RED BANK: AT 93, STILL WALKING THE DOG

john barnes 3John Barnes and his pooch, Terry, on Linden Place last week. Below, Terry meets Maggie and her owner, Anthony DeGregorio.  (Photo by Sarah Klepner. Click to enlarge)

By SARAH KLEPNER

JOHN BARNES 1He’s a Red Bank fixture – if the term applies to a seemingly always-on-the-go nonagenarian in a wheelchair.

Anyone who has spent enough time in the vicinity of Broad Street has probably seen John Barnes matter-of-factly walking his dog from a motorized wheelchair, undeterred by heavy traffic, other dogs or health challenges.

So, how does he manage it?

“It’s hard,” said Barnes, a sharp-eyed, 93-year-old Brooklyn native and World War II veteran.  “You gotta work together. You never know what he’s going to do.”

Case in point: a curious Golden Retriever one Friday evening caught Terry’s attention and the two spent a moment exchanging sniffs.

“I’ve had him since he was a puppy,” said Barnes. “We’ve been doing it so long, he’s used to it. We go out every day, sometimes twice. I used to walk him, then I got the mobile chair.  You just gotta keep the battery charged.”

Barnes’ nephew, John Edel, helps him out around his house, on Hudson Avenue.

“He’s a sweet guy.  When I was a kid, he always took time to have fun.”

Barnes was among the first of the United States’ Army to invade Italy, and made news when he happened to meet his brother, who was in the Navy, on the streets of Naples when both were on leave. After the war, he worked in sales in New York and New Jersey before he got hired at the Red Bank post office, where he became head dispatcher.

“I used to make movies,” Barnes said. “I made a hobby of it.”

His nephew concurred. “He would include the whole family, we’d all have a part.  Years later, he’d bring the movies to Thanksgiving and show them.”

Does Edel worry about his uncle when he takes the dog for a walk?

“I can’t keep him in the house,” Edel said.  “His whole life revolves around taking the dog out and talking to people.  When I take the dog out, people ask me, ‘What happened to the old man?'”

Barnes struggles with arthritis, but doesn’t let it stop him.

“They tell you to stay out of bed,” he said, but “you can’t just lay there like a log.”