Barrie Dunsmore died last Sunday—and he’s been my constant companion—rowing with me on the lake as the sun rises, walking around meadows and offering amusing peanut gallery perspectives on the news. It’s odd that when people die, they seem not gone but ever closer.
As a foreign correspondent for ABC for 30 years, Barrie witnessed and reported on many of the major events of the last half of the 20th century. His years covering the struggles in the Middle East affected him profoundly and continued to inform and enlighten.
Barrie was first and foremost an old-school reporter, trained to report and not comment. But with the advent of the internet and social media, the demand for clarification and interpretation increased. Barrie deftly rode the shifting tide and provided thoughtful perspectives as well as information.
When someone dies, what we remember is not so much the person’s accomplishments as who they were inside. Barrie was as kind and gentle a man as I’ve known. Perhaps his time in the trenches made him the humble and sensitive man he was. But I suspect it was the other way around, that his innate tenderness gave his reporting the urgency it had. He was a beacon for honor, dignity and justice and did not shy away from calling out those who sully the landscape of truth—especially of late. If he could with furrowed brow focus on complicated questions more earnestly than most, he could with equal measure erupt in laughter, chuckling with his whole body like a radiant St. Nick.
Barrie’s wife, Whitney, had kept in touch during his final days, so last Sunday morning under sunny skies, the Charlotte Congregational Church, Barrie’s church, prayed deeply for him and his family. As the service was ending, quite surprisingly, a cloud floated overhead, sprinkling a gentle rain upon the gathered throng.
Held outside, it was the annual Blessing of the Animals service with, dogs, cats, toads and ducks in attendance.
As it turned out, the cloud passed just as he did.
Goodbye, and God bless.