Barry McGuire: A Decade Later

It always amazes me to receive notice that one of you had done the search, found the first blog post about Barry, and left a heart-warming comment. (See The latest comment asked for an update on our resilient friend. Barry and I decided it was due. Perhaps overdue.

“Give me a pot and a bit of soil.”

Fully immunized and boosted, Barry has weathered the Covid outbreak with little effect on his general health. He remains in the country cottage where we moved him after his disappointing move to New Jersey, holed away in a reclusive existence. He no longer drives, but “gets by with a little help from my friends.” And his nearby friends are delighted to assist with his living needs.

For a year, he’s enjoyed a furry little roommate, a cat he named “Miss Kitty.” (With a nod to Gunsmoke.) As the Covid months lingered on—and on—he started hosting a trusted friend now and then. With a pizza dinner, topped off with his favorite cherry pie, a few of us helped him celebrate his latest birth anniversary, #92! And he’s still going strong. Mental calisthenics keep his mind hopping, even if his legs won’t cooperate, and he corresponds via email with faithful friends across the country. He has sadly bid a final farewell to some of those longtime friends as they made the final checkout in recent months.

The computer and his Roku connections on television are his window to the world and he keeps up with all the global news and trends. Every few days we take a walk in the local park, weather permitting, and he keeps his bones moving. His health is generally good for a nonagenarian. He’d be as spry as a thirty-something if it wasn’t for his arthritis and his hearing loss. He prepares all his meals, and is a superb chef. Once in a while he will accept invitations for restaurant fare, or allow friends less-adept in the kitchen to share meals with him. (Like me.)

At this honorable age, we couldn’t let his special day in March this year go by without some kind of celebration safe in the confines of his 3-bedroom abode. With that in mind, I issued an invitation to his faithful friends to suggest a good title he might use if he were to write a memoir of his remarkable life. The suggestions are a world of entertainment themselves. To extend his celebration further into his 93rd year, I share them below.  Enjoy!

On stage with Lois Smith

Possible titles for a memoir:

  1. Gentleman Rebel: The Life and Times of Barry Edward McGuire
  2. A Bus to Broadway
  3. Joy in the Moment
  4. My Life Before an Audience
  5. The Art of Taking a Bow
  6. A Man for All Seasons: Magician, Puppeteer, Actor, Director, Poetic Gardener, Theater Builder, Tourism Promoter, and All-around Neat Guy
  7. Prudent, Patient, Persistent: Savoring a Life
  8. Magic in the Desert, Flowers in the Town—Bringing Enchantment to My Little Corner of the World
  9. How to Talk to Geese—and Keep Them out of Your Garden and Away from Your Strawberries
  10. No One Gets Through the Forest of the Blue—How Puppets Saved Santa’s Village

    Cripple Creek, Colorado
  11. Give Me My Walker and Watch Me Go! I May Be Stooped but I’m Not Slow—Staying Active in Your Golden Years
  12. Typewriters and Toasters—The Fun to be Had With Classics
  13. Baking Bread with Barry
  14. I Danced with Debbie Reynolds! My Life on Stage and Screen
  15. Surviving the 7th Day Adventist Missionary Visits. Know Your Bible and Have Some Fun
  16. A Life of Adventure and Love—The Places I’ve Been and the People I’ve Known
  17. It’s Been One Hell of a Ride! Things I Know Now I’m Glad I Didn’t Know Then
  18. Barry McGuire’s Garden of Life
  19. From Stage and Screen and a Zen Monk’s Mail Route to Rescuing a Great Plains Town
  20. Barry McGuire’s Magical, Amazing Life Played in the Key of Kindness
  21. Waters Run Deep and Wide at Little House in the Woods
  22. Barry McGuire: the Entertainer, the Music Lover, and the Friend
  23. A Diamond Found in Kansas
  24. Barry McGuire: the 20th Century Star and a Good Friend of Mine
  25. To Follow a Dream
  26. Life is What You Bake It
  27. The Barry Magic of Barry McGuire: Dancing With the Stars and Entertaining Young, Old, and Everyone in Between

    Dancing with Debbie
  28. Life with Man’s Best Friend: The Cat
  29. Finding Life’s Truth Through Characters on Stage
  30. 57,718 Million Miles and Counting: Adventures on Spaceship Earth Through 92 Revolutions
  31. The Multitudinous Achievements of Barry McGuire, or What Happens When You Unleash One Creative Kind o’ Guy in Southeastern Kansas!
  32. A Magical Life . . . All and All

Burn the letter!

A long disruption in the missiles from Michigan is explained. Lester is ill. He’ll be fine, but his concern for the health of his folks is a bit humorous here. Burn the letter so you don’t get my mumps! This is the first letter that arrived without a stamp. Postage evidently was free to servicemen for a while.


Saturday evening

Dear Folks

I guess it was a good thing that I didn’t get to come home because I am in sick bay again for awhile.  Now don’t get scared because I’m not very bad.  I have one of the nicest cases of mumps you ever saw!  On both sides, too.  No need to make two cases of it when one will do, is there?  I came in Thursday evening.  I wasn’t really sick then but I just had a feeling that it was going to be mumps so didn’t want to take any chances.  I am feeling pretty good now though I still have some temperature & my jaws & neck are still swollen.  I’m not allowed to get out of bed for several days yet.  I don’t even sit up except to eat.

It was just three months ago tonight that I entered sick bay the other time.

Most of my bunch left here yesterday morning.  The new ones got here last night.  I never did write to Nelson Parrish.  Do you know if he is still at Great Lakes?  Wayne Howard is in the army in California.  Dad, do you have a friend at Algona, Iowa?  The name sounds familiar.  I know a boy by the name of Hardgrove from there.

There is a possibility that you might contact the mumps from me thru a letter so I probably won’t write any more until that danger is past.  Please explain to Josephine why I’m not writing to her.  I’m getting along ok & have the very best of care so there is nothing to worry about.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABetter burn this immediately!







Obviously, nobody burned the letter. Not immediately. Not even after seven decades. Apparently the folks didn’t believe they’d contract mumps from reading Lester’s words.

A Letter Home on March 19, 1942

Keeping busy at the training station. Photo postal card 1941.
Keeping busy at the training station. Photo postal card 1941.

March 19, 1942

Dear Folks

I received your letter today so will try to get a letter off by tomorrow morning.  No there isn’t any special history connected with the handkerchief, just a little souvenir from Canada.  Nearly all the stores were closed so we didn’t have much of a choice.  I don’t know whether I will go on liberty this week or not.

I expect to be here about another month.  We are supposed to leave here April 24th.  My last weeks grades averaged 3.6 which a little above average.  4.0 is equal to 100.

I will try to write to Nelson Parrish soon.  Not much chance of us seeing each other.

Glad to know that dad has got the crops started.  Did you sow the lespedza out west of the garden?  I didn’t realize that St. Patricks day was this week until I heard some of the boys talking about planting potatoes.  Mr. Ford is starting to send his ships out this week & they say that Spring is here when he does that.  A little tug boat is used to pull the ships out of the canal.  Two of the largest ships are still here.

Is Merle going to Calif. too?  I didn’t know that Roy was in the service.  Did Ola have a job?  Rymans probably won’t hear from Ernest very often cause the ships don’t go into port very often.

If Nelson is in a barracks close to the water then they certainly are expanding rapidly cause I never was close enough to see the water.

I’ll try to write the first of the week.


Good old autograph book, part 2

Lester (upper right) with his sister Frances, little brother Wallace, and their grandmother.
Lester (upper right) with his sister Frances, little brother Wallace, and their grandmother.

Dunlap Kansas

Feb. 19, 1934

Dear Lester,

I thought and thought,

And thought in vain,

And thought at last

I would sign my name.

Your friend

Leland V.

“Junior 32-34”

Council Grove Ks.

Feb. 7, 1934

Dear Lester,

As I’m a freshmen green as grass.

Forgive all mistakes and the past

And let our friendship always last.

Don’t forget the old rugged cross.

Your friend

Irmarene Walter

Dunlap, Kansas.

Jan. 18, 1934

Dear Lester,

You have friends,

Perhaps lovers—

To give them room

I’ll write on the cover.

When the golden sun is sinking

And the path no more you trod

May your name be written

On the autograph of God.

Your friend,

Winifred Weaver

May 15—34
Dear Lester
Tomorrow’s wishes never come.
Today’s wishes may be only one.
But let me wish you success in the
Many days that are to follow in the
Coming years.
Your Friend
Violet Turner
Senior 1934

Dear Lester,

You can fall from a tree

You can fall from above

But for heaven’s sakes

Don’t fall in love.

Your friend


Dunlap, Kansas

January 8, 1934

Dear Lester,

On this page so pure & white,

To your request these lines I write,

That you may read, some future day,

Perhaps when I am far away—ha! ha!

Your friend

Beulah Blossom

Juniors of 1934


Forget              Dunlap Kans     me

Feb. 1, 1934

Dear Lester

Down by the river on a rock

Is wrote forget-me-not.

Your schoolmate

Melvin W.

(Soph)                                     not

Dunlap Kans.

April 4, 1934

Friend Lester,

Down in the meadow

There is a rock,

On it is written


I have enjoyed our classes and friendship

During the days at D.R. H.S.

I wish you plenty of success through life.

A friend,

Nina Combs

Dunlap, Kans. May 13-1935
Dear Lester:
First in your album
Last in your heart,
First to be remembered
But last to be forgot.
Your friend,
Juanita Stewart
Soph. 1934-35

Dear Lester,

If you could look into my heart

And see the love that’s there,

Then turn it into money

You would be a millionaire.

Your brother,

Wallace H.

Dear Lester

When you get married

And live across the river

I’ll kill my dogs

And send you the liver.

Melvin Whitaker and Morris Cole

Seniors 1935-36

Dunlap Ks.

April 3, 1935

Dear Lester:

When the golden sun is sinking,

And your mind is free from care,

When of others you are thinking,

Won’t you sometimes think of me?

Margaret Linn

Sr. 1935

Friend Lester:–

I am your friend always.


Chas. Tomlinson

Dunlap Kans.

May 14, 1935

Dear Lester

            Up on a hill

            There is a rock

            Carved on this rock

            Are three little words

            Forget me not.

            Your friend

            George Hylton

            Freshman 34-35

Dear Lester

Some love one

Some love two

But the only one I love is you.

Your friend

Chester Miller

Dunlap Kans.

May 18, 1935


I wish you much success and happiness in your future life,

And I also wish you a cute little wife and cute kids.

I have not been in any of your classes but have heard you

Are a good student.

            When you are building your chimney of life count me as a brick.

For-get-me-not                                                A friend

Arline Wirsig

Dunlap, Kansas

April 3, 1935

Remember the good old D.R.H.S.

Dear Lester,

I will write on pink

Because I can’t think

How to tell you

To be blue.

Remember the senior play.

Remember the day Prof was gone.

Down by the river there is a rock

And on it is written for-get-me-not.

I write in green because it is my color.

Your friend

Oscar Young

Freshman 34-35

Dunlap, Kans
April 3, 1935
Dear Lester
I thought and thought in vain
Finally I thought I sign my name.
Your friend,
Archie Hylton
Don’t forget when Prof’s father-in-law
Died and you acted as Prof.

Dunlap, Kans

April 4, 1935

Dear Lester,

When the golden sun is sinking,

And this path no more you trod,

May your name in gold be written

In the autograph of God.

I am wishing you much success in your future life.

 May it be filled with happiness.

Remember the Senior play “Hobglblin House,”

The student council & the many other things

That have taken place at D.R. H.S.

A friend who happens to be a senior,

            Elaine Drummond

(Better known as Stubby.)

Dunlap, Kansas,

April 3, 1935

Dear Lester,

I wish you health, I wish you joy. I wish you first a baby boy and

When his hair begins to curl, I wish you then a baby girl.

Remember our school days in D.R. H.S. and my sophomore year

When you sat behind me. Wishing you much success in all your undertakings,

Nellie Evelyn

Dunlap, Ks.
April 4, 1935
Dear Lester—
You took me by surprise as I guess the
Only thing I really have to say is that I wish you
Success all through life in whatever you undertake
To do.
Remember the constitution and Sociology
Classes we have gone through.
Oh! Yes. Don’t forget all our spats we
Have had. Though they were few & far between.
Your friend
Dorothy Ryman
“Senior 34-35”

Dunlap, Ka

April 4, 1935

Dear Lester,

Leaves may wither

Flowers may die

Some may forget you

But never will I.

Your friend

Sylvia Pater

F-o-r-get-me-not. Of a Freshman

Dear Lester,

Up in the barn and over the rafters

Maxcine Blanton’s the girl you’re after.

Soph (34-35)

SCB                            April 4, 1935

                                    Dunlap Kansas


April 11, 1935

Dear Lester

Remember the good days

In D.R.H.S. and the

Spanish class. HA! HA!

You’re friend

Pete Cessmon

Dunlap, Kansas

April 4, 1935

Dear Lester:

I’ve looked these pages

Over & over to see what others

Wrote before. At last I chose

This little spot to leave

A small for-get-me-not.

A Senior Friend

Alberta (Bert)

Senior 1934-35

Wishing you the best of luck &

happiness thru out the rest of your life.

Dunlap, Kans.

May 14_35

Dear Lester,

Remember me

And don’t forget

You have a friend

In Kansas yet.

Your friend

Francis Edwards

For-get-me-not! Freshman 34-35

Lindsay, Calif.
July 7, 1935
Dear Lester:
I am having a swell trip and glad
You are still around this country.
This Kansas weather isn’t the same as Sunny
Calif so you will hafto come out and
Find out for yourself. And for the
Girls they rase them nice and they are
Pretty too so you won’t get lonesome.
Ha ha. Well I don’t want to write a letter
So will sign off. Hears how:
Your Friend.
Wayne H.

Dunlap Kans.

May 14, 1935

Dear Lester:

Well as I can’t think of anything to write,

just remember our D.R.H.S. days to-gether.

Your friend

Bill Cornelius


“Yours till the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry.”

Dunlap, Kansas
April 4, 1935
Dearest Lester:
I can wiggle my hips,
And I can shake my knees,
I’m a free born citizen,
And I can do as I please.
Your true pal,

Dunlap Kansas,

April 11, 1935

Dear Lester:

When rocks and rills divide us,

And you no more I’ll see,

Remember it was Marie,

Who wrote these lines to thee.

Your Senior Friend

Marie White

For-get-me not.

Remember psychology.

Dunlap, Kansas

April 5, 1935

Dear Lester,

Earth to earth, dust to dust

Did you ever see a man you could trust?

Your Classmate

Alice Dohring

(I’ll not forget the stiff competition you

Have given me in scholarship.)

Good old autograph book, part 1

During these weeks when there are no written communications home from Lester, it’s fun to share his autograph book, signed by many of his school friends and relatives during his high school years. Posts in the autograph book are dated from 1930 to 1935, in no particular order. The practice of having your friends post a cute message in your autograph book carried into the next generation, but seems to have become a relic of the past. It’s fun to read what Lester’s friends wrote to him.

Lester, about the age when he received his autograph book.
Lester, about the age when he received his autograph book.

Americus Kansas

December 26, 1930

Dear Lester,

Remember me.

When this you see

Tho many a mile,

Apart we be.

            Your Cousin


Dunlap Kansas

December 29, 1930

Dear Lester:

When rocks and hills divide us,

And you no more I see,

Just sit down by the table

And write a line to me.

Your cousin

Nelva May

Dunlap Kans.

Jan. 2, 1930

Dear Lester

Dry is a cracker.

Without some cheese.

So is a kiss.

Without a squeeze.

Your friend (ha ha)


Dunlap Kans.
Dear Lester
Round is the ring
That has no end.
So is my love
For you my friend,

Americus Kans.

Jan. 7, 1931

Dear Lester:

Fill the day with friendliness,

And little kindly deeds.

And you will have the brightest day;

That anybody needs.

Your friend,

Frances Edmiston

Dear Lester:

Lester now

            Lester never

            Lester now but not forever!


Dear Lester,

Remember me as a good writer

As I remember you as a good actor.

Your Friend,

            Nelson Parru

Dunlap Kansas

January 2, 1931

Dear Lester

Some love one

Some love two

But the only one I love is you.

Ha Ha

Your friend

Claude Miller

Dear Lester

Choose not your friends from outward show

Feathers float but pearls lie low.


Americus, Ks
Feb. 3 1931
Dear Lester,
Remember me early
Remember me late,
Remember me at the garden gate.
Your friend,

Americus Kansas

Feb. 4, 1931

Dear Lester,

            Remember me early:

            Remember me late:

            Remember me on your

            Wedding date.

                        Your school friend


Ha Ha

Dear Lester:
“Read  and      me       I
This     down   not       am
Up    Forget     while   around.”
Your friend
Nelson Miller
Freshman 1931-32

Dear Lester

Geese on the milk pond

Ducks on the ocean

Lester can’t get married until

Frances takes a notion.

Your friend

            Gene Daharsh

Dunlap Kansas.

January 19, 1931

Dear Lester:

Down by a pond is a rock.

And on it is written,

“I love you” not

Your Friend

Belle    Ho: Ho:

Ha: Ha:

Dunlap Kan

Jan. 9, 1931

Dear Lester

Remember me in friendship

Remember me in love

Remember me when we meet

On that happy land above.

Your school friend


January 9, 1931
Dear Lester,
I love you in my hart
I love you in my chest
And it will tell you
Who I love best.
Your friend

Dunlap, Kansas

Feb 3, 1932

Dear Lester,

Down in the valley

Written on a rock is

“I love you”

Your friend

Rosalee Edington

Dear Lester

            I hope you remember

The Geometry Book.

            Your friend,

            Taylor Blossom

Americus, Kans.

Feb 3, 1932

Dear Lester:

As sure as the vine grows around a stump

You are Frances’ darling sugar lump.

True isn’t it?  Ha! Ha!

Your Friend

Elizabeth Weller

Dunlap Kans.

April 6, 1932

Dear Lester:

Remember me early,

Remember me late,

Remember me on your wedding day

And send me a slice of cake.

Your friend

Freda Pritchard

February 4, 1932

Dear Lester

I don’t like to study.

I don’t like to go to school.

But when I come to loving I am an educated fool.


Dunlap Kans
Feb. 3, 1932
Dear Lester:
When the Whip-poor-will is calling
Out over the lonely sea
And when of others we are thinking
Won’t you sometimes think of me.
            Your schoolmate & friend
            Lawrence Sexton

Dear Lester,

Three years have past and gone quickly

But they have been filled with many happy

Experiences. I hope that your remaining experiences

Will also be happy.

I have enjoyed knowing you and I wish you

Much happiness and success.


Helen Frost

District 72

Feb. 9, 1932

Dear Lester:

A good thing to remember

And a better thing to do

Is to work with the construction gang,

And not with the wrecking crew.

May your school days reward you richly

and may your success be unbounded.

Best wishes for a high school

and college (?) career.

Your teacher,

Mrs. Frances Sheaffer

Dunlap, Kans.

Feb. 5, 1932

Dear Lester

I love you little

I love you big

I love you lake

A little pig.

Your School Friend,



May 12, 1932
Dear Lester,
Your school days in D.R. H.S. are almost gone,
And I hope that commencement is only a beginning
Of the success that your excellent work and dependability
Prophesy for you.
Wishing you success and happiness always,
I am
Norma E. Ryman

DunlaP Kan.

Feb. 4, 1932

Dear Lester,

I love you little

I love you big—

I love you like

A little pig.

Your School Friend,


Dunlap, Kansas.

Feb 3, 1932

Dear Lester

Way down in the sticks

Now don’t you blink

I’m in a pretty fix

Now don’t you think?

Your friend

James Edington

There is Life After Loss

A year ago I launched The Bridge, following advice of several writing friends. It’s been an adventure for me, providing fulfillment in my life. I’ve learned a lot about the blogging world, but I admit I’m still a novice and have a lot more to learn.

This year, The Bridge is receiving a facelift. Again, advice from various writing sources convinced me that it should be narrowed in scope. The book I’ve labored to write for the last three years is nearly complete. I’m polishing a proposal. I’ve pitched it to a couple literary agents and a few small publishers. Excerpts from my memoir have won awards in writing contests in both Kansas and Oklahoma, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfirst place in non-fiction in the 2012 Kansas Writers Association contest, and first place in non-fiction at the 2013 Rose State Writing workshop contest in Oklahoma.

I believe my story might help someone. I’ve done my best to write and polish the prose. I’m confused at times. Blog-related advice runs the gamut from “You can’t sell a book without a blog” to “Don’t start a blog until you know what you’re doing.”

I’m not sure I’ll ever know what I’m doing, but I believe I’ve been nudged from beyond— from across The Bridge—to proceed. My purpose in this venture seems to run counter to all the workshop advice. My goal has never been one of personal enrichment, of financial gain. Publishers and editors need to assess the marketable aspects of a manuscript. All I want to do is help somebody who needs a friend, somebody who might be going through a particularly rough time, somebody who might be struggling with a life-or-death crisis today. In some ways I am terrified to stir up the past and serve it to strangers. But if I can help someone, I need to find the courage to step forward. That is one of life’s big adventures—meeting your fears and laughing through the terror.

Let me tell you a little bit about the bridge photo in the header of this blog. More than three decades ago, I stood with my husband in the basement morgue of the hospital where our daughter—our precious child—had been stillborn. We gazed at her tiny face, stroked her cold cheeks, fingered her tiny hands, and bid her farewell. We had not thought to bring a camera. That was the one and only time we saw our baby girl.

After her memorial service in a windy hilltop cemetery, we wound our way through the hills of our county, just driving, not saying much. We did have our cameras though. Every so often, something caught our attention and we stopped to take a picture. The scenes were bleak, lonely, cold, PICT0548showing life buried by death, and dreams receding across a bridge. Together they expressed our unspeakable grief. The collage of photos became our picture of little Gabrielle, and the header of this blog was among them. It is a picture of my baby girl. Isn’t she amazing?PICT0547

Since the day three decades ago when I stood on a lonely road taking a picture of a bridge, I’ve bidden farewell to Gabrielle’s little brother. I’ve been widowed. My grandmother passed on, as well as a few friends. Most recently, I’ve been orphaned. Each loss opened a fresh wound and shook my faith in the goodness of life. Each loss was different, leaving a new kind of hole in my heart. Sometimes I thought I could not bear the pain. To watch someone you love die is to watch the world stop turning.

And yet, I survived. I’m here to say there is life after loss. All of us who love somebody risk the pain of loss and we will all have to bid that final farewell to our dear ones someday. After the frenzy surrounding a loss comes to an end, one thing that remains is the certainty that your life has changed forever.

But there is still life after loss. And it can be a good life. After losing my first husband, I met another wonderful man. After losing two children, together my husband and I have raised four. Now we are enjoying the antics of a grandson, and our youngest daughter is expecting a baby girl very soon. Life can be good indeed.

I offer The Bridge, re-designed, to feature topics related to grief and healing, to memorial tributes for my loved ones now gone, and to cover writing topics. Other facets of my life belong in another place. For those who may be facing terminal illness right now, or the sudden, unexpected death of a loved one, my heart goes out to you. I hope entries in The Bridge may provide a small bit of comfort and help with your healing journey. At least you’ll know you’re not alone. You have a friend.