Patriarch of the Barnes family, Wallace 'Wally' Barnes, passes away at 94

Published on Thursday, 10 December 2020 17:13
Written by Bob Montgomery


BRISTOL – The patriarch of the Barnes family, Wallace “Wally” Barnes, passed away Thursday at the age of 94.

Tom Barnes, Wally’s son, said his father died peacefully, and his close family members were with him, or said their goodbyes the evening prior. A funeral will be held for the family, but a larger memorial will be held post covid-19 restrictions.

“We are all heartbroken at this news as Wally was one of our closest and dearest friends,” said longtime friend Sherwood “Woody” Anderson. “We all have our special remembrances of Wally. Kate (Woody's wife) and I knew Wally since coming to Bristol in 1958 and he was my first boss.”

Edward Lorenson, former president of Bristol Savings Bank, remembered his time with Barnes after they both came back from World War II, and when Barnes served on the banks’ board of directors.

“I was always proud of him, because although he was also involved in other things outside of Bristol, he always had Bristol in the forefront of his mind throughout the years,” Lorenson said.

Another longtime friend, Tom Downs, remembered how caring Barnes was.

“He was a wonderful, caring individual whose legacy will certainly be regarded as a pillar in Bristol's history,” Downs said.

Barnes was raised in Bristol before going on to college. He was an aviation cadet in the Army Air Corps during WWII, and later became a lawyer.

Barnes would practice law for 10 years before joining Associated Spring, becoming vice president and then president. It was later re-named The Barnes Group and he served as its chair and CEO until he retired in 1994. He ran for Congress in 1985 and served 12 years in the state Senate, where he was Minority Leader in 1969. When he was a state legislator he faced future Connecticut Governor Tom Meskill in a Republican primary for the state’s top position. Meskill won and went on to become governor between 1971 and 1975.

Barnes continued to be heavily involved in state politics for a number of years.

As the patriarch of the Barnes family, politics was always an important part of his life. He was married to Washington, D.C. businesswoman Barbara Franklin, who served as secretary of commerce under President George H.W. Bush.

In 2018, Barnes was honored by the Bristol Boys & Girls Club with the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Barnes at the time said he was “honored” to receive the award.

“I think this is the most important award I have ever received,” he said at the time. “This is one of my favorite organizations in the city; they do very important work. I have done all I’ve done because I really care about this community. It’s a special place and my family has lived here for generations. It is one of the most interesting cities in Connecticut, with a lot of diversity. I’m very enthusiastic about Bristol and I always have been. Bristol has continued to reinvent itself over the years as the times have changed. I’m confident that this organization will help prepare young people to reinvent Bristol again as circumstances continue to change in the future.”

Brian Johnson contributed to this story.

Contact Bob Montgomery at

Posted in The Bristol Press, , Bristol on Thursday, 10 December 2020 17:13. Updated: Thursday, 10 December 2020 17:15.