PATERSON, NJ – Paterson said good-bye to a trail-blazing political leader on Friday as several hundred people attended the funeral for former Mayor Martin Barnes at St. Theresa’s Church on 13th Aevnue.
The church was filled with family, friends and dignitaries who came to pay their respects to a man whose public service, in the eyes of many Patersonians, was not tarnished by conviction in 2002 on federal corruption charges.
One of Barnes’ sons, Marcus Barnes stood up to say a few words. As he thanked the people in the crowd for their support be could not keep from crying. He said he wanted everyone to remember his father in a positive way.
Barnes became Paterson's first black mayor in 1997 and he remained in office until 2002. He also had been a city councilman. The priest who conducted the service spoke about how Barnes would stop at the fountain in the back of the church and pray. He said Barnes lived his life by the words of a familiar scripture: “I have not come to be served but to serve.”
That seemed to be the sentiments of others attending the funeral as well. Robert De Mers, who was the board of adjustment counsel during the Mayor’s tenure, described the mayor as being a brilliant fiscal manager and a dynamic mayor. “I felt he was a good man, I think he genuinely tried to help people,” said De Mers.
Paterson resident Bill Connolly, who lives in the People’s Park section, said he knew Barnes for many years and described him as a humble man who was a good person. Connolly said he always called him Barnes “Marty” because if he ever said “Mayor Barnes” or “Your Honor,” Barnes would say please call me Marty.
Connolly said Barnes was not the kind of chief executive who would say “Do you know who you’re talking to?” Connolly said Barnes did a lot for the city of Paterson, pointing out that when Barnes was mayor taxes never went up. He said Barnes reached out to everybody in the city and he had an open door policy.
“He made mistakes we all did that. That’s why we have erasers on pencils, we got to use erasers sometimes, I believe people should remember the good that people do,” said Connolly.
Earnest Rucker, a long time friend who knew Barnes for 50 years remembers the former mayor as a caring man who had a love for children and recreation programs. He said Barnes was the smartest grassroots politician he knew. He said Barnes believed in bringing people together and had built a bridge with all ethnic groups in the city.
“Paterson owes a lot to Marty,’’ Rucker said. “Paterson was his life, he believed that Paterson was his town, the people’s town and he played a part in making sure it ran well.”
At the end of the service, Barnes’ hearse was escorted by police motorcade to Cedar Lawn Cemetery in Paterson, where he was buried.