George Washington Barnett Jr.

George Washington Barnett Jr., 86, died of lymphoma on Jan. 16 in Salida. Barnett was born in Minturn on July 5, 1934 to Mae (Wyatt) and George Barnett Sr. He had one sister, Anna Mae, who preceded him in death.

At the time of Barnett’s birth, his father was a miner at Gilman. Barnett grew up around his extended family, which had moved west to Colorado from Appalachia.

Barnett graduated from Rifle Union High School and then served in the U.S. Army. He worked as a telegrapher for the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad, working at stations throughout Colorado and Eastern Utah. Barnett attended Mesa Junior College in Grand Junction, eventually graduating from the University of Colorado. Later, he earned a master’s degree from the University of Denver.

After graduation from college, Barnett was employed by Routt County as a social worker in Steamboat Springs. There, he met his future beloved wife of 56 years, Patricia Shannon, then a public health nurse. Pat and George were married on January 16,1965 in Boulder.

The Barnetts lived and worked in Steamboat Springs for decades, years of great joy, his family said. Their children Christine, Jeanne and Maureen were born, raised and graduated from high school there. According to family, the Barnetts made lifelong friends, were frequently involved in activities with their children and threw marvelous parties. The couple was among a group of friends who gathered each weekend in the winter to ski the cross-country trails on Rabbit Ears Pass. Barnett was a social worker in the Steamboat Springs School District for most of his career.

The couple then moved to Farmington, New Mexico after their girls went to college, where George was the director of ARC, an organization that provided services for people with developmental and intellectual disabilities. The couple then moved to Buena Vista to be closer to family.

With his wife, Barnett enjoyed travel, exploring the mountains by Jeep and visiting cultural sites throughout the Southwest. The couple attended the Santa Fe Opera annually with friends. Barnett enjoyed being outdoors hiking, canoeing, walking his dog, cross-country skiing, camping and mountain biking. He often took his vintage Volvo out for drives. Barnett was active in local and state politics and was a railroad buff who volunteered his time on the board of the Buena Vista Heritage Museum, where he operated the model train exhibit for visitors. Barnett also served on the Alliance Against Domestic Abuse board in Chaffee County.

Barnett loved good conversations, was soft-spoken and had a great sense of humor, his family said. He was a persistent and constant advocate for disadvantaged people.

Barnett is survived by his wife Pat; daughters Christine McGinnis (Jeff) of Buena Vista, Jeanne Power of Hot Sulphur Springs and Maureen Kiefer (Bruce) of Denver; and grandchildren Hayden and Sage McGinnis and Lucy and Kate Kiefer, as well as his extended family and many friends.

A memorial gathering is tentatively planned for this fall in Steamboat Springs.

If desired, memorial contributions in Barnett’s memory may be made to the Buena Vista Heritage Museum in Buena Vista or to the Alliance Against Domestic Abuse, Chaffee County. Online condolences may be made at