Obituary for John Barnitz
Blacksmith, banjo player and bear hunter: Born January 31, 1932, in Wytheville, VA, John grew up roaming the creeks, hills and back country of the Blue Ridge Mountains that surrounded his home and shaped his life. He never strayed far from the mountains unless he had to and avoided big cities the best he could. He died February 19, 2018, at his home in Magdalena, NM, the town he loved.
John is survived by Kelley, his wife of 27 years, and by his first wife, Louise. He is also survived by his sons, Jack (Colleen), Dick (Donna), Bill and Erik (Lisa); his brother, Bill; and sister, Charlotte (Chuck); grandchildren, Justin (Jessica), Jon (Nychole), Katy, Richard, Kay-Leigh, Mike and Shelby; great-grandchildre,n Nyaelah, Hadleigh, Atlas and Maddy; and nieces and nephews. He was preceeded in death by his daughter, Lisa; parents, Charles and Mildred; and some damn good dogs.
He played football in high school and remained a football fan throughout his life. After graduating, John joined the Navy, where he put his already developed carpentry and construction skills to use in the Seabees building military facilities and exploring the seas from the Phillipines to the Aleutian Islands. He attended Colorado State University on his GI Bill and earned his forestry degree. His carreer with the U.S. Forest Service took him to Erwin, TN; Magdalena, NM, Prescott, AZ, Cheyenne, OK and Mountainair, NM. After retiring, he moved back to Magdalena.
John was most at home outdoors. He loved nature and observed and learned about plants, animals, the stars and seasons throughout his life. He was an excellent bluegrass musician and played several instuments, but the banjo was his favorite. He played by ear, and never learned to read "them chicken scratches on paper." He had a fascination with trains, especially the steam locomotives he watched and heard as a child. In retirement, he refined his blacksmith skills – the old way, with a hand crank forge, hammers and anvil. He enjoyed the challenge of making other things by hand as well. He built musical instruments, furniture, did his own leather work and helped Kelley with her quilt making, sewing straight, even stitches the way his grandma taught him.
Daddy, Grandpa John, kept it simple, kept it real, called his shots and lived a full, true life. He had a quick wit that sometimes stung but always made us laugh. He cared little for the dollar but left a rich legacy to all of us. His writings, music, respect for nature, attention to detail and appreciation for things done right are just some of him that live on. He was steady and solid as the mountains he loved and the steel he forged.
By his wish, his body will be cremated and his ashes spread in the mountains. "He's crossed the muddy waters and come out clean on the other side." Arrangements are being handled by the caring professionals at the Noblin Funeral Service Belen Chapel, 418 W. Reinken Ave., (505)864-4448.