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Barron remembered as passionate park advocate

Flags flew at half-mast in Münneref, Luxembourg, Tuesday for a Nanaimo man who made his mark at home and abroad.

Hubert James (Pat) Barron died Sunday at 97.

Barron was well known for taking on contentious issues and not shying away from ruffling a few feathers to attain goals he believed would benefit his community.

“He was a character extraordinaire and, God knows, you wanted him on your side in any fight,” said Leonard Krog, Nanaimo MLA and friend of Barron.

Krog credits Barron as one of the main driving forces behind the Concerned Citizens Committee, a group that took up the fight to create Maffeo Sutton Park on Nanaimo’s waterfront. A plaque on a cairn near the park bears Barron’s name along with others who believed the land should be preserved as a park instead of a marina and boat repair facilities proposed for the former industrial site.

“Eventually, instead of seeing that turned into a fancy marina for rich folks, he saw it turned into one of the jewels of Nanaimo’s waterfront and Pat was a huge push behind that,” Krog said. “Pat was a good example of the dictum for any progressive person: To comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.”

Barron also worked to establish Piper Lagoon Park.

Barron was born in Swansea, U.K., on March 12, 1917, and joined the Royal Air Force in 1936. He was based in Reims, France, with RAF 226B Squadron and was shot down during a bombing mission against German forces over Luxembourg in May 1940. Barron was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and he and other RAF pilots are honoured to this day by the municipality of Münneref where flags are flown at half-mast upon their deaths.

After recovering from his injuries suffered in the downing of his aircraft, Barron moved to Canada with his first wife Rosemary and their three children, where he trained pilots until the end of the war. The family moved to San Diego in 1946, where he flew for a number of commercial airlines.

Barron remarried in 1950 to Barbara Lou Preston. The family moved to Europe in 1960 where he continued his career as a commercial pilot. The Barrons moved to Nanaimo in 1968.

“That’s when he became involved in community affairs,” said Patricia Barron, his daughter.

Barron served on city council for two consecutive terms from 1987-90.

Merv Unger, former journalist and city council member, had occasion to find himself on the opposite side of Barron’s positions on contentious local issues such as the routing of the Nanaimo Parkway and Linley Valley development.

“We crossed paths many times,” Unger said. “He loved to debate, shall we say, in a forceful manner and he and I had many goes at it.”

Barron and his wife Barbara moved to Dover House care facility in north Nanaimo in early 2014.

Patricia said her father died peacefully in his sleep and was not suffering any illnesses prior to his death.

“I have to say we’re very sad, but the fact is he went peacefully and at 97, he sure had a good run for his money,” Patricia Barron said. “He had a very active and full life.”

Barron is survived by his wife, 10 children, 16 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

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