Above: George Barner, Jr. is helped to the scene by Olympia Deputy Fire Chief Greg Wright while his home was on fire on January 29. Fire relief accounts to help Barner have been set up at TwinStar Credit Union and GoFundMe. There are other ways to donate clothes and small items to help Barner get reestablished.
By Janine Gates
“They called it Stormy Monday, but Tuesday’s just as bad…Wednesday’s even worse, and Thursday’s awful sad…” goes the old blues song, “Stormy Monday.”
“….The eagle flies on Friday, and Saturday, I go out to play…Sunday, I’m going to church, where I’ll kneel down and pray, ‘Lord, Have Mercy On Me….’”
Former port commissioner, local rock n’ roller, and beloved community member George Barner Jr., 75, lost everything he had in a house fire January 29, and has often sung those lyrics on stage.
Barner is doing well, but he’s tired, grieving the loss of irreplaceable family and personal photographs and papers, antiques, rock n’ roll records and memorabilia, his collection of leather jackets, and an astounding collection of items of significance to Olympia and Northwest history.
He is also dealing with the harsh realities of complying with a city ordinance to clear his property of the home’s remaining debris, completing insurance paperwork, and replacing personal records and information.
People have been stopping by his westside property on 5th Avenue SW to look at the remains and friends have been calling to extend their condolences.
Barner appreciates the calls and knows his voice mail box is full. He says he needs some time and privacy to readjust and greatly appreciates the community efforts now underway to help him restart his life.
Barner had been staying at a local hotel at the time of the fire due to an attempted burglary at his home a couple of weeks prior, and had few clothes and items with him. The hotel provides a small continental breakfast, and since the fire, he has been going out to eat for lunch and dinner.
The green coat he’s been wearing this week was donated by a friend.
Barner’s home and property was insured. So far, there have been no hiccups in getting the appropriate paperwork completed, but processing the forms will take several months. In the meantime, Barner is still on the hook for paying his monthly mortgage and outstanding household bills.
The cause of the fire has not been determined.
Ways to Help George Barner Jr.:
A fire relief account to help Barner has been set up at TwinStar Credit Union. The account number is 474453. Deposits can be made at any branch.
A GoFundMe account has also been set up at https://www.gofundme.com/6at3a8-george-barner-fire-relief-fund.
Clean, new, or gently used donations for setting Barner up in an apartment are also being gathered.
Please do not contact Barner regarding these donations. For pick up/drop off arrangements, and for larger items such as a couple of bookcases, lamps, a microwave, and other items, please contact Janine Gates, Ja9gates@aol.com or (360) 791-7736.
Above: A donation box for small household items for Barner is set up with a sign near the checkout stand at Olympia Supply. Thank you Jeff and Tom Bean!
For a short time only, community members may donate small household and personal items for Barner at Olympia Supply at 625 Columbia Street in downtown Olympia. Store hours are Monday – Friday, 7 a.m. – 6 p.m., Saturdays from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., and Sundays from 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Specific items that would be appreciated are kitchen items such as a coffee pot with an automatic turn off control, a whistling tea pot, aluminum foil and food storage containers, a cheese grater, an electric can opener, pots and pans, baking pans, a wok with a stove top ring, a cookie sheet, a blender, a colander and paper towels.
Other appreciated items include bedding sheets for a queen sized mattress, blankets, bed pillows, a large heating pad with an automatic turn off control, warm and waterproof coats, sweaters, warm shirts, socks, scarves, gloves, and hats.
Bathroom supplies may include a couple throw rugs, toilet paper, washcloths, and towels.
Other items include a flashlight, nightlights, a clock/radio, and cleaning supplies such as dish soap and laundry soap.
Any items received that cannot be used or don’t fit will be donated to a local homeless advocacy organization or shelters such as the Interfaith Works daytime warming shelter or Emergency Overnight Shelter.
Barner, who has diabetes and had all his toes on his right foot amputated in 2012, had several pairs of shoes and boots that contained specially made inserts that were designed for each pair. These will need to be replaced with the funds raised. He currently has one pair of shoes and no warm or waterproof clothing.
Barner has also set up a post office box address. It is P.O. Box 7157, Olympia, Washington 98507. Well-wishers may send him correspondence and gift cards and certificates to stores such as Fred Meyer, Target, Goodwill, or Value Village and local restaurants.
Besides his long careers in public service, which included work with the State of Washington and the Thurston County Commission, Barner has long contributed his musical talents for fun and worthy fundraisers to the community.
To watch George Barner Jr. belt out two of his favorite rock classics, “Lucille,” and “Louie, Louie,” go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HHPZplaMGrg and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4fqOX-x81-Q . Both tunes were recorded in October 2015 with the Lee Franklin Express Blues Band at Frankie’s Sports Bar in Olympia.
Editor’s Update, February 19: Thank you Olympia community members! It is difficult to express just how caring our community is, and how quickly we came together to support George. He now has pretty much everything he needs: warm clothes and coats, blankets and bed sheets, kitchen items, and household furniture. The quality of the donated items is simply heartwarming. All donations are much appreciated. Incredibly, there were few to no duplications and all are being used.
Due also to incoming financial donations to the TwinStar and GoFundMe accounts, George’s situation is stable and he has paid off some household bills.
I’d especially like to thank Olympia Supply for providing a conveniently located space for folks to drop off their donations. It was a huge help. Not only that, Olympia Supply staff took a warm, personal interest in George’s situation and also provided donations.
Again, thank you!
Above: Olympia firefighters responded to the scene of George Barner's home within minutes, but were unable to save it due to interior obstructions and ammunition stored inside that was heard to be going off for quite some time. The home was a total loss.