By RMCNews – Denver, Colorado … “The evening which was meant to be a sad event saying farewell to Ed turned into an evening of laughter and joy, one I will never forget,” reflected one RMC conference office employee on the retirement gathering recently held for Ed Barnett, president.

Colleagues and friends assembled to fellowship one last time before the Barnetts leave the mountains of RMC for the beaches of Florida. The informal gathering began with a meal featuring a classic homemade FriChik lasagna prepared by Pat Chapman, RMC educational assistant and appointed chef.

“Even though the temperature was in the high 90s that day, the evening, in true Colorado form, turned out to be beautiful. The evening was reflective of the beautiful life of service that Ed has given to the church and Shirley’s commitment to her life’s work in healthcare,” Lori Goebel, RMC human resources assistant director, expressed.

After everyone had their fill of watermelon and sweets, it was time to celebrate Barnett’s ministry, but first, because of the crazy times we live in, Lonnie Hetterle, who led out in the program, advised that everyone needed to mask up.  As Hetterle placed the thin fabric constraining device over his mouth, he pulled out a different type of covering for Barnett–a ventriloquist device.

“Evidently, I have always wanted to put words in the president’s mouth, and this was the only way I could make him say whatever I wanted him to say. No, I really thought the office staff would enjoy seeing this ‘different side’ of Barnett. He is such a good sport and enjoys life so [much] that I was confident we could have some fun together, and he could end his time with his RMC staff with smiles and laughter,” Hetterle exclaimed.

Throughout the act, those gathered in the crowd could be seen trying to catch their breath from laughing so hard.  Some fell out of their chairs when Barnett, who didn’t quite understand that he wasn’t supposed to talk, kept trying to speak, which led Hetterle to go off script and shout, “Will you just be quiet” to Barnett.

“Watching Ed laugh through the ventriloquist mask was a highlight and still makes me laugh,” Mary Lynn Green, RMC planned giving and trust director, commented.

After the masks were thrown away, tributes and gifts from various employees filled the Barnetts’ hearts with memories of seven-and-a-half-year run as president.

Always a huge supporter and encourager of Mountain Views, Barnett was presented with a hand-engraved chest featuring every issue of the quarterly magazine published during Barnett’s term.

“Ed was one of those leaders who believed in communication, supporting church conversations about issues. Ed’s friendship and leadership made us better leaders in areas where we always thought we knew everything. In my view, Mountain Views is good enough to wake him up from his retirement life of golfing,” Rajmund Dabrowski, RMC communication director, suggested.

Expressing gratitude for Barnett’s never-ending support for Campion Academy, Don Reeder, principal, presented him with a letter jacket from Campion. Reeder also invited Eric Nelson and Lonnie Hetterle to join Ed and him on stage, back deck, to model the Campion jackets received when they retired.

Green, reflecting on the evening, expressed, “We all will miss Ed. It was so nice to have a moment to enjoy being together and celebrate with Ed and Shirley before they head out on their new adventure!”

Goebel echoed the sentiment of Green. “Although I have only worked with Ed for a year and a half, it was evident by the affirmations given that during his time as president of the Rocky Mountain Conference, he created a culture of respect, support, and trust.”

The evening concluded with Barnett expressing his gratitude for the hard work and dedication each had shown. He commended the teamwork and collaborative engagement by the staff that made his work easier and more enjoyable. Fighting back tears, he said he would cherish the memories of RMC forever.

–RMCNews; photos by Rajmund Dabrowski