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Asa Barnes: A Summary of My Dad’s Life

My dad, Asa (“Ace”) Barnes, died this past Monday, April 22, 2019. He was a husband to Jean and a father to me, Liz, Christy and Nate. Ace was born on January 30, 1933 in Cape Girardeau, MO to Asa Barnes, also a doctor, and Elizabeth Pruitt.  After high school in Louisville, Ace graduated…
By Seth Barnes
By Seth Barnes

My dad, Asa (“Ace”) Barnes, died this past Monday, April 22, 2019. He was a husband to Jean and a father to me, Liz, Christy and Nate. Ace was born on January 30, 1933 in Cape Girardeau, MO to Asa Barnes, also a doctor, and Elizabeth Pruitt. 

After high school in Louisville, Ace graduated from the University of Kentucky and then Yale Medical School, paid for by his enlistment in the army. He and Jean lived a life of frequent adventure wrapped around a career saving lives through medicine. They first met in Yosemite National Park and then after getting married, moved to Verona, Italy.

Their three years in Italy were filled with walks along the romantic cobblestone streets of Romeo and Juliet, opera in the Roman Colosseum, and lunch on the piazza. Back in America, four years went by and Ace was sent to Viet Nam to oversee the flow of blood in that terrible war.

Returning home to his family, he was awarded the Major Gary Wratten award. And in one of God’s great redemptive miracles, Wratten’s widow Shirley led Jean to Christ while Ace was away. Upon his return, Ace later gave his life to Christ as well.

Their home outside Washington DC was a safe haven during a tumultuous time in the nation’s history. Working at Walter Reed Hospital as a colonel, Ace helped care for the soldiers returning from the war.

In 1971, Ace faced a crossroads – offered an appointment to the Pentagon and a probable promotion to general, he came to an important decision. Realizing that he was more of a practitioner than administrator, he decided to take a job in Columbia, MO as Professor of Pathology at the University of Missouri and Director of the Blood Bank. This was a busy and productive time for him and his reputation began to spread.

In 1977, Ace and Jean moved the family to Long Beach CA where as a pathologist and Director of the Blood Bank at Memorial Hospital, Ace became a leader in his field.

At the age of 61, Ace was tired of the bureaucratic requirements of governmental regulations. Wanting to leave suburbia, he and Jean decided to go back to their roots in the wilderness – specifically, the Gila Wilderness. And at that point, Ace and Jean began the greatest adventure of their lives working as missionaries for 19 years in Kijabe, Kenya.

Ace worked in the pathology lab, seeing slides and blood work from some 60 corresponding clinics. He and Jean became beloved in the missions compound on the edge of the escarpment overlooking the beautiful Rift Valley. Ace’s birthdays were a special cause for celebration with a long parade banging on pots and pans through the compound.

In addition, he felt called to return to Viet Nam to bring healing to that broken land. He developed great friendships in the medical community there as Jean and he returned numerous times in order to help train pathologists and blood bankers.

Back in Silver City, their health began to be an issue. A year and a half ago, their family persuaded them to move to Gainesville, GA and Smoky Springs Retirement Home. Not long after they’d gotten settled in, Ace began to have back issues that sent him to the hospital. The last year was a particularly hard and painful one as Ace had to go in and out of the kind of hospitals that he used to serve in.

Just a week ago as Ace had his eyes closed, he smiled broadly and a tear appeared in his eye. He had seen something or someone on the other side, someone who we believe was telling him that it was going to be OK, that it was safe to cross over. Shortly thereafter, he slipped into unconsciousness and left us.

Ace leaves behind a great legacy of relationships with a loving family and coworkers. He was a tireless worker, a generous giver to missions, a patriarch, a husband and father. We who he left will miss him, but we celebrate his life here on earth and the joy he has in heaven now.

Dad will be buried at the national cemetery in Canton, GA on May 10 at 12pm noon. I’m sure he’d love for you to be there to see the military honor guard and 21 gun salute!

Comments (51)

  • I worked at Long Beach Memorial when Dr. Barnes was there and remember this dear physician fondly. I was born the same year as he was…and can say “rest assured that after a long, happy life, we are ready to leave…you are sad, but know we are not.” “Those we love don’t go away, they walk beside us every day. Unseen, unheard, but always near…still loved, still missed and very dear. You were blessed to have him in your life.

  • Dr. Asa Barnes was a wonderful physician and educator. I only knew him for the year that I spent in my Blood Banking/Transfusion Medicine fellowship in 1987-88 but did continue to see him at some of our professional meetings. He was always enthusiastic in his teaching and explained complex topics clearly. I learned much from Dr. Barnes and he will be sorely missed.

  • Seth – you do great honor to your father, not only with your words, but the life you are living for the Kingdom.

  • Thank you for honoring your dad all the way to the end. May God’s face shine brightly on you.

  • My heart is broken by the news of your loss, but exults in the beauty of your tribute to your Dad… what an incredible life, what an inspirational story. You were blessed. And I know that Ace must have been so very proud of you…. I suspect you carry the flavors and spice garnered in your father but expressed in your own way. I join with you in celebrating his life, would love an introduction some day, on the other side….

  • Seth we are so sorry for you loss. But this is such a beautiful tribute to your dad. I know he’s smiling down on his beloved family. He had a beautiful, blessed life. Thank you for sharing this! May God comfort your family

  • What a wonderful tribute to your earthly father. Clearly his servants heart was a wonderful role model for you and the family.

  • What a beautiful tribute to your earthly father, Seth. Your dad was a wonderful man who passed on a great faith to his children and grandchildren. The work he started will continue to resonate for generations. We love all of the Barnes family!

  • Seth- Thank you for sharing the process of walking your father home. You and your father continue to inspire, show the heart of servants, and mirror the relationship between the heavenly father and son. This world needs more servants and men like Ace.

  • Welled up with all kinds of emotion, I find tears of thankfulness spilling out knowing that God’s comfort and presence are yours and His “well done” affirmation has touched Ace ….. and his precious family. You are a faithful son, Seth….both of Ace and Jean…..and God…..and an example for us all. Everlasting love and peace are ours in Jesus…..and a desire for that amazing reunion some day in God’s presence. Thankful, love is sent to you all.

  • Seth…continue praying for you and family as the mourning process is vital for healing. As I read the wonderful bio of Ace, I see the torch of God through your dad and how easily it was passed along to you.


  • Thanks for sharing Seth! This blog makes me want to cherish my father even more now. I’m so sorry for your loss, but I’m also celebrating his victory over death. Hope your doing well!!

  • Very sorry for your loss Seth. Praying for you and your family this week. Thank you for your tribute to your father who lived and left such an inspiring legacy.

  • I am celebrating your dad as he finishes this part of the journey and enters into the REAL adventure with our Lord. I’m also grateful to the Lord for the journey you have been on with your dad through this season. In your writings and in our conversations, I have watched you show grace, wisdom, vulnerability and love in the process of saying goodbye to your dad over this last year. You have been a beloved son. As hard as this time must be, there is just so much to celebrate! Blessings, brother.

  • Gisele Marie Buenaventura

    Thank you for sharing Seth. What servant hearts and passion for the Lord’s Kingdom. He is deeply loved!

  • What a beautiful life and legacy your dad left. My thoughts and prayers are with you and your extended family.

  • So sorry for your loss but what a great tribute to your father. Thanks for giving us insight into his life and yours.

  • Kelsey Chancellor

    Wow what a legacy! Thank you for this example of a life lived in service to others. Your dad’s life is one to be greatly celebrated. Thank you for sharing!

  • Love the care, honor and tribute you’ve paid to your Dad and his legacy Seth.
    I didn’t know the half of the exceptional life lived in the service of God, Country, fellow soldiers in that crazy tough war, and those who wouldn’t have heard, save him and your moms obedience to GO!
    I’m reminded of a classic line in a TV series. When a cowardly and reticent to take action man finally mustered the courage to take bold and decisive action, his friend asked him,”Are you sure you want to do this?” He replied,”Im tired of reading about the achievements of better men.” Your dad didn’t seem to have this problem! He was the BEST of MEN ! I salute him and Thank God , by his grace, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree with you!
    Thanks for allowing us to journey with you in all of this, Condolences. Incredibly Inspired today by a man named Asa Barnes!

  • Dear Seth,
    Anne and I are sorry we weren’t able to make the Ace’s Memorial Service. You know how I feel about him. The time we served together in ‘Nam looking at each other through the Tet assault—and several others. Medics aren’t used to being shot at. Ace was a brave soldier and a great man. Thank you for arranging for us to say an earthly “Goodbye”. I never served with a better man. The mantra of his life was Others. I credit him for leading me to Christ. I love your dad.
    “Rest in Peace, Colonel.”

  • Mitchell Stephens

    God has welcomed his beloved Ace into Heaven. This is a great tribute to your Dad. And his earthly legacy lives on in what you do. You and your family are in our prayers.

  • Great tribute to a great man that I became to know and love. Thank you for sharing this Seth. We hope to see Jean and the family in person soon. I have already shared with you the album I created in the memory of Ace.

  • I so enjoyed my visits with ASA and JEAN……wonderful patients, truly a gentleman and his lady. he will be missed. by me and my staff….yes, i still work because it is such a joy to me.

  • It has been wonderful getting to know you during my dad’s convalescence, Zack. Thanks for being his friend.

  • Shirley, you and your family were a fulcrum leveraging my dad and our family into the Kingdom and into lives focused on Jesus. Thank you for your commitment to the Lord and wonderful example of a life well-lived.

  • “Flavors and spice garnered in your father” – I love that phrase and those images. Yes, Valerie, I’ll be sure to introduce you when we’re all together a few short years from now.

  • Your tribute to your father was beautifully written. We will share it with his many friends and colleagues in Southern California. He was very respected and admired at Long Beach Memorial Medical Center The humanitarian volunteer work your parents did in needy areas of Africa and Vietnam after retirement was extraordinary. We celebrated them with a send off party with LBMMC friend before each mission Your father told the pathologists about unusual and interesting cases. Your mom shared humorous stories of daily living and bringing Christianity to the community. Your parents are loved internationally. Your father will missed internationally. Please give Jean a big hug from us

  • We were neighbors of your mom and dad in Long Beach. They were instrumental in having us become members at the church they attended. Both of your parents were out spoken for their relationship with the Lord. My heart goes out to you and your family for the loss of Ace. How wonderful to know that he’s in the presence of the Lord now. Give your mom our love!

    • Thank you, Jean. It’s good to hear from you. We have fond memories of those days on Virginia Ave!

  • Rev Tom Okeyo Obiero

    Seth it’s sad I had my eye operation and was not able to read but I want to let you know that I love your family I want to let you know that I will continue to pray for you and your family all my life

  • Dr. Asa and Jean Barnes changed the course of my life for the better in 1974. I am so grateful that I got to see both Jean and Asa about 15-20 years ago when they came through Columbia.
    I was with Jean and Liz when I accepted the Lord as my personal savior in Elizabeth’s bedroom all those years ago. I have spent my adult life taking care of my dying parents and had some personal struggles along the way and they were always there for me. I am so sorry to hear of Dr. Barnes passing and if you could contact me, I would love to send your family a note! Much love to you all, in Jesus name, Amen!

  • Seth, what a beautiful tribute to the amazing man who was your father!
    Blessings and peace to you and yours,

  • William J. Colburn MD

    Dear Seth and Family,

    I don’t know what compelled me to search the internet today for Asa. I was deeply saddened to hear of his passing. He was a truly a kind, deeply caring and brilliant physician. I was fortunate to be one of his first fellows in blood banking at Memorial Hospital Medical Center, Long Beach, CA. In 1980 where we authored a paper together. His supremely gentle professorial manor of teaching; but most importantly, his words of wisdom and guidance during that year of training have reverberated within me for the greater part of my over 40 years of medical practice. Because of him I always thought of myself as a Blood Banker first and a Pathologist second. I am constantly reminded of his ear to ear grin and infectious laugh. He was a great physician and inspiration to us all. He is deeply missed.

  • Thanks for sharing these heartfelt thoughts, William. As family members, we rarely were able to see this side of dad. He impacted many.

  • William H. Marchbanks

    I had lost track of ash of age in the past years but but was have been spending some time spending some time trying to look up old friends and look up old friends Ace was in Ace was in my army reserve unit he and I went through commands fast food it’s through command and staff school at Fort Lauderdale and Greg sport 11 words and graduated together Aspen several times At H and James house when they lived in Columbia they lived in Columbia and enjoyed visiting with visiting with them and attending Missouri football games Asian I played a lot of golf together sorry to hear of his passing Sorry to hear of his Passion he was a wonderful man and a great doctor

  • I attended the Long Beach Memorial Hospital School of Blood Bank Technology from January 1980 through December 1980. Jan Wilson was the primary instructor. My classmates were Susan, Nancy and Maryanne. I was from Massachusetts.. It was an incredible year of learning.. After graduation, I returned to New England with my new wife. We moved to Maine, and I worked in the Blood Bank at Maine Medical Center for 25 years.
    Dr. ASA Barnes was the best.. My cousin Beecher Washburn served in Vietnam as a Medivac Helicopter Pilot. Perhaps ASA and Beecher knew each other. Beecher was my hero. He died about 10 years ago.
    James McLaughlin, MT, ASCP, SBB

    • Thanks for taking the time to share that, James. My dad cared a lot about those he trained.

      When was your cousin in VN?

  • Thank you for sharing a summary of your dad’s life. It is evident how God used the various experiences of your parents and the provision of resources through his work to prepare you for the work God called you to do. We are in Nicaragua with our squad because of the vision God have you. We get to witness first hand how the WR creates an environment and a culture of community, encouragement, and support for the body of Christ. What we accomplish at one time might be small, but it’s like building a massive structure by hand, one block at a time. It’ll be so cool in the kingdom to see how it all plays out. Thank God for your parents and for you!

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Seth Barnes

I'm motivated to join God in his global reclamation project. He's on the move, setting his sons and daughters free from their places of captivity. And he's partnering with those of us who have been freed to go and free others.

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