Touching memorial held at the Lakeside Rodeo grounds for East County’s own, George Barnard

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Instead of cowboys and horses, the arena was surrounded in classic cars. Next to his chuck wagon, the “cowboy cookin’” was ready to go and the community center was ready for a neighborhood picnic as hundreds of people gathered at the Rodeo Grounds on Sunday to celebrate the life of Lakeside’s George Barnard. Many call him one of the “last real cowboys” in East County, but his remembrance was full of life, love of family, horses, cars and devotion to his community.

Instead of cowboys and horses, the arena was surrounded in classic cars. Next to his chuck wagon, the “cowboy cookin’” was ready to go and the community center was ready for a neighborhood picnic as hundreds of people gathered at the Rodeo Grounds on Sunday to celebrate the life of Lakeside’s George Barnard. Many call him one of the “last real cowboys” in East County, but his remembrance was full of life, love of family, horses, cars and devotion to his community.

In a poignant ceremony, the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard presented colors, with the El Cajon Mounted Police Unit following with the horse with no rider, or the “empty saddle.” Yet as solemn as it was, then roared in his restored Classic 1966 Step-Side Cherry, driven by his son and his son’s antique car.

And then his friends followed his wishes and began celebrating with a cowboy barbeque and a lot of laughter while telling stories “of when George…”

After a brief few words by family and friends, people waited in line for barbeque, telling their stories of Barnard in the Rodeo’s community center. There were some tears, but mostly laughter while telling stories “of when George.”

In Lakeside, since 1964, Barnard had a career in trucking and the construction industry, and was an active member of the El Cajon Mounted Police Unit. He spent much of his life working with organizations such as the Los Senderos de San Diego, Lakeside Community Planning Group, Lions, Optimist, Elk, Rotary, Olaf Wieghorst Museum, VFW Post 5867 Lakeside, Lakeside Boys & Girls Club, the American Chuckwagon Association and working with new equestrian center in progress. A veteran, he was a gunner’s mate in the U. S. Navy and did four tours in Vietnam.

Long time friend Tom Claycomb said Barnard left a legacy of hard work and devotion. In addition to being devoted to his family, community and career, he said he sometimes seemed “gruff” but if it involved a child or an animal, he was a softy.

“George was impulsive and sometimes had to admit he was wrong, and he did that readily,” he said. “Did George have strong opinions?—Oh yeah. Did George voice those opinions without being asked?—Yep. Where those opinions politically correct?—Occasionally. Were George’s opinions mean spirited?—Never.”

Claycomb said that Barnard and his wife Marty send a check every month from their feed store, the East County Feed & Supply, to the Fisher House Foundation for wounded vets.

El Cajon Chief of Police Jim Redman said Barnard had everything needed to be a great police officer. He said like any police officer, Barnard chose to volunteer for the Mounted Police Unit out of passion, not pay. “He truly did it for the passion of his job and just for the love of people.

His daughter, Kathy Nicholson said most people knew her dad well through the various groups and work in the community he participated in, but she wanted to talk about his life as a dad and family man.

“Dad was always a loving, fun and affectionate man,” she said. “He did have a tough side to him when needed, but more often than not, he had a very soft and comforting side. Dad loved all of his kids, grandkids and great-grandchildren more than life itself.”

She said he always encouraged them to get involved in the things in the community that he was passionate about, but he also became involved in what they enjoyed.

“He always looked forward to family gatherings, big or small,” she said. “Whether it was filling the home for the holidays, or just a small family gathering for a barbeque on the weekend.”

County Supervisor Dianne Jacob talked about her time working with Barnard on community projects, the last one the new equestrian center being built in Lakeside. Bob Moreau, ret. El Cajon chief of police and Lakeside VFW Post Commander Steve Williams spoke about their time in working with Barnard. During the barbeque, there was an open mic for anyone who wanted to tell what “George did when…”

The family asked in lieu of flowers, donate to www.fisherhouse.org in remembrance of George S. Barnard III, U.S. Navy, 1964-1969.

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