Every community has its unsung heroes who help out where they can, but one has been recognized recently in Fort St. James.
Beatrice Barnes had an idea she had been recognized after being nominated by Anne Peterson when Peterson called her and told her to “put on your best bib and tucker and be at the district office at one.”
Barnes has been an active long-term volunteer in the community and was recognized at a ceremony by Nechako Lakes MLA John Rustad.
“It really was a surprise that there were all those people there,” said Barnes.
Rustad presented the medal to Barnes in the municipal office, with an audience and a number of speakers who honoured the community volunteer.
One of Barnes’ sons, Ken Barnes and his sons Liam and Jayce, were all there, as were members of the local BC Ambulance Service, and the Fire Chief Rob Bennet.
Bob Grill spoke for the Fort St. James National Historic Site about Barnes’ many years with the Friends of the Fort St. James National Historic Site and Joanne Vinnedge about Barnes’ years volunteering with the local Girl Guides where she volunteered for about 15 years.
Kandace Kerr honoured Barnes’ dedication to the Fort St. James Farmer’s Market Society, for which Barnes acts as treasurer.
Jackie Dagenais thanked Barnes for her volunteering with the Seniors Activity Center, where Barnes leads an exercise class for seniors and she also helped to serve lunch in the summer.
Barnes’ list of volunteer activities seems nearly endless, and she has also been a member of the Stuart Lake Hospital Auxiliary since 1983, and she helped create the cook book “Trail Burgers and Leatherbacks” which collected historic recipes from the area for everything from beaver tails to whitewash.
Barnes has also helped with the Festival of Trees in years past, but Barnes had apparently had a tendency for doing the right thing since she was young.
In a note sent for the ceremony, Barnes’ sister Celia Thompson said: “Ever since I was a very small girl I recognized how special you were and how good and kind to others. You were my hero, and I consciously tried to be as good and kind as you. I am so happy others know what a wonderful person and role model you are. From pulling a neighbour out of his burning trailer in the middle of the night, to ministering to a little boy who played on the railroad tracks in New Westminster and had his leg amputated, to crocheting little hats for the senior lady patients you worked with because their heads were cold you have never ceased to amaze me and make me proud to say that you are my sister. Congratulations!”
The neighbour her sister is referring to is an incident late at night in Fort St. James on May 21, 1991, when Barnes was checking on her teenage son to make sure he had made it home, and so when she saw he was not yet home, she went out to have a look and saw smoke rising nearby.
Barnes said she thought “This is not good, something bad must be happening.”
Barnes jumped in her vehicle and went down to have a look, and saw a trailer on fire. Inside was Ned Roth, just inside the door but unable to see how to get out with the smoke.
It was thanks to Barnes he saw her vehicle lights through the windows and she helped make sure he made it out.
All that remained of the ruined trailer was a charred $20 bill, which Roth gave to Barnes as a memento.
The child playing on the railroad tracks happened in about 1968 in New Westminster, and while walking back from buying material to make curtains for a new home, a woman ran by saying a boy had just been hit by a train.
Barnes recalls wondering why the woman was running away from the boy, and she ran to where the child was, and she said while she can not remember what he looked like, she remembers looking at a man’s belt who was there, and telling him to give it to her.
She used her new curtain material and the belt to make a bandage and tourniquet to stop the bleeding from the boy. His foot had been amputated by the passing train.
Barnes’ husband Jim Barnes said living with the recipient of a Queen’s Jubilee Medal recipient is “quite an honour.”
“She’s a very remarkable woman, and I don’t say that lightly,” said Barnes.
The two have lived in Fort St. James since 198, where they came for Jim’s work, from which he is now retired and spends a great deal of his time doing woodworking.
“She’s a good sounding-board for my projects,” he said.
For her part, Beatrice Barnes was “surprised – cause I figured it was only high profile people that would get it,” she said.