Rev. William L. Barnett, 84, Unitarian minister emeritus

November 29, 1996|By Fred Rasmussen | Fred Rasmussen,SUN STAFF

The Rev. William L. Barnett, minister emeritus of Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, died Nov. 19 of heart failure at his Severna Park residence. He was 84.

Mr. Barnett was a journalist for the Herald Tribune in Paris and HAVAS News Agency in New York, and later was an advertising executive for Packard automobiles and an antiquarian bookseller. He abandoned his successful business career to become a minister.

"He really had a great skill and calling, and a deep desire to help people," said his wife of 38 years, the former Ethel Gandy.

"He was always being asked to speak at Unitarian churches in New Jersey, where we lived then, and he found that he really liked it," Mrs. Barnett said.

After graduating from Bangor Theological Seminary in Maine and serving at his first church in Castine, Maine, Mr. Barnett came to fTC Unitarian Universalist Church in Annapolis.

He was fluent in five languages and enjoyed painting portraits in oil, carving human figures in mahogany and ebony, taking photographs and playing tennis. He took long daily walks until he was in his early 80s.

But it was his church work that gave him lasting satisfaction. He was known by his parishioners for his witty, insightful and intellectual sermons, which he delivered in a rich, deep baritone and which were designed to encourage people to think.

"He brought a lot of wisdom and moral challenge to his beautifully expressed sermons," said Julie Pincoffs of Severna Park, who has attended the church for 33 years.

"During the time of racial discord in the 1960s, he was a very steady presence," she said. "A great believer in civil rights, he took a strong moral stand during this difficult time. He had a very loyal following and the great ability to inspire people to make positive and lasting contributions to the community."

Esther H. Carpenter, retired director of the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services and a former member of the church board, said, "I always admired his cosmopolitan point of view and the fact that he could always offer something to people who were seeking religious beliefs in order to find their way.

"He never tried to give answers or pretend he could resolve the riddle of life. He was able to help someone find God in their own way," she said.

In addition to his church work, he was a volunteer counselor at Crownsville Hospital Center and a former president of the Ministerial Association of Annapolis.

After his retirement, he and his wife operated an antique shop in Wiscasset, Maine, where they spent summers.

Born in Elizabeth, N.J., Mr. Barnett was raised and educated in Paris. He earned his bachelor's degree there and began working as a journalist in the late 1930s for the Herald Tribune. He returned to New York on the eve of World War II.

A memorial service for Mr. Barnett will be held at 1 p.m. tomorrow at Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis, 333 Dubois Ave., Annapolis.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a son, Neil W. Barnett of Granville, Ohio; a stepson, Martin M. Greisiger of Sacramento, Calif.; and four grandchildren.

Pub Date: 11/29/96

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