Jeff Barnes


It was always easy to find Jeff Barnes. Just go to Grounds for Thought in downtown Bowling Green. He would be sitting at his favorite table, dubbed “table 5,” reading, writing, and entertaining friends who would stop to talk.

Those chats could be wide ranging, from Zen Buddhism, rock ‘n’ roll – loved the Beatles, but preferred the Rolling Stones, life in Bowling Green, current events, politics, and literature.

Jeff, 61, a longtime resident of Bowling Green, died early in the morning of Jan 31 at Grand Rapids Care Center after a brief hospitalization and recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer.

“Jeff was a great guy and a true presence at the shop,” said Laura Wicks, co-owner of Grounds. “Everyone looked forward to seeing him every day. We are really going to miss him.”

Jeff was born to John Donald Barnes and Beverly Ann (Hoopes) Barnes on Aug. 17, 1961, in Columbiana County Ohio.

He attended Bowling Green City Schools, graduating from BGHS in 1979. He graduated cum laude from Kenyon College in 1984 with a degree in comparative religion.

One of those regulars at “table 5” was Gus Sonnenberg.

“When it came to literature and music, he was the GFT savant,” Sonnenberg said.

Jeff would almost always buy a copy of the New York Times, unless he found that day’s news especially depressing, and would gladly share it with whomever stopped by.

For years, he occupied a table between the front window and the counter. His devotion to the shop extended through the pandemic when Grounds was serving take-out only.

He’d get his coffee and paper and carry on at a table just outside the door all through the winter. When Grounds opened fully again, he moved to table 5, and even in warm weather remained inside.

In 2011 the shop hosted a rare reading by Jeff of his poetry.

Two weeks ago, Jeff was brought to the hospital by his close friend Linda Toscano for abdominal pain that was later diagnosed as cancer. Within a couple of days, regulars at the shop were asking where he was.

Toscano remembers him as someone who “lived simply, surrounded by books and music.” Jeff was an insightful writer and voracious reader. He was intelligent, introspective, and a considerate friend. She wrote that he “never asked for much and was appreciative of small kindnesses.”

A memorial service will be held at Grounds for Thought, 174 S. Main St., Bowling Green, on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 2 p.m.

He is survived by a brother, John Barnes of Colorado.

Funeral arrangements have been entrusted to Dunn Funeral Home in Bowling Green.

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