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Long-time Natchez surgeon, Dr. Robert Barnes, dies

NATCHEZ — Long-time and beloved Natchez physician and surgeon, Dr. Robert Barnes, died this morning at his home at Christwood Episcopal Center in Covington, La., after an illness.

Barnes and his wife, Dr. Bettina Barnes, a psychologist, lived in Natchez for more than 60 years. They moved to Christwood in Covington more than a decade ago.

Many who knew Dr. Barnes reacted with sadness to his death.

“It really hit me hard to get this news today,” said Natchez Mayor Dan Gibson, who bought the Barnes’ Natchez home on Washington Street and operates it as Garden Song Bed and Breakfast.

“Dr. Barnes and his wife, Bettina, were such dear friends to me. He was a man of such vast knowledge and ability and yet someone who took time with everyone and would make you feel like you were so important.”

Gibson said Barnes was well traveled and well versed in many languages.

“I was told he learned a new word in five different languages every day,” he said. “He was a lover of people, of culture, a lover of fine flowers and fine food. Some people didn’t know this, but he was a product of the seminary and was extremely devoted to his church and he truly loved the Lord.

“We really have love and prayers for his lovely wife, Bettina and their beautiful children,” Gibson said. “He and his wife were always full of such joy and laughter. To be around them was to laugh. They truly were the life of the party wherever they went.”

Long-time neighbors Edward and Mary Eidt remembered Barnes as an extraordinary member of the community.

“He was an outstanding member of the medical community,” Mrs. Eidt said. “When he came here, he was a general practitioner, but he went back to school to specialize in surgery.”

Barnes was also a very caring neighbor, Mrs. Eidt said, adding, “He made house calls when my husband had the flu.”

Barnes was extremely interested in education for himself, his family and others, she said.

“He was very supportive of his wife, Bettina, when she traveled to get her doctorate,” Mrs. Eidt said.

Gardening was Barnes’ passion, she said.

“He didn’t play golf or tennis. He was a gardener par excellence. He knew his plants. That’s how he spent his spare time.”

Barnes also enjoyed traveling, she said.

“He was a world traveler. He became ill on a trip to China and had to get out in a hurry. He was also marooned once in Central America because of political unrest and we tied yellow ribbons around the trees to welcome him home.”

Barnes was a devoted family man, she said.

“He was a devoted son to his mother, Grand Betty; a devoted husband to Bettina and father to his five girls. The girls were very close to Edward’s mother, Elizabeth Eidt, and when they lived here, she would always take them in when they got in trouble.”

Barnes was an Episcopalian and helped organize the Episcopal Church in Vidalia, Mrs. Eidt said.

“That church is no longer there, but he was very active in it.”

Barnes was also very community-minded, Mrs. Eidt said

“He supported tourism, the music festival and all food and drink events,” she said. “And of all things, he enjoyed the good life.”

A memorial service for Barnes will be held in Covington soon with another service and burial in Natchez later this spring.

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