Farewell, congratulations, and welcome back

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

There’s a lot of movement going on locally, so let’s get right to it!

First is a bit of bittersweet news to report. After nearly 60 years of making men and boys look their very best, Johnny Barnes is retiring.

Johnny is the last of the line in his family to work as a barber. With the exception of living/working/attending college outside of the Roanoke-Chowan area, a member of the Barnes family has cut my hair since I was a child.

Johnny’s dad, Pollack (Pal) Barnes, cut hair until the day he died. His sons followed him into the business: Luther, Patrick (Pat….after initially driving for Nu-Car Carriers), and Johnny.

Mr. Pal, Luther and Johnny operated a three-chair barber shop in downtown Murfreesboro for decades. Luther retired a few years ago, and Pat passed away last year (he ran a one-chair shop down by the railroad tracks in the community of George, adjacent to Woodland).

Johnny joined the family business in 1963. I look back and remember his flair for fashion and hair style of that era. Johnny was always well-dressed and had a mannerism that boys back then wanted to emulate.

As I matured into adulthood, it was always a “treat” to pay a visit to the barbershop. Luther and Johnny kept us entertained with their good-natured sibling rivalry. And, of course, as it is at any location where people gather, it’s a time to discuss news and politics, and solve all the world’s problems.

Those are the types of things I’ll miss now that Johnny has retired. But all is not lost as Johnny has turned over his business to Bruce Pittman and Ashton Bass. I look forward to still having a barbershop in the local area and I plan to pay them a visit.

In the meantime, I may have lost a longtime barber, but I still have a good friend in Johnny Barnes. Congratulations to him on a well-deserved retirement. Hope the dancehalls open back up soon so he’ll have a chance to “kick up his heels!!”

Another close ally is also retiring.

As of this coming Friday (May 6), Troy Fitzhugh enters that special phase of life when he doesn’t have to “hit a lick” if he so chooses. He can sleep in late; take a nap at any time of the day; and can binge watch his favorite TV shows while kicked back in his chair with his cell phone in “Do Not Disturb” mode.

Troy has reached retirement age as a law enforcement officer. He’s spent the past 17 years as Chief of the Ahoskie Police Department. He and I have spent hundreds of hours on the phone or meeting face-to-face over that period of time….he supplying information on cases that the APD was working that I used to write hundreds of stories.

Chief Fitzhugh served Ahoskie’s citizens well….a true professional at his job, but what I learned the most about him over the years is his love for his family. He also has a soft spot in his heart for children.

Congratulations, Troy, on your retirement, but I know you’re not the type of individual to let moss grow under your feet, so I don’t expect to pass by your home and see you in a rocking chair on the front porch.

And with Troy’s retirement comes the news that Jimmy Asbell will be promoted to Chief of the Ahoskie Police. I’ve known Jimmy for a long time – way back from the days of the Down East Drug Task Force. He’s served as Troy’s right-hand man at the Ahoskie Police Department and stands ready, willing, and able to move into the #1 seat. I look forward to working with him.

And last, but certainly not least, may I be among the first to welcome back to the Roanoke-Chowan area a young man, hailing from a great family, who I watched mature from a gym rat to a successful basketball coach and family man.

At a press conference held Monday at Chowan University, Rob Burke was presented as the new men’s basketball coach. Rob is the son of the late and legendary coach Bob Burke, who won over 400 games and took his then Braves to a trio of national championship tournaments during his 22 years in Murfreesboro.

During my time as Sports Editor of this newspaper, I covered hundreds of Chowan games, to include the 1992 NJCAA finals in Hutchinson, Kansas. I got to know Bob and his family very well over that time. His wife, Jane, would later serve as Superintendent of Hertford County Public Schools.

During his high school and college career, Rob wasn’t blessed with a lot of height, but he – like his father – has the heart of a lion, meaning neither backed down from a challenge.

Rob was like a sponge, absorbing each and every morsel of basketball knowledge from his father and from others. He used that to launch a successful coaching career of his own, that included stops at Limestone College, Campbell University, Spartanburg Methodist College, The Citadel, Georgia Southern, UNC-Wilmington, and Colorado College.

Now, all those roads lead back home as Rob reestablishes roots in his native Murfreesboro, and back in a gym where he started launching shots by the time he was old enough to dribble a basketball.

Welcome home, Rob! Wishing you much success on a court that bears your father’s name.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal