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Johnny Barnes’ message of love raises spirits in Canadian town

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Spread the love: the Johnny Barnes 'statue on Paisley Street, outside Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (Photograph by Richard Vivian/GuelphToday)

An article about a statue in Ontario depicting the much-loved fixture of Crow Lane the late Johnny Barnes has appeared on the website Guelph Today.

A replica of the life-size bronze statue of Mr Barnes by Desmond Fountain that stands at Crow Lane, Pembroke, was erected outside Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute in the Canadian province seven years ago.

Mr Barnes was famous for waking in the early hours to greet commuters on their way to work.

Writer Taylor Pace recalls the history of the statue which was recently dressed up in an orange T-shirt for this year's National Day of Truth and Reconciliation.

Love in the sunshine: the Johnny Barnes statue at the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, in Ontario, is shown dressed in an orange shirt for this year's National Day of Truth and Reconciliation (Photograph by Taylor Pace)

“Around this time seven years ago, a statue of a waving man appeared on the lawn of Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, flanked between two benches and facing Paisley Road.

“That waving man is the late Johnny Barnes, a Bermuda man known for greeting commuters every day during the work week. Some claim he’s Bermuda’s most famous resident; there is even a short documentary about him on YouTube titled Mr Happy Man.

“Every day, he would stand facing a busy street from 3:40am to 10am, waving and blowing kisses to all the commuters, saying “have a good day” and “I love you” to everyone who passed by.

“So why is there a statue of him at GCVI?

“It was donated by the Keenan family at the request of former principal Julie Pendergast.

“She first saw the statue when helping a friend with property maintenance at the Keenan’s Caledon home.”

Recognising Mr Barnes: the Johnny Barnes statue at Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, Ontario, was donated by the Keenan family, along with the benches flanking it (Photograph by Taylor Pace/GuelphToday)

The principal was struck by the welcoming image of statue and when the family put their house up for sale they donated it to the college.

Ms Pace wrote: “Given the work they were doing around inclusivity, respect and kindness, she said ‘it seemed to be a really good fit. Especially around the idea of welcoming diversity’.

“That welcoming energy is what Barnes strove for.”

Mr Barnes was known all over Bermuda and beyond its shores for the work he did cheering people up in the morning.

He would wave to traffic from Crow Lane roundabout from the crack of dawn every day and, following his retirement, would rise a little later but continued to carry out this self-assigned duty.

The article includes a quote by Mr Barnes from Mr Happy Man directed by Matt Morris.

He said: “I stand on the corner and just greet people, let them know that life is sweet, life is beautiful. No matter what happens in life, it’s always sweet to be alive.

“Enjoy the sunshine, the flowers, the birds; they are happy. The good lord and I are just trying to make people happy.”

Johnny Barnes at the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute, Ontario, is shown covered in snow (Guelph Today file photograph)

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Published December 29, 2022 at 7:51 am (Updated December 29, 2022 at 7:51 am)

Johnny Barnes’ message of love raises spirits in Canadian town

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