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The Crystal Springs resident was a vital part of a close community, neighbors say.
By HELEN ANNE TRAVIS, Times Staff Writer
Published December 20, 2007
[Mike Pease | Times]
When residents saw the antennas from television station satellite trucks hovering above the treeline, they knew something serious had happened in Crystal Springs. The loss was more than many had expected.
Wednesday morning, a fire engulfed a home in the small community near the Hillsborough County line. An elderly man died in the blaze, according to Pasco deputies. Officials did not release the man's name, but neighbors and the postman said he was 72-year-old Oakley Barnard, a community volunteer and longtime Crystal Springs resident.
"He's been around here pretty much longer than anyone in Crystal Springs," said postmaster Ron Cornelius, who works with one other employee at the town's post office, located down the road from Barnard's home.
The fire started around 1:30 a.m., according to deputies. Barnard's wife, Shirley, 70, escaped the blaze, neighbors said. The cause of the fire was still under investigation.
Barnard's death was the talk of the weekly town hall flea market.
"We were all shocked, we didn't want to keep saying the words that he was gone," said Annette Brooks, president of a Crystal Springs community association.
Barnard and his wife were active members of the 20-person group. The two helped clean up the local cemetery, trimmed trees and made fliers to advertise community festivals and picnics.
"Everything that's happened in this community, he's helped," Cornelius said.
When a neighbor's husband died, the Barnards were at her door with food. They recently made phone calls to raise money for a single mom in the community.
"They always volunteered to bring people to church. You couldn't ask for better people," said Darlene Knipp, who lived across the street from the Barnards for three years.
A year ago, she said, she watched from her window as the two celebrated their 50th anniversary with a yard full of people. Wednesday morning, the firefighters used Knipp's property as a parking lot.
Knipp's daughter, Tammy, met the couple at the school bus stop where Tammy Knipp waited with her daughter. The Barnards were not related to any of the two dozen kids who stood each morning across the street from their home, Darlene Knipp said. Still, the couple would come by each morning, often armed with cookies or candy.
"They would do anything for anybody," said family friend Vicki Buchanan.
Four years ago, the Barnards lost their grandson, Cameron Bineshtarigh, in an automobile accident. Cameron was 16. He had been driving less than a week, reports say, when a pickup truck crossed into his lane and hit Cameron's Buick head-on. Cameron was on his way home from church. It was two weeks before Thanksgiving.
Barnard died less than a week before Christmas.
Tragedy seems to strike the family around holidays, said Judy Biston, a neighbor and former member of the community association.
Family members could not be reached Wednesday, but neighbors say they will take care of Barnard's widow and relatives.
"It's a small-knit community," said Biston. "Whatever needs to be done, we'll get together and help however we can."
Helen Anne Travis can be reached at 352 521-6518 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Last modified December 19, 2007, 22:06:44]