Dunmorean of the Month: John Barrett

By Steve Svetovich

Dunmore lost an educator in every sense of the word when John C. Barrett passed away Monday, Sept. 27, after a battle with prostate cancer.

Son of the late Louis “Bud” and Evelyn Margaret “Peggy” Barrett, he died at the home of his devoted partner, Peggy Burke.

A humble and always well-dressed man, Barrett graduated from Dunmore Central Catholic High School in 1969. 

He was a proud graduate of Kings College earning a bachelor of science. degree in secondary English education in 1973. He then earned a master of science degree in secondary school administration from the University of Scranton. 

Barrett began a lengthy and satisfying career as an educator when he started teaching English and speech composition in 1973 in the Dunmore School District. He later served as vice principal of Dunmore High School and principal of Dunmore Middle School. 

He was an inspiration not only to his numerous students, but also to his nieces and nephews, who looked at him as a second father or grandfather.

He looked at education as bringing a student’s potential into actuality.

If you looked at the definition of “gentleman” in the dictionary, you would find John C. Barrett of Dunmore. 

He had many other interests including traveling, architecture, reading historical biographies, working in real estate, and gardening.

He was well-known for walking in a polyester or corduroy suit to and from the high school throughout Dunmore neighborhoods. 

A man of humility, he was polite and kind to those who met him throughout his years as an educator.

And it was quite a journey. 

His career as an educator lasted until 2008. His final position was principal at the Dunmore Middle School. 

“He owned rental properties and loved houses and architecture,” his beloved partner Peggy said. “He loved traveling and reading.

“He was truly a gentleman, very humble. He was the epitome of kindness. He put family first ahead of himself. John never married or had children, but treated his nieces and nephews as if they were his own children.” 

A Notre Dame and Boston Red Sox fan, he always put his students first. 

“He believed in treating students fairly and was always there for them,” Peggy said. “He treated every student the same.

“He was a tough disciplinarian and believed in working to the best of your ability. He believed in a strong work ethic.

“He believed a student should come to school everyday and earn his or her paycheck. Your report card or grade was your paycheck.”

His sister, Barbara Jordan, said he was dedicated to giving the best of himself to the students of Dunmore. “The world has a few good men and he is one of them,” she said.

“He lived by the rules of kindness and selflessness. 

“He loved landscaping and walking. He bought his first car when he was in his 30s. Everyone in Dunmore saw him walking in his corduroy sport coat and tie. He loved walking to school and throughout the neighborhood.” 

Tom Jordan, retired Robert Morris Elementary School principal, was his brother-in-law. “John Barrett was a total gentleman his entire life,” he said.

“He was one of those men who looked the role, acted the role, was the role and dressed appropriately.

“He has a brother, Jimmy, who owns Roads Scholar Transport. I called them ‘Flash’ and ‘Cash,’ with John being ‘Cash.’ John had a good business mind too.” 

Besides his sister Barbara and twin brother Jimmy, Barrett is survived by his sister Betsy Laffey and numerous nieces, nephews and great nieces and nephews, including one on the way. He was the godfather of eight children. 

A Tribute to John Barrett

By Brad Eisele

Today (Sept. 28) the world lost a wonderful man, a true gentleman and one of the finest teachers I’ve ever met, Mr. John Barrett. 

When I think back over my years at Dunmore High School and think of the teachers whom I respected and admired Mr. Barrett was certainly on top of that list.  If you were ever fortunate enough to have had him for English class or Speech Composition you know exactly what I’m talking about.  

Mr. Barrett commanded his classroom like a field general, and not only did he demand respect, but he earned it.  Every student who ever had the privilege to have Mr. Barrett was made not only a better student but a better person.  He showed you how having standards, working to achieve them and then to uphold them would not only open doors to greatness but would provide you with having the satisfaction of having earned your success.

A few years after I graduated from DHS a friend and I bumped into Mr. Barret at a football game.  He asked what we were up to and what we hoped to achieve for ourselves. 

My friend Desiree had told him of her desires to get to Europe. She wanted to visit England and Scotland and to behold all the wonders they possessed.  It was without hesitation that Mr. Barret pulled out his wallet and handed her a $20 bill and said “Here is your start up fund.”   I wasn’t surprised by his gesture of kindness, because genuine support and kindness were all I ever knew from this wonderful man.  

In my high school years Mr. Barrett was extremely supportive and encouraging of my theatrical adventures.   He knew I was “different,” but made sure I knew I had his full support in all my endeavors and he praised me for always being me and never being dragged down by those who weren’t mature enough to understand.  He always encouraged me to just be myself.

In more recent years I have bumped into Mr. Barrett from time to time at Dunkin Donuts and he would always insist on two things; 1) that I call him John and 2) he paid for my coffee.  I also had the honor of introducing this amazing man to my athletes at the gym and my co-workers.  

Mr. Barrett would bring his beautiful nieces to class from time to time and I made sure everyone knew how fortunate I was to have learned so much from him. I don’t think he enjoyed the attention but he deserved to be recognized for the difference he made in the lives of many.  

One of the final times I saw Mr. Barrett we chatted as we always did and shook hands as we were about to part ways but to both of our surprise after we shook hands I gave him a hug and said “thank you for everything.”  I didn’t plan it, I just had the urge to say thanks. 

I’m so glad I had the opportunity to learn from Mr. Barrett and will forever be grateful I got to let him know how much it meant and to thank him for all his years of support and encouragement.

I was very saddened to learn of my friend John’s passing today.  As I sit back and reflect on the day, it now makes sense. Today was a beautiful day as was the spirit of a man who dedicated his life to teaching and helping to shape the futures of many.  The sun shown brightly in the sky, just as Mr. Barrett was a beacon of light and strength through all the years I’ve known him.   The breeze was a messenger, and with it I could hear all his encouragement once more.

The world indeed lost a wonderful man today.  Thank you John, I am forever grateful!  Rest well, my friend, you have more than earned it.