Johnny Barnes ‘blessed’ by new statue
For Bermuda's living icon of welcome, the news that yet another statue stands in his tribute is yet another reason to be thankful.
“Amen, amen — it's a blessing, and I thank God for it,” said Johnny Barnes, of the replica at the Guelph Collegiate Vocational Institute (GCVI) in Ontario of his bronze statue on East Broadway.
“Everything belongs to God and nothing belongs to us,” Mr Barnes said. “He has not allowed me to have boys and girls so he has given me statues.”
Mr Barnes, 92, has been welcoming the morning commuters for decades and made a favourable impression on Pat and Barb Keenan of Toronto, who enjoyed his company during their Bermuda visits.
“I meet thousands of people from all over the world,” Mr Barnes said. “I give them my pictures and pray with them and they love it. I tell them the greatest thing in the world is L-O-V-E.”
According to GCVI, the Keenans commissioned their own version of the Desmond Fountain sculpture of Mr Barnes in his classic greeting pose of waving to passers-by.
After Mr Keenan's death, the likeness of Bermuda's “Mr Happy” went to the school.
Julie Prendergast, the school principal, wrote in its newsletter that Mr Barnes represents “the welcoming spirit that we pride ourselves on”.
Mr Barnes concedes that the work he loves also comes with risks: he still walks with a limp after a random assault several months ago, from an agitated woman seeking a light for her cigarette.
In typical spirit, he shrugged off the incident. “The police came but I said to forget about it, I don't know what her family's like,” Mr Barnes said. “I have not heard any more about it. I try to be careful when I'm waving.”