Remembering David The Obituary

Remembering David The Obituary
A man holding an object in front of fire.

David Hungerford Barrett

David Hungerford Barrett

Photo by Henry Georgi

Article published in The Free Press  
December 31, 2020

David Hungerford Barrett, 68 of Hosmer, BC, passed away on December 15th, 2020.

Born in Wiltshire, England, David was an engineer with a degree from Newcastle University and had 45 years of worldwide experience in manufacturing and contracting. Originally trading as blacksmiths and wheelwrights, David took over his family business Barrett’s of Wroughton, established in 1893, upon his father’s retirement in 1993.

He was a fifth-generation blacksmith, attending the National School of Blacksmithing under Paul Allen, and obtained a certificate of merit from the Worshipful Company of Blacksmiths, an ancient London Guild incorporated in 1325.

Since then, David and Sandra have worked together as a husband-and-wife team. They moved from Britain to Canada under the BC Provincial Nominee Program, building a purpose-built forge in Hosmer and establishing a small blacksmithing enterprise in the Elk Valley.

Fernie Forge opened for business in 2005. David’s engineering skills combined with Sandra’s artistic flair made the perfect partnership.

David became a Canadian Citizen in 2013, was past President of the Kootenay Blacksmiths’ Association, and an active member of the Hosmer Volunteer Fire Department for 15 years.

Predeceased by his mother Mary and father-in-law William. Survived by his loving wife of 38 years, Sandra Barrett, his son Henry and daughter Florence. He is also survived by his father Eric Barrett, sister Susan (Simon), brother Mark (Debbie), nieces Rosie, and Alice, mother-in-law Ida, sister-in-law Judith (Jim), sister-in-law Gill (George), nephews Harry and Bradley, all still living in England.

The Barrett family has been overwhelmed by the tremendous outpouring of kindness and extraordinarily generous support of the community, who have stepped up in all manner of ways. Heartfelt thanks to everyone.

Donations in David’s memory are greatly appreciated for either Fernie United Church Women or Angel Flight, East Kootenay. Memories & condolences shared at
Arrangements entrusted to Cherished Memories Funeral Services Ltd. Cherished Memories Funeral Services Ltd.

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David’s Eulogy

David’s Eulogy

David’s story was written by his loving wife, read by his beautiful daughter, and supported by his wonderful son at his Celebration of Life service, on Christmas Eve 2020

David bravely fought his mental illness for 8 years. He chose to die on the day of his mother’s funeral. But we’re not here this morning to dwell on how he died. We’re here to celebrate how David Hungerford Barrett lived for 68 years as a son, brother, uncle, husband, and father. Today would have been his 38th wedding anniversary, which has always been a special day and somehow closes the circle of his life in a meaningful way.

Born on 8th November 1952 in the Cheriton Nursing Home, Westcott Road, Swindon, Wiltshire, England – eldest son of Mary and Eric Barrett. David’s parents lived in the same home for all of their married lives – 69 years. Mary was a domestic science teacher before joining the family business. Eric was the first qualified timber technologist in Britain. Agricultural products for farmers were made by the family business, founded in 1893 by Eric’s great-grandfather, Henry Hungerford Barrett. Eric’s father, Eric Senior, was a gifted craftsman who patented his original idea of a land drain. Innovation was a gift that David inherited. Mary and Eric added to their family first with a sister Susan, born 4 years after David, sadly followed by a stillborn child and finally with his younger brother Mark in 1962.

David grew up at the family business H.H. Barrett & Son, Wagon Works, Wroughton – a village close to the nearest town of Swindon. He went to school at Wroughton Infants, then Wroughton Junior School before passing the 11+ exam in an era when children from the same village were divided according to academic ability. Marlborough Grammar School was where David received his secondary education, a school bus ride twice a day over rolling downland, passing an ancient chalk White Horse etched into the Wiltshire countryside. Always a slightly subversive rebel, he had long, dark hair as a young man, and was a smoker, a habit it took a lifetime to quit. How the sixth-form common room caught on fire will remain a mystery. Sandra Morton, 3 years younger than David, attended Ridgeway Comprehensive School with David’s sister Susan and has known him since she was 14.

After leaving school, David went to Germany for a gap year. On his return home he passed his driving test and drove an old A35 van around the country, going to music festivals and camping with friends on the weekend. One of these friends was Sandra, who painted the inside of his van with flowers in Indian ink. The first thing David ever made for Sandra, in his father’s workshop, was when she was 16. It was a metal stand for her wicker hanging chair, with very large feet as the base. David has always had large feet.

Never a huge fan of the established church, David liked to play jokes. So when Sandra went camping with the Wroughton Methodist Youth Club at Barbury Castle, a local Iron Age hill fort, David sneaked into the camp in the middle of the night, then jumped up yelling “I am the God of Hellfire”, causing chaos amongst the sleeping campers. That was his sense of humour. Go and look up the song by Arthur Brown. David’s taste in music was eclectic, too. He played the harmonica and concertina.

David completed a degree as an engineer in 1974. He asked Sandra to come and stay with him for a weekend at the University accommodation, even buying a new sleeping bag, especially for her impending visit. But Sandra decided at the last minute not to go. However, they continued to write to each other. He was loyal to his University friends, still exchanging Christmas cards to this day with a few. After graduating, David took a job with Bookers, working abroad as an agricultural engineer in their sugar plantations for five years in Senegal, Somalia, and Guyana. Then David’s father Eric wrote, asking his eldest son to come home and join the family business. Sandra, who by then was living in Newbury, decided for reasons of her own to come home to Wroughton six months later. She still had one of David’s LPs she’d borrowed five years before and phoned Barrett’s of Wroughton asking to speak to David and return it. Their friendship continued where it had left off, eventually blossoming into romance. David received a tax rebate and decided to buy a house on Montague Street, Swindon. He asked Sandra to come and live with him, but by then Sandra, who had bought her own cottage in Priors Hill, Wroughton, refused. They tossed a coin, David lost and put his house up for sale. It sold quickly and David phoned late one night saying “I’ve sold my house – can I come and live with you – I’ll marry you if you like.” Sandra knew he’d been drinking whiskey and wanted this request in writing, so he sent her a telegram, spelling her surname wrong (there is no e in Morton), with the words “Will you marry me?”. Her response was the gift of a watch with a photo of her face on the watch face, the hands of the watch coming out of her nose, and engraved on the back with “Any Time”. They were engaged for about a year, until after a day trip to Cardiff on the train to the Laura Ashley shop where Sandra bought a new dress for Christmas, David had an idea. “Let’s get married next Friday,” he said. “How are we going to do that, she answered? I'll never get a wedding dress in time.” What do you want another dress for?” he replied, “You’ve just bought a new one!”. And so, with help from everyone they encountered, they obtained a special licence, the minister gave permission for them to marry at Wroughton Methodist Church, flowers were ordered, both sets of parents and one friend each invited, a wedding breakfast for 8 booked at the only 4-star hotel in Swindon, and they made it happen. “I’m only going to get married once,” David declared when asked by the hotel manager what the guests would like to eat. “I’m going to have oysters at my wedding, and a full-cooked breakfast.” “Well, if you’re having oysters, I’m having strawberries”, said Sandra. And it was so. David’s Mother, although probably disappointed that her firstborn child wasn’t going to have a traditional big white wedding, did have one request – asking the happy couple to take a honeymoon. Sandra’s parents were delighted to be invited at all, being convinced that they would just elope one day and come back married. David never did like making a fuss. Close relatives were sent a telegram, Sandra’s co-workers in Swindon Library given champagne, and on the morning of December 24th, 1982 they were married. They honeymooned in St. Lucia and Martinique, as that was the only booking the travel agent could get at such short notice.

After a year, it was Sandra’s turn to travel – going on a six-month-long overland trip to South America. Husband and wife exchanged letters, a memory to treasure. She returned a week early to find David making Elder flower Champagne in the kitchen. “Oh, hello,” he said upon seeing her, not surprised at all.

David was present at the birth of both his children at Princess Margaret Hospital in Swindon in 1986 and 1988, cutting the umbilical cord for each one. He loved them with all his heart and was there for them every step of the way. By this time, they’d bought a home together in Goddard Avenue, Swindon. Henry returned from the hospital to sleep in the bottom drawer of his parents' wardrobe, but when Florence was born, David came to the hospital with a new wicker crib. “A daughter is different,” he said, although they were loved equally for all of his life. This was the family home where Henry and Florence grew up, going to school at King William Street until moving back to The Bungalow in Wagon Works, Wroughton after David’s grandparents died. Henry and Florence were baptized and confirmed as Methodists at the same chapel where David and Sandra were married. They took family holidays together every year, camping and skiing. They had many holidays at Woodside Cottage in North Stainmore, with beautiful bluebell woods below and endless skies above. Both children attended the same schools as David–Wroughton Infants and Junior, then Sandra’s old school, Ridgeway Comprehensive. In 1993, David’s father retired when the business was 100 years old and David took over the family firm.

Like his grandfather, David loved sailing and was on the crew of the Cutty Sark Tall Ships Race in 1996, on the leg from Rostock to St. Petersburg.

Sandra became a Partner in the business, training for 5 years to become a blacksmith. David then followed in Sandra’s footsteps, both of them going to the National School of Blacksmithing in Hereford to become qualified. During their second skiing trip to Canada, the family bought a condo on the ski hill in Fernie. Sandra’s habit is to attend church on a Sunday wherever in the world she is, and after the service one Sunday she was asked “Why don’t you do what you’re doing over there over here?” It was enough to sow the seed. They were sponsored by the BC Provincial Nomination Program to immigrate to Canada as skilled workers on work and study permits. Sandra and the children arrived to live in Hosmer in July 2004. By then, Henry was 17 and Florence 15. Florence went to the High School in Fernie, and Henry to the College of the Rockies. Sandra applied for building permits and arranged for help to build a purpose-made forge on their acreage. In the meantime, David remained in England to sell the site of the family business, the proceeds being divided between himself, his brother, and sister and enabling the purchase of the acreage in Hosmer. By the time David immigrated to Canada, the following Spring of 2005, the local fire department had already been called out to their property when a carbon monoxide alarm went off, then again, shortly after David’s arrival when a large branch fell onto the power lines outside their home during a storm, causing an explosion and fire. Within two weeks of David’s arrival, the forge was being built, opening in October 2005. David became a member of Hosmer Volunteer Fire Department and immediately forged friendships with people in the community – participating in delivering the Hosmer Christmas card booklet every year and signing up to help at the annual New Year’s Eve Dance in the Community Hall year after year. Eventually, the Regional District of East Kootenay took over fire department operations and all fundraising activities stopped.

In 2011, The Miners’ Walk in Fernie was opened, which included steel sculptures made by David and Sandra. David’s mental illness began in 2012 after the family had become Permanent Residents, and he battled for 8 years to fight it. He was diagnosed as bipolar, and on one memorable occasion, he was taken down by the RCMP outside The Loaf in Fernie after refusing to go voluntarily to the Cranbrook Psychiatric Unit. After several spells in the psych unit, he ended up being transferred by air ambulance to the psych unit in Kamloops, where he stayed for 9 weeks. However, in the times between depression and manic behaviour, he worked hard and continued to support his family. In June 2013, Hosmer was flooded, and the family witnessed for themselves the extraordinary outpouring of community spirit here. On one unforgettable day, 16 people from Knox United Church and the Hosmer Fire Department arrived to rip out sodden carpets, clean out the cellar, and generally help out. In September 2013, the Barretts became Canadian Citizens at a swearing-in ceremony in Kelowna.

On the day of his death last Tuesday, December 15th David and Sandra watched together the live webcast of his mother’s funeral service at 4 am, 11 am in England. He became calm and peaceful, no longer shaking or anxious. At 10 am, David responded to the fire department's daily radio pager test, as usual. It was snowing hard. Sandra had a delivery to unpack at Eye of the Needle, so drove into Fernie after lunch. She phoned home at 5 pm and was encouraged by David to stay in town overnight as the City of Fernie had declared a full snow plow the following morning. It would be easier for her to stay at the studio so he wouldn’t have to plow the driveway at home, he said. At 6 pm, Henry phoned to see how his Dad was doing. At 7 pm it was fire practice, but David didn’t go, although he’d taken all of his daily medications. He had a phone meeting with his psychiatrist scheduled for 3 o’clock this afternoon – Christmas Eve, a special day. He’d eaten his supper, which Sandra had left out to defrost. David’s last meal was a gift from Florence in Vancouver, who’d recently had a selection of frozen meals delivered. Then, sometime during the night, David walked across to the forge, locked the door, and hanged himself. Suicide is a lonely way to die, but he knew in his heart he was not alone.

And so remember his smile. “Helpful Dave” loved his community and had faith that they would look out for his family, who has been overwhelmed with an outpouring of kindness and support. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone. The fruits of his labour will live on. Just look around you at his legacy – the balcony railings in this church, the City Centre sign on the highway, the sculptures in the Miners’ Walk that the procession passed by less than an hour ago. 10 people have gathered here today to celebrate a life well lived in the same way that David’s marriage was celebrated with few people present. Thanks to technology his family in England will be watching this. Please leave here today in the hope that Fernie Forge will continue. His wife is a qualified blacksmith too and never forget the power of strong women. We have been honoured today to have witnessed David’s last ride on a fire truck. Know that David loved his family and was loved in return. Faith, hope, love, these three. And the greatest of these is love.

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David’s Last Ride

David’s Last Ride

Published on the front page and page 3
of The Free Press, December 31, 2020

On Christmas Eve in Hosmer, just before 10:00 am, a lone eagle soared above Fernie Forge – its flight witnessed by people below when Sandra Barrett called out to her daughter Florence and pointed to the sky. Perhaps the eagle was curious about all the flashing lights lining the horseshoe driveway. It was certainly a sight to behold. A final call radio page was broadcast to Hosmer Volunteer Fire Department from dispatch in Kelowna at 10:00. The Battalion Chief held his pager to the open window of Sandra’s car, the message so moving that even professional funeral director John had a tear in his eye and had to turn away. Beside Sandra sat her son Henry, Florence in the back, as a dignified procession of fire trucks and mourners moved out onto Highway #3 moments later. The flashing light of the Cherished Memories Funeral Home vehicle led the way, followed by the #1091 pickup truck cradling the casket of David Barrett. Sandra’s blue car followed, and behind her the red fire engine #1041 – the fire truck David always drove. Behind that, cars of invited guests and fire trucks from across the Elk Valley in a solemn procession, passing friends and neighbours standing quietly at the side of the highway.

A fire truck and other vehicles parked in the snow.
A group of firemen standing in front of a fire station.
A red tow truck parked in the snow near people.

In Fernie, flagger Jeri was crying as she did her job of holding up traffic to direct the funeral cortège left, off the highway onto 7th Street, past the City Centre sign that David and Sandra had made and installed on the day of Dr. Sparling East’s funeral. The procession of 17 fire trucks and mourners’ cars continued, turning right onto 3rd Avenue. The sight there made David’s widow and children gasp. Fernie Fire Hall was filled with firefighters across the whole width of the station. On-duty firefighters in full turnout gear lined up beside off-duty firefighters in full dress uniform, forming a guard of honour – all of them saluting David’s coffin as it passed slowly by. The cortège continued past the Miners’ Walk sculptures outside City Hall that Fernie Forge had made and installed in 2011, Fernie folk standing respectfully on the sidewalk. Next, a left turn onto 5th Street, where many more people silently lined both sides of the road. It was hard to believe that all these people had come out to bade farewell to the local blacksmith outside Eye of the Needle, the gallery owned and operated by Sandra and David Barrett. A right turn at the Museum onto 2nd Avenue and straight ahead to Knox United Church, where the Minister Reverend Andrea Brennan stood on the top step in white clerical garb, arms outstretched in welcome.

Provincial regulations preventing more than 10 people from gathering together at any one time due to COVID-19 protocols meant invited guests had to stay in their cars until David’s son Henry and Hosmer firefighters had carried David’s coffin up the steps and into the church. Then up another flight of steps before turning into the Sanctuary, where Scott was playing the hymn “Stay with us” on the piano that Wilda and Doug Quail had donated not long before. The pallbearers left, allowing Elk Valley Fire Chief Dave Boreen and five friends to enter and sit. After a single candle was lit and words of welcome spoken, David’s daughter Florence stood to deliver the eulogy – written by David’s wife, spoken by his beautiful daughter, and supported by his wonderful son. Followed by a recorded piano tribute “You needed me” played by Sandra, as photographs of David appeared on a large screen. A short prayer and bible reading from Matthew 11:28-30 came before a powerful personal homily by the Minister. More prayers and words of commendation. The candle was extinguished and a sending song in West Country English dialect “Thees got wur thee casn’t back, isn’t?” was chosen by David’s brother Mark to close the service. Guests left, pallbearers returned to take the casket to a waiting hearse and straight to the crematorium.

A fire truck parked in front of a church.
A group of people carrying a casket down the steps.
A room with many decorations and a table

Afterwards, the Barrett’s had brunch together, returning to Cherished Memories to collect the riot of colour casket flowers and death certificates, whilst Flo’s friends brought items displayed in church back to the family home. Later, one of many hot, home-cooked meals provided by United Church Women and others appeared on the doorstep. Bryan, the firefighter who had responded to the initial 911 call for medical assistance, came to visit with his wife. Later still, a knock at the door as Sage and Tim from Shred Kelly sang a beautiful rendition of “Silent Night” at a respectful distance, in the quiet curve of evening.

And so remember his smile. “Helpful Dave” loved his community and had faith that they would look out for his family, who has been overwhelmed with a tremendous outpouring of kindness and extraordinary support. Our heartfelt thanks to everyone. David’s legacy will live on. Just look around you at the United Church balcony railings, the City Centre sign at Rotary Park, the sculptures in the Miners’ Walk, and the Eye of the Needle railings. Please hope that Fernie Forge will continue. His wife is a qualified blacksmith, too, and never forgets the power of strong women. We have been privileged to have witnessed David’s last ride on a fire truck. Know that David Barrett loved his family and was loved in return. Faith, hope, and love, these three. And the greatest of these is love.

Sandra Barrett

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David's Celebration of Life Service

David's Celebration of Life Service
Play Video



Video of Procession on Hwy #3 taken by Lea Thompson
“Higher than a Hawk” sung by Howard Keel from Calamity Jane starring Doris Day (1953) was the LP found on David’s record player turntable – the last record he played.
All photos of David’s last ride were taken by Matt Kuhn, except Fernie Fire Dept taken by Battalion Chief Norm Nordstrom inside fire truck #1041. The procession passing Eye of the Needle was taken by Kyle Hamilton. The casket inside the church, taken by Sandra Barrett.
“Stay with us” music by Ron Klusmeier
“You Needed Me” by Randy Goodrum
“These got’n wur thee casn’t back’n, asn’t?” by Fred Wedlock
“Fire” by Arthur Brown
“Silent Night” by Franz Gruber
Remembering David video compiled by Mirey Faema and Florence Barrett

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“Epitaph” by Merrit Malloy

“Epitaph” by Merrit Malloy

When I die, give what’s left of me away
to children and old men who wait to die. And if you need to cry,
cry for your brother walking the street beside you.
And when you need me, put your arms around anyone
and give them what you need to give to me.
I want to leave you something,
something better than words or sounds.
Look for me in the people I’ve known or loved
and if you cannot give me away,
at least let me live on in your eyes and not your mind.
You can love me most by letting hands touch hands,
by letting bodies touch bodies,
and by letting go of children that need to be free.
Love doesn’t die, people do.
So, when all that’s left of me is love, give me away.

A pair of boots and a helmet are on display.