Campus joins in vigil to remember the life of James Barnes

Alicia Balog

KentWired Video

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Video by Kassandra Maholick.

KentWired Video

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Video by Doug Rogers.

About 200 people gathered around the painted rock on Front Campus Thursday night, holding candles in memory of 26-year-old James Barnes.

Kent State Police discovered Barnes’ body Sunday at 4:45 p.m. in his fourth-floor room in Leebrick Hall during a welfare check.

Barnes graduated from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in finance. He was enrolled at Kent State in a three-year master’s program for business administration.

In a vigil hosted by Kent State’s To Write Love On Her Arms UChapter, family, friends, students, faculty and community members all gathered at the rock. The rock was painted all white with Barnes’ name emblazoned across the front.

As the vigil began, members of TWLOHA read poems to remind those in attendance how precious life can be and encouraged them to cherish the people in their lives.

A moment of silence united the crowd in reverence as people slowly stepped forward to set their candles down around the rock. As more candles surrounded the rock, they cast a warm glow on Barnes’ name as a group of students began to sing “Amazing Grace.”

Josh Hostetler, a graduate student in business administration and a classmate of Barnes, talked about his memories of his classmate. He said the reserved Barnes he read about in the paper wasn’t the Barnes he knew.


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“The James that I knew — by the second week of classes, every professor … knew James’ name because James cares enough about his future and his classes,” Hostetler said.

Hostetler then went on to tell a story about how Barnes would almost fall asleep in their one morning class, which became a running joke between them.

“But I remember the last time I saw him in that class, I looked over at him, and he wasn’t fighting to stay awake this time,” Hostetler said. “He sat by a window, and it was the morning. The morning sun was just kind of flooding in, and it was shining in his eyes. I think he did that on purpose because he cares enough.”

Another student, Westley Baker, co-chair of the Black Graduate Students of Kent State, also talked about his memories of Barnes, calling him “cool, calm and collected but professional.”

Barnes’ aunt, Margaret Rivers from Colorado Springs, Colo., reminisced about her memories of Barnes, specifically talking about a trip to Disney World.

“I asked him if he was having a good time. He said, ‘Aunt, I’m having millions of fun right now,’” Rivers said. “I’ll always remember James saying ‘millions of fun’ and worlds of laughter.”

Other members of his family, including his cousin Nolan Harmon who said a few words on his behalf, attended the vigil for their lost nephew, brother, son and uncle.

Contact Alicia Balog at [email protected].