His best stories had a bit of a bite to them.
Because Barney was the ultimate historian, John Greenleaf Whittier never lacked exposure. Nor the library's special collections, the Buttonwoods Museum, and any other organization that cultivated this city's humble past or buoyant future.
His honesty and integrity amplified his humanitarian pursuits. Barney was a man for all seasons whose infectious grin could coax a smile against all odds.
Who would ever forget the seed he had planted with sidekick Fred Malcolm that ultimately turned Haverhill into an All-America City? Or the manner in which he helped enhance this city into one of the more desirable places to live a year after it floundered in the ratings.
Speaking generally, no man appears great to his contemporaries — a trap set by familiarity. To us, he was simply "Barney." The night he was inducted into the New England Press Association Hall of Fame, a bunch of us rode the limo with him into Boston and he was as casual as a bedbug.
Had you given him a good editorial that night, he would have negated such limelight. In the end, he was humbled by it. Who wouldn't be after 75 years of unprecedented journalism? Say what you want about role models like Horace Greeley and Joseph Pulitzer, two of the greatest American editors of our time. They were Barney's heroes but he was ours.
Over the four decades I worked with him, I came to know him as a prolific articulist, author and commentator on one side and as a devoted family man, community activist and outgoing personality on the other.
It was that way from the get-go, when I first walked into The Gazette looking for a job. He was one of the first to approach me, putting the jitters to rest and giving me a dose of confidence.