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!