Barry John McQueeney
Barry, the beloved younger brother of Claire B. McQueeney and Joan McQueeney Mitric, died August 12, 2009, at Cottage Hospital, after falling into a deep coma for a week. His sisters were by his side. Born April 11, 1951 in Albuquerque, N.M., Barry, 58, was the fourth of five children of Andrew Joseph McQueeney, M.D. and Joan Lalley McQueeney.
The family moved to Santa Barbara in 1955, and Barry attended Jefferson Elementary, Crane Country Day School and The Cate School in Carpinteria. At his 1969 high school graduation, Barry won the Robert Frost Poetry Medal for his published work and tenure as an editor of the campus literary magazine, The Cate Review. Barry went on to graduate from Vermont’s Goddard College in 1974, where he continued what would become lifelong studies in philosophy, eastern religions, literature and creative writing. A Goddard spokeswoman said “his eclectic mix of course work reflected a Renaissance- type of intellectual reach.” His studies included work with well-known folklorist Eleanor Ott, poet and critic Barry Goldensohn, workshops with resident poets and seminars in solar and renewable energy.
His senior advisor at Goddard said Barry wrote a charming narrative allegory for children about the spiritual quest and challenges of a beekeeper called “Deep into the Nothing Forest,” as part of his senior project. The second part of his Senior Project was a compilation of the teachings of Eastern spiritual masters, which an advisor described as a thoughtful, insightful, well-written and timely project, “especially at a time when so many Westerners were looking East for spiritual guidance.”
After college – which included an independent study trip to India – Barry held several jobs in Santa Barbara and made a second longer trip to India where he visited and stayed at many of the sacred spots he had studied about. He met different contemporary spiritual leaders and wrote about, filmed and recorded them. These trips to India were central to Barry’s life and inspiration to study in exquisite depth. Back home in Santa Barbara again, Barry worked several summers as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service serving as a member of the elite heli shot crew out of Rose Valley in the Ojai Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest. His former boss said this crew was the “best of the best”, requiring independent thought and action. He described Barry as, “a quiet man, a bit enigmatic, a hard worker. He was very well liked by the other crewmembers, was easy going, and could be counted on to do his part on the fireline. Barry had an interesting point of view on almost any subject and when he had something to say, it was worth listening to. It was kind of like hearing something from the ‘sage’ of the crew.”
Later he worked as baker, cook, bee-keeper and honey producer. In the 70s when he first sold his warm dense nut- berry bread at the weekend Cabrillo Blvd. Art walk his buttered samples were so popular he gave away his whole pyramid of round loaves one slice at a time. As a bee-keeper he was known as B.man and he rushed out to rescue anyone from a swarm on their property in his truck the “bee mobile” which always had a small trail of bees following it. When he went out to visit his bee boxes, housed on friends’ properties all over S.B. county, he abandoned his screened bee hat, saying “I know my bees and my bees know me.” Claire watched from a distance as one third of the hive made a bee line into her. In the 1980’s he was a manager at The Shellfish Company on Stearn’s Wharf. Later, landscape and vegetable gardening were his passions. This love began when he was five years old and grew rows of multi-colored gladiolas that towered over him in bloom. One of his favorite jobs was as a manager of the city’s flourishing Eastside community garden in 2008-09. He had his own thriving plot there and grew varieties of fruits and vegetables in any available empty spot so he could give new gardeners transplant “starters” when they first arrived.
Barry’s journey was often a troubled, challenging one. But despite this, he remained a deeply spiritual, poetic and humorous person, loyal friend and brother. His quirky sense of humor combined with his gift for language and imitation was contagious, even to him, and there was nothing more wonderful then seeing Barry burst into his smile. One good friend said, “Even on his bad days, Barry always spoke in the language of a poet.” He often traveled Santa Barbara dispensing wisdom, bestowing small gifts, distributing vegetables to friends or to those more in need than himself, all the while observing the whole natural world with a child-like sense of wonder and investigation. Walking across any part of Santa Barbara with Barry was like visiting a foreign country because of his in-depth knowledge of the history of every nook and cranny, path, shortcut, park, street and house. He knew someone everywhere and greeted them as special people.
He was immensely grateful to the kindnesses – big and small of former classmates, teachers and friends. He treasured these relationships, what was shared and learned and he never forgot. In turn we will never forget Barry and will always love and miss him.
Besides two sisters, Barry is survived by a brother-in-law, Slobodan, two nieces, Ana and Julia, one nephew, Janko, a grandnephew and a grandniece.
Services are private. In lieu of flowers, friends are asked to remember the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, Casa Esperanza, the Eastside Library and Visiting Nurse and Hospice Care or local food pantries. A commemoration of Barry’s life will take place at a later date.