Beloved Bermuda icon Johnny Barnes — known by locals and visitors alike for his effort to greet motorists on their way into the City of Hamilton — has passed away at the age of 93.
Mr. Barnes is best known for his decades of standing at the Crow Lane Roundabout during the morning hours, smiling and waving to motorists and offering an “I love you” or “good morning” with his hands pressed to his lips in order to signify a kiss.
Mr. Barnes offered his unique service of his own accord, enjoying nothing in return but the goodwill of drivers pleased to see his smile.
He undertook his personal approach to spreading cheer as a railway worker, offering shouts of “I love you” while eating lunch on a wall; later, he continued his good work by greeting passengers as a bus driver.
He kept his post until last December, when health issues forced him to give it up.
The island treasure has been immortalized via a bench and railing, and a Desmond Fountain statue that captures Mr. Barnes with his arms outstretched in a traditional pose of offering greetings.
He has also been the subject of two documentaries, including a piece by New York filmmaker Rosanne Ma titled ‘Welcoming Arms’ and Matt Morris’ short film ‘Mr. Happy Man.’
Bermuda’s Premier Michael Dunkley said of Mr. Barnes’ passing, “I join with all Bermuda in expressing our sadness at the passing of Mr. Johnny Barnes.
“He was a remarkable, original man whose life gave life to the love we all have in our hearts, and who, from his round-a-bout perch each morning, expressed that love to all who passed by — friend, acquaintance, stranger, it did not matter because Johnny Barnes embraced the human race.
“Johnny Barnes was the quintessential ambassador for Bermuda. He had an international following which had countless visitors to our Island making it a priority to meet an greet Johnny during their stay.
“Not too long ago, I had the special privilege of spending a little time with Johnny and his family and during our conversation I was reminded of his love and appreciation for Bermuda and her people.
“He was a man of resounding faith, love and compassion who always tried to see the goodness and positive in life. He was truly and inspirational figure who will be greatly missed.
“On behalf of the Government, our thoughts and prayers are with Johnny’s loved ones and friends during this time. God bless Johnny Barnes. May he rest in peace.”