Jeffrey Lynn Barnett of Red Rock, Texas, 54, died at home on May 4, 2020 with his wife and his mother by his side after a long and courageous fight with brain cancer. Jeff will be remembered by all who knew him for his kind heart, curiosity, generous spirit, and love of family.
Jeff was born February 6, 1966 in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his family moved to Tyler when he was two years old. Growing up in Tyler, Jeff loved playing with his friends and was a happy and outgoing child. He established lifelong relationships with neighborhood friends Kevin King, Ryan Gardner and Kevin McHugh, fellow members of the “He-man Woman Haters Club”. Jeff apparently automatically dissolved his membership in the club by being the first to have a girlfriend, but their friendships carried on in spite of his lack of woman hating.
As a child he developed a fascination for airplanes and weather, and on more than one occasion could be found up a tree watching a storm blow in. He knew every airplane by sound and could retell countless facts about a broad-range of subjects. He was hard to beat at Jeopardy, that's for sure!
Thanks to his mom and dad, Jeff was an avid fan of Texas Rangers baseball and Dallas Cowboys football, and they loved to watch games together. Summers spent in Slocum with his maternal grandparents and cousins helped form his love for country living. Jeff and his dad were much alike in their singular pursuit of learning everything possible about a subject in which they were interested. Through the years, Jeff fished, worked horses, shot skeet and even did a little golfing with his dad.
If you knew Jeff, you knew he loved music. This love was sparked in sixth grade when the Moore Junior High band visited his elementary school and performed for the kids. He decided band was for him — IF he could play the drums. He was in the drum line for the rest of his school career, playing in the bands at Moore, Robert E. Lee High School and in Good Vibrations, a high school jazz group. Jeff was first chair in band beginning his freshman year and was never once challenged for the position. Another lifelong friendship with bandmate and fellow drummer Eric Poteet was established during this time and the two texted almost every morning until the end of Jeff’s life.
Like many kids of the era, Jeff’s first job was a paper route. He worked to save money for his first vehicle, which was a green Chevrolet pickup. He loved that truck and was proud to have raised the money for its purchase.
As an adult, Jeff’s ever curious mind continued to explore ways to be musically creative. He was a self-taught guitarist and loved to pick out familiar tunes. He could noodle on the guitar for hours on end and became a proficient player.
After high school graduation in 1984, Jeff attended Tyler Junior College. He then enlisted in the Air Force and left for basic training at Ft. Hood, Texas on July 22, 1986. After basic training he was sent to Wichita Falls, Texas for technical training. His assignment was at Whiteman Air Force Base where he was a communications specialist working on missile sites in the Missouri/Kansas area. He volunteered to be a member of the base’s Honor Guard and was proud to be able to represent Airmen to the American public and the world. He also received a marksman medal and other commendations while serving. Jeff furthered his education at Texas State Technical Institute in Waco, Texas and received an associates degree in Applied Science. In 1990, he married Laura Parrot and moved to live and work in Austin. Jeff became a father to his precious sons Lucas Barnett in 1994 and Turner Barnett in 1998.
Lucas and Turner were the true joys and blessings in Jeff’s life. As a single dad, Jeff was active in his sons’ lives as well as their school and sports activities, including coaching their baseball teams. He put countless miles on his car driving between Tyler and Austin so his boys could form close ties with their Uncle John, Aunt Sandy, Grandma Jo and Papa Truck. The boys have their dad's natural curiosity, love of music and animals and his even-keeled personality. Both have grown into the image of their father. The three of them also shared a funny handshake that will be passed down for generations
His last years were spent working for Affiliated Communications out of Austin specializing in configuring and maintaining data network and premise systems for VoIP customers. He was known for doing whatever it took, day or night, to solve any issues, making sure the customer was placed first. Jeff loved his work and was a consummate problem solver.
In 2015 Jeff met Melinda Howell, they fell in love and began building a life together in Red Rock. In April 2017 they received the diagnosis for the very first time, Metastatic Melanoma, a diagnosis that only years earlier was followed by the words “6 months to a year to live”. It quickly moved from his neck, to his scalp, to his brain, resulting in his first brain surgery. Immediately, the preciousness of life became extremely clear and from that moment forward they made it their goal to fight cancer head on while still enjoying their lives — living! A trip that had been planned to Colorado months before became a trip to join their lives together, “partners in life forever”. Jeff and Melinda got married at the Teller County Courthouse and drove to the mountains to exchange their vows on June 6th, 2017.
They began building their futures together, laughing and loving in the good times and loving even harder through the bad, growing as inseparable soulmates. In between the trips, they continued working on their land, solving crosswords, playing backgammon, loving their dogs, and watching their sons become men.
They healed one another’s wounds. Jeff started immunotherapy and life seemed to become “normal”. They bought an RV and added to their trips with weekend excursions to state parks where they relaxed and fished, building memories moment by moment. They were excited beyond measure when they heard the term CURE for the first time in September of 2018. Three days later Jeff experienced his first seizure and their lives became irrevocably altered. The word Glioblastoma entered their vocabulary and three more brain surgeries later they were left with more questions than answers. For the first time, Jeff began chemo and he and his wife “Melly” never stopped fighting.
Given the limited treatments available for brain cancer, Jeff entered a clinical trial at UT Health in San Antonio in August 2019. Jeff fought with all he had, even when the trial had to end in December 2019, and the last treatment option began in January 2020.
After the seizure, they used life’s ever more precious moments to get closer to family, begin construction of their dream home 100 yards from their old home, and took their final trip to Flagstaff, Arizona where they explored ruins, took in the Grand Canyon, and visited Meteor Crater, a bucket list trip for both!
Jeff continued to work from home and evenings were spent sweeping and cleaning their home under construction. These were magical times. As mortality became ever clearer, Jeff’s thoughts were of his family and friends and rarely of himself. He was a soldier to the end. Christmas Day 2019 he was forced to stop working. The demands of his job had become too great.
He spent the final months of his life in his new home among family and his and Melinda’s dogs Harley, Skiddles and Rex. Hospice was summoned April 20th, 2020 and Jeff passed peacefully holding the hands of his wife and his mother on May 4th, 2020. He left behind a legacy of gentleness and pure kindness that few possess and will be deeply missed by all those who knew him.
Jeff was preceded in death by his father Bill R. Barnett and is survived by his loving and devoted wife Melinda; beloved sons Lucas Barnett and Turner Barnett of Austin; stepson Nikita Howell of Houston; mother Jo Barnett Viertel of Tyler; brother John Barnett and wife Sandy of Tyler; sister Tina Barnett and fiancé Craig Lew of Boise; nephew Matt Lucas of Seattle; and niece Amaya Lucas of Austin.
Jeff will be interred at Central Texas State Veterans Cemetery in Killeen, Texas with a US Air Force Honor Guard ceremony. Due to Covid-19, the date of the ceremony is yet to be determined. Donations in Jeff’s memory can be made to www.mayscancercenter.org.
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