Willis George ‘Will’ Barnes, 85, environmentalist whose volunteerism became a way of life

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Willis George Barnes
Willis George Barnes

Willis George ‘Will’ Barnes, 85, ended his battle with prostate cancer on Sunday, June 5, 2016, at home with his family by his side. Will was born in Sherburne, N.Y., on June 14, 1930, the second son to the late Galen Vaughn Barnes and Mary Lois Healey Barnes.

He served his country for 21 years with the U.S. Air Force and retired in 1971, achieving the rank of chief master sergeant. He was a veteran of both the Korean and Vietnam wars. He then began a second career with Virginia Power, where he again retired in 1995.

He was a longtime member of Second Presbyterian Church in Newport News, serving multiple terms as an elder and a deacon. In his later years, volunteerism became a way of life for Will. He was well known and loved throughout James City County as a spokesman for environmental issues.

He had served for many years as an active member of the James City Ruritan Club, American Legion Post 1776, Air Force Sergeant’s Association, James City Clean County Commission and was a former active member of the Williamsburg Land Conservancy. Will was also proud of his volunteer years in the James City County School system program called Bright Beginnings. He became known as ‘Mr. Will’ to quite a contingent of young children in the community.

Will was preceded in deatah by his first wife of 46 years, Irene Clara (Lamb); son, Terrence; brothers, Charles and James; and sisters, Mary Jean (Dewey) and Elsie (Bennett).

He is survived by his wife, Barbara Barnes; son and daughter-in-law, Michael and Katrien Barnes of Chesterfield; son, Kevin Barnes of Shelton, Wash.; two step-sons, Jason Powell, and his wife, Mary, and Adam Powell, and his wife, Erin, all of Richmond; and he was a doting grandfather to his four grandchildren, Henry Powell, Jane Powell, Fern Powell and Ellie Powell, all of Richmond. He is also survived by 35 nieces and nephews.

A memorial service with full military honors will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, June 17, at Williamsburg Community Chapel, 3899 John Tyler Highway, Williamsburg, with a reception immediately following at the church. Interment will be private.

In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions in his honor may be made to a charity of your choice.

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