John Barnes

Obituary of John Barnes

John Carleton Barnes, of Pittsford, NY, died July 16 at the age of 86 in the company of his family. He was predeceased by his beloved wife, Robbie, a grandson, Cameron, and a nephew, Sam Shook. He is survived by his three sons: Ken, Curt and Larry, and their partners Barbara Ferrer, Tara Barnes and Laurie Bastian Tappel; four grandchildren: Jesse, Erin, Katie and Hanna; and two great grandchildren: Lina and Caleb. He is survived as well by a sister, River, of Burlington VT, her sons Josh and Dan Shook, and their families. In recent years, he appreciated the companionship of Jan Williams of Greenville, South Carolina.

Born in Washington DC in 1931 to Sarah Jo Domingos and Carleton Paine Barnes, John grew up in that city and attended the University of Maryland, where he met his future wife, Roberta Janet Pelton, of Lynedoch, Ontario. Upon graduation, John enlisted in the US Air Force, and was stationed first in Greenland and later in Rapid City, South Dakota, where he and Robbie started a family.

Photography skills he developed in the Air Force led to a job as a chemist at the Eastman Kodak Company in Rochester in 1956, where he invented Rapid Process X-ray film, which made many Kodak salespeople very wealthy. John eventually rose into upper management levels at Kodak before retiring in 1986. He was the founder and first chairman of the Monroe County Environmental Management Council. Robbie worked in the home, raising three sons, before entering local politics and becoming the first female town supervisor in New York State. They lived in Penfield until 1968, Mendon until 1986, and built a cottage on Keuka Lake in 1973.

Upon retirement, John and Robbie moved to South Carolina, where John became known as the "azalea whisperer" and developed his fine woodworking skills. His Windsor chairs and beautiful hand-turned bowls are highly prized and fought over by family members.

The definition of an iconoclast, John taught his sons to think critically and to value fairness, kindness and honesty. A lifelong member of the Sierra Club, he instilled in his children and grandchildren a deep love of wilderness, science, nature and the outdoors. He spent his spare time hiking, camping, kayaking, and turning his yard into a spectacular garden of flowering shrubs and trees. He and Robbie were active locally and made many friends in Greenwood, South Carolina, where they created a scholarship at Lander University in Robbie's name for young women interested in politics.

There will be no funeral. John's ashes will be spread in the parks and wild areas he loved, and a memorial event will be planned for early next year. In lieu of flowers, friends are encouraged to consider making a donation to the Robbie Barnes Scholarship Fund at Lander University, the Sierra Club, or to any organization that works to protect and preserve our natural areas. To light a candle or to leave a remembrance of John, please visit