Joey Coleman: Reflections on the passing of Robert Barlow

Reflections on the passing of Robert Barlow

Robert Barlow unexpectedly died May 29 at the age of 47.

Bob was many things, among them vice-chair of the public school board and president of the local Cal Ripken baseball league. He suffered a heart attack while on the baseball diamond.

Baseball was his real passion, he was passionate about politics, but baseball was a whole other level of passion that he hard to express in mere words.

I met Bob in 1997 during the Bill 160 debates. I don’t remember exactly where I met him, I do remember him inviting me to a municipal election night campaign party for Mark Morrow. Mark Morrow was the former MPP for Wentworth East. I can’t remember what Morrow was running for.

I do remember the campaign party was in the club house of the Stoney Creek little league park – a baseball connection.

This was my first partisan political event and I enjoyed it. Bob didn’t pressure me to join the NDP and encouraged me to think about what political party I would eventually join. I ended up going Liberal – I lived in Hamilton East, home of Sheila Copps and Dominic Agostino, both Liberal powerhouses.

Bob and I became friends in spite of my choice of a different party. In 2000, when I ran for public school board trustee, Bob was one of the first to offer me encouragement. When NDP steward Wayne Marston announced his candidacy in the same Ward as I was running, Bob was behind his friend – and ensured Wayne and I enjoyed good communications that made for a good campaign experience. Wayne won, both Bob and Wayne sent me quick congratulations on my campaign.

Over the years, Bob and I were at the same events. My journalism has been very critical of the School Board’s decisions the past few years. Bob and I had some lively discussions about this, but never did those conversations become negative.

For all the opportunities for Bob and I to become opponents, we never did. That is a testament to the man Robert Barlow was. I owe him for the example he gave me at age 15 of how to be a gentleman in politics.

Dear Readers: May I suggest taking a read of the moving insightful tribute given to Bob by his long-time friend Rene Gauthier posted on Gauthier’s blog on May 31. You won’t regret reading it.