Monday, June 18, 2012
By James Lomuscio
UPDATE James Barber, the 48-year-old Westport man found dead from a shotgun blast in an apparent suicide behind Main Street today, was described as a tireless and reliable helper of the homeless, always willing to lend an ear to those who were down on their luck.
“When I read about it on WestportNow, I immediately thought it could it be one of our residents,” said Jeff Wieser, president and CEO of Homes with Hope. “I was shocked to know it was one of our former staff. I knew him well, and we’re all, over here, in shock.”
Barber, a former Bridgeport resident who rented an apartment at 81 Myrtle Ave., had worked for more than a decade at the Gillespie Center, serving as the second shift supervisor from 4 p.m. to midnight, “and he helped an awful lot of people,” said The Rev. Peter Powell, who headed of Homes with Hope, previously referred to as Interfaith Housing Association, before retiring in 2010.
Barber’s apartment is in a building owned by Bin Zhang, an acupuncturist with a business there. In call to Zhang’s office today, a woman who identified herself as Zhang’s wife confirmed that Barber had been their tenant. Police did not say whether Barber had left a suicide note.
“He was utterly reliable and was a good ear for people to talk to at that time of night,” said Powell. “He made sure that all the dinners came off. When people came in, he was the first person they would meet. He did evaluations of them, helped them get settled.”
“He just made sure the Gillespie Center ran like a clock from 4 to midnight,” he added. “A lot goes on during that period of time, and he was utterly reliable.”
According to Wieser, Barber left his job on good terms last November “looking for the next chapter in his life.”
“I guess he didn’t find it,” Wieser said, adding that Barber remained unsettled since leaving.
Wieser added that Barber had attended Columbia University and later New York University, never graduating, “and had a bunch of different jobs before coming to the Gillespie Center when he was in his late thirties.”
“He was just a fixture,” said Powell about Barber at Gillespie.
“I’m shocked that he thought this was the outcome that was most appropriate,” said Wieser. “He was just a very nice guy and very mild mannered.
“I think there were demons and issues we was dealing with, but they weren’t apparent, as they were today,” he added.
Saddened by the news, Powell said he could not begin to understand why Barber took his life.
“I’ve been through lots and lots of suicides, and I just can’t understand them,” he said. “It’s just tragic, tragic.”
His family said a memorial service will be held for friends and family on Saturday, July 14, at 3 p.m. at the Cyril Mullins Funeral Home, 399 White Plains Road, Trumbull.
Friends may call on Saturday from 1 p.m. until the time of service. Burial will be private.
For online condolences please visit mullinsfh.com . Donations in Jim’s memory can be made to the CT Humane Society, 455 Post Road East, Westport, CT 06880.
See full obituary here.
An earlier version of this story reporting that public records showed Barber was 51 and that his birthday was today was in error.
Posted 06/18/12 at 07:27 PM
Hello hello Jim
Been thinking of you since I got the news a few hours ago. What can I say now you are gone? Nae point in asking why. Was always lurking somewhere I suspect. But I so wish we had one more blether.
I will miss our Saturday night jams more than you will ever know….. We were quite good sometimes. Wasn’t I getting better? All down to you Jim. Cannie thank you enough.
You leave us thinking we could have done more, and that’s what makes this so painful. There was something I wanted to talk with you about, but now it doesn’t matter. You were alright JIm…I will think of you often. Peace. Your friend