Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Charles Jones Remembers Jack Barry

Dear Conservationists,

On Christmas evening, at his home in La Grande, Jack Barry, 87, died. With him were wife Lois, family and friends.

Jack was among the early HCPC founders, primarily a bunch of Idaho Falls (Arco) nuclear engineers who couldn't abide the thought of the proposed dam in Hells Canyon (Brock can provide more background on Jack's early involvement.)

I met Jack shortly after arriving in La Grande in 1974. He had left the nuclear industry. Lois was hired by Eastern Oregon University becoming a much respected, loved and admired English professor -- one known to never suffer inept administrators gladly.

If anyone embodied a mad-dog environmentalist, it was Jack. He was fearless, persistent, relentless. He brought a much needed brand of obnoxiousness to countless public hearings, often the perfect antidote for public officials cowered by a bunch of burly loggers and industry hacks.

At a Hatfield Senate wilderness hearing in La Grande, Jack, exercising First Amendment rights to the hilt, failed to act with expected propriety to St. Mark. The La Grande police hauled him out of the auditorium, threw him up against the foyer wall, handcuffed him, and hauled him in. Jack (without a lawyer, but with much help from Lois) sued the police and received a very substantial out of court settlement from the city.

Probably a dozen years ago, HCPC honored six venerable NE Oregon conservations, stalwart defenders of our lands and heritage, at a large banquet. Jack, Loren Hughes, Bill Obertauffer, Bill Brown were among them. The speeches on behalf of Jack were the highlight. No one was ever a better recipient of hilarious roasts and toasts as the inimitable Mr. John Barry.

As ferocious (and admittedly, at times, trying) as Jack could be in public hearings or HCPC board meetings, he was absolutely the sweetest and most gracious host or guest in any social gathering or random rendezvous. He was always interested in your doings, your life, and your well-being. He met you with a smile and left you with a laugh. You loved to meet him on the street or in the store. Jack was always interesting. Jack was fun. He was a peach of a guy.

I'm quite sure I will never meet another Jack Barry. That saddens me.

HCPC is proud to have Charles Jones on the Hells Canyon Preservation Council Board of Directors