Frater Gene Barnes – Scroll #56

By Thomas J. Cooney (Scroll #110)

Frater Gene Barnes, Scroll #56

Gene Barnes personified the phrase, “not for wealth, rank or honor but for personal worth and character” which is synonymous with Tau Kappa Epsilon and all its members. The meaning has been used as a rallying cry, a recruitment tool, and a personal sense of pride.  Gene believed that each frater should be honored for their personal worth and character rather than wealth, rank or honor which our rival fraternities believed was essential.                 

Many of us only knew Gene as a frater or alumni and chapter advisor. I would like to share some personal information about Gene to give you some insight as to why Gene loved his fraters and fraternity so much.  All of the following was gleaned from discussions with his family members, a few fraters and little sisters.  Gene welcomed the diversity that our Mu Omega Chapter exemplified and spent time assisting fraters and pledges on their scholastic challenges as well as life goals.

Gene Barnes was a native Northern Virginian born January 21, 1950 to Ruth and Homer Barnes. Homer had been in the US Army during WW2 and was a POW.  Following WW2 there was a critical shortage of automobiles, which necessitated that Homer hitchhike for his job from Lucketts, VA. into Washington, D.C. and back each day.  Homer and Ruth were dedicated parents and sacrificed and worked hard to nurture their growing family.  As a result the Barnes are to this day a tight-knit family with siblings Carol, Cindy and Jim who contributed to this biography. They recall how family was very important to Gene and how kind and caring he was to all. He was always the one to play games with nieces and nephews never missing birthdays or holidays.  Gene’s strong character was forged from a hardworking, determined, loving family, which he incorporated into his daily life and fraternity.

Gene graduated from Leesburg’s Loudoun County High School in 1968 and enrolled at Randolph Macon College in Ashland, Virginia.  Gene left Randolph Macon to attend George Mason College of the University of Virginia in 1970 and pledged Tau Kappa Epsilon’s Mu Omega Chapter. His scroll number is 56. Gene received a B.S. Degree in History from George Mason College in 1972.  Gene was accepted and enrolled at Catholic University earning a Master’s Degree in Library Science in 1978.  Gene worked throughout college at the Fairfax County, Vienna Branch Library. Mark Monson (Scroll #71) recalls fondly that Gene also worked on George Mason’s campus at the Fenwick Library. Upon gaining his Master’s Degree he worked at first in Baltimore, MD and in Henrico County, VA. In 1981 he moved to Newport News, VA working for the Department of the Army. There he met his future bride. Gene married Patricia Anne Saul Barnes on March 22, 1980 at St. James Episcopal Church in Leesburg, Virginia.

Gene became ill and was diagnosed with cancer in January of 1982 and passed away on May 27, 1982.  Prior to passing away a courageous Gene Barnes contacted me and asked to be driven to some TEKE functions. He asked that his condition be kept confidential. He stated that his chronic health problems would mean he would not live a long life. Along the way to the functions he was in great pain, however when he left the vehicle and attended the gatherings he was smiling and interacting with everyone positively. 

Gene was always a typical TEKE being fun loving. He was an occasional practical joker, loved to play poker, and imbibe in adult beverages.

Mu Omega TEKEs
(G. Barnes standing to the right)

I learned that he also played cards on that last visit with Ranny Reynolds (scroll #82), Don Falkenstein (#120), Kenny Reid (#63) and others. They joked with him that he was cheating. Reggie Hudson (#151) said that he went to dinner at Victoria Station with Kenny Reid and Gene Barnes where he informed them of his condition but wanted to know what was going on in their lives.  Kenny Reid recalls that once Gene somehow collected a trash can full of hanging chads from computer punch cards and “decorated” the Reid home.  Kenny’s mother banned Gene from visiting ever again! Fraters recall at one of our Cardinal events Gene had imbibed in one too many beers.  He worried that he was going to be in trouble as he was to be baptized the next day. Don Falkenstein recalls being a USAF vet after a 4-year stint and joining a fraternity of younger men. Gene being older and an alumnus naturally became a best friend. Gene even hired Don to work at the Vienna Library where he worked throughout his college career. Debbie Rogers Cross (TKE Mu Omega Sweetheart 1979) recalls how Gene procured professional photographers to create a portfolio to nominate her as the TKE National Sweetheart.  Don Early (#249) recalls while pledging that Gene was Chapter Advisor and more than once cocked his head to the side and advised “if I were you, I would not do “that” with your fellow pledge brothers.” Whatever “that” was. Later Don discovered that Gene had done “that” himself, as Mark Monson reminisced of some old stories back in the day of Genes pledging TKE.   Gene worked with the Phi Mu Sorority in creating their Big Brother program and recruited TKE and Kappa Sigma members to become Big Brothers.  He was a huge supporter in the GMU Greek Life and worked hard for the Pan Hellenic Council.  Personally he assisted me with research for papers (before computers!) and had me over for dinner on several occasions with his parents in Leesburg.  He encouraged me to run for office within the fraternity and GMU student government. He convinced me I should go for a double major in Business Administration and Public Administration, which earned me Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges.  Gene was a selfless, goal oriented, fun loving guy who endeavored to share those traits to all who wanted to learn.

Gene was buried at Leesburg’s Union Cemetery and was just 32 years old, married only 20 months with a bright future ahead of him. This man of integrity, intelligence and caring was taken too soon from a world that needed him then and needs him even more today. And he is still with us in the form of the Frater Gene Barnes Memorial Scholarship Fund. Due to his dedication and tremendous passion for the fraternity, a scholarship fund was set up in his honor at the TKE Foundation office 38 years ago.  Frater Gene brought much to our local chapter, and in his honor, we hope to continue his legacy by sponsoring undergraduate TKEs in their educational endeavors.

Since the establishment of the Gene Barnes Memorial Scholarship fund in the early 80’s, there have been fourteen undergraduate Fraters who have received a scholarship, totaling $6,600.

40% of the association dues today goes directly to the scholarship fund. If you would like to make a direct donation, please visit the TKE Foundation and enter the name “The Gene Barnes Memorial Scholarship Fund” in the special instructions box.