On January 2, 2009, Jackie Curtis Barnett, Jr., went home to be with his Lord, and left us struggling to understand a world without this person who had been at the heart of our family for 42 years. Curtis is the one we all leaned on and trusted to take care of things. If something needed to be fixed, Curtis fixed it. If we needed advice on some important life event, Curtis had the words that kept our path true. If we needed a shoulder to cry on, Curtis had very broad shoulders. If one of us needed a hug, Curtis had a heart as big as the entire State of Louisiana.
Curtis was never blessed with children of his own, but he was a father to many. When siblings, nieces or nephews needed a place to call home, Curtis embraced them as his own. He helped with homework, carpooled, coached pee-wee football, and was a band booster. When he no longer had a kid in the band, he continued as a band booster and cooked hamburgers for each game. It would have put a smile on his face that those same kids marched into his funeral in the Reuben McCall High School Auditorium with drum cadences rumbling.
In the Barnett house growing up, his mom, Bertha, just didn't know how to cook small. It wasn't just the six Barnett kids who were fed, but an endless assortment of neighborhood kids kept the front door revolving. Curtis learned from the best. When he wasn't feeding the pee-wee football players or the band, Curtis developed a routine distribution for his food that included elderly and sick neighbors. Like his mom, Curtis always kept take out containers handy in his kitchen. When he cut his grass, it was not unusual for him to keep on cutting because he knew his neighbors were not up to it.
Curtis was a hard worker. After graduating from McCall Senior High School in 1983, Curtis learned how to be a truck driver and later moved to Houston. He returned to his roots in Tallulah in 1993 to be closer to his family. He went to work in security in the newly developing casino industry in Vicksburg, and was a Security Shift Supervisor at the time of his death. It was not unusual for him to be cooking crawfish on the weekend, particularly around Easter. He passed the Barnett work ethic down to the many kids for whom he was a mentor.
Curtis' faith was not just something that came out on Sunday morning, but was something he lived every day. His caring and compassion allowed him to touch the lives of people who might not be regular church-goers. Curtis was a son, a brother, an uncle, a coworker, a supervisor, a Mason, and a friend to just about everybody in Tallulah, Louisiana. His heart touched about as many lives in 42 years as many do in a lifetime.
The lessons we learned from Curtis' life - faith, love, compassion, and service - compelled us to begin the Jackie Curtis Barnett, Jr., Memorial Foundation, so that we could continue his legacy of service, and to honor his memory in our hearts. From the heart of this one, remarkable man, it is our hope that thousands of lives will be changed.