ORONO — One son quietly wept at his mother’s funeral Wednesday while another remained at large, suspected of being her killer.
Barbara Barnes, 59, was found stabbed to death the morning of Dec. 21 in her Dryden Terrace apartment. Family, friends and co-workers filled the Newman Center for the memorial Mass, conducted by the Rev. Joseph J. Koury. Barnes was a waitress for more than 20 years at Pat’s Pizza, a landmark in this college community.
On Friday, police issued a murder warrant for her 29-year-old son, Mark John Barnes. He was convicted of assaulting his mother in 1998 when, according to court records, he threatened to kill her. Authorities traced him to Boston, where he arrived by taxi just 2 1/2 hours before the discovery of his mother’s body.
His older brother, John M. Barnes, sat before the white porcelain urn containing his mother’s ashes Wednesday. It was the third family funeral he had attended since 1985, when his sister, Wendy Barnes Henderson, died from injuries suffered in a car accident. Their father, John A. Barnes, died suddenly in 1990.
“Barbara shouldered burdens most of us cannot imagine,” said Koury. “She held onto her faith, though the yoke she wore was heavy.”
The priest spoke of how she often “sat in the uppermost row” of Our Lady of Wisdom — the Newman Center, and St. Mary’s parishes in her hometown. “She found, I imagine, a sanctuary, a quiet place, away from the heaviness and sadness of her life … clinging to the workplace and her faith.
“Barbara did all she could to help her son,” he told those gathered for the service, adding that she did not want Mark Barnes to be one of the mentally ill who is homeless. “It was not wrong for Barbara to have loved her son so much.”
Koury criticized society’s attitude toward the mentally ill, alluding to Barbara Barnes’ assertion that her son needed treatment for mental illness rather than to be in jail. Koury said that as a society, “we must talk about it [mental illness] or we shall regret it.”
At his mother’s urging, according to police, Mark Barnes’ probation for the assault conviction included a psychological evaluation and counseling. His court records going back to 1992 include convictions for violation of privacy, possession of marijuana and disorderly conduct in addition to the assault.
Although his probation officer issued a warrant for violation of those terms in April 1999, District Court Judge Ronald Russell found in Mark Barnes’ favor and terminated his probation on July 14, 1999.
Two Maine State Police detectives spent Wednesday in Boston consulting with Massachusetts officials, but did not know where the suspect might be, according to spokesperson Stephen McCausland. Earlier this week, authorities said they believed Mark Barnes might have taken a large amount of cash from his mother’s apartment. Barbara Barnes often kept money at her home rather than in a bank, friends told the police.
Many of those attending the Mass worked the breakfast shift alongside Barbara Barnes at Pat’s Pizza. Owner Pat Farnsworth and his children, who attended Orono High School and worked with Barbara Barnes, were at the service. Pam Farnsworth Savoy said last week that Barbara was the only waitress in the long history of the restaurant to have a sandwich named after her on the menu.
“She had a heavy hand when making sandwiches,” Savoy said. “So, all the customers wanted Barbara to make their sandwiches. One day a customer asked her to surprise him, so she put together this sandwich with steak, cheese, green pepper, onions and A-1 Sauce. It was piled a mile high. Everyone started asking for Barbara’s special, so we it on the menu as `Barbara’s Special.’ That’s our steak and cheese sandwich.”
A weeping Victoria Richards, one of Barbara Barnes’ three surviving siblings, told mourners Wednesday, “Now, she won’t have that sad, lonely look on her face, like she was trying to save the world and couldn’t.”