, fortunately, we were always able to help each other.

There were two things I learned about him, which you might find interesting. One, he could fly helicopters as a blind man! Of course, he had another pilot with him for safety, but once in the air, Paul would take the controls and fly. The obvious challenge was to maintain heading and altitude. Amazingly, he could do this with his kinesthetic senses, literally, “flying by the seat of his pants”. One of the less obvious, but most important challenges is to maintain critical rotor speed in a helicopter. One does this by observing the engine gauges. But Paul was blind! His co-pilot, a flight instructor, told me that Paul could hear engine power variations before the gauges indicated them. He was more sensitive and faster to correct than an autopilot.

Paul remembered himself as being a most frustrated young man at Delbarton. Almost everyone in our class was 2 years older than he was. We all had driver’s licenses, were dating and playing varsity sports. We were all having the adventures of 17 year old seniors while he was a 15 year old, whose mother felt he was too young and too small. One can see how that would be upsetting, but, in retrospect, I believe he handled it well. I never knew this while at Delbarton.

Despite his age, he graduated with us, graduated from college and flew helicopters in the Army. While still young, he rose to become a senior officer at Schlitz Brewing Company (I had thought it was brewmeister) and then lost his eyesight. Incredibly, he then entered law school as a blind man and, more incredibly, graduated magna cum laude. He did not seek work with a firm, which might have some infrastructure to support his special needs. He formed his own firm as a blind attorney. He became so respected in his county that he was appointed to a judgeship; (he once told me he was pleased to flip the myth into verity - that justice is blind). With the help of JoBeth and just one other (that I knew about) he carried on this way for nearly a quarter century. He did this despite blindness, cancer and heart disease.

Prior to his call to me out of the blue ten years ago, I remembered Paul Barrett as the smallest fellow in our class. I now realize, he was much, much more than that.

It causes me to wonder about our Class – 36 boys who, to an unfortunate extent, did not know one another; each one’s potential more magnificent – more heroic - than we ever could have appreciated.

I think of Paul, I think of each of the Class of ‘59, and realize that it is today, as I have ever felt, an honor to be part of it.

Best regards,


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