John Barber, 79, lost his courageous fight against cancer on October 18. He was an inspiration for many during his last few years of life, joining CrossFit and continuing to stay active as much as he could.
His inspiration, though, was something witnessed by many throughout his career. He was also determined, determined to improve Springfield. A realtor for over 50 years, he helped develop areas of Springfield and courted businesses to open stores here. Such well-known stores as Lowe’s, Bed, Bath and Beyond, Family Video, CVS, and Old Navy came to Springfield because of John Barber.
His style was unique; he revved up his plane, flew to the headquarter locations of the businesses, rolled out his documents, and made his pitch.
Piloting was his love. He earned his pilot license at the age of 15, even before he had his driver’s license. His mother would drive him to the airport, then located off Chatham Road, north of Lindbergh Drive.
He decided early on that he did not want to follow his father’s profession as an attorney, and so entered real estate. Barber became a well-known realtor in Springfield with his years with Capital Reality, Barber-Gebben and Smolenski, Charles Robbins and later with Phil Spengler. As he said last year in an interview, “I got in the real estate business cold; I didn’t know anything about it, but I got my license and worked hard.”
Last year he met up with long-time friends for his 60th Springfield High School reunion.
Throughout Springfield he was known as a quiet man, involved in Rotary, Ansar Shriners, and the American Business Club. His CrossFit pals described him as persistent and patient. One said, “He taught us all how to stay determined.” And, through a series of chemotherapy over 18 months, his loving wife, Irene, says, “He never complained.”
John Barber’s obituary reads, “he boarded his last flight” on October 18. To Springfield, his many flights left a lasting impression on our city. And, John Barber made a lasting impression on the many who knew him, even if it was just for a brief period of time.
Cinda Ackerman Klickna, former English teacher in District 186 and immediate past president of the Illinois Education Association, had the pleasure of meeting John Barber just a few short weeks ago and witnessed his strength and determination.