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'And You Also': Memorial in Grand Junction honors beloved community member Warren Barnes

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A new memorial in Grand Junction honors Warren Barnes, a homeless man who was killed in February of 2021.
A new memorial honoring the memory of Warren Barnes stands at his favorite reading spot in downtown Grand Junction.

GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. — In February of 2021, a 69-year-old unhoused man named Warren Barnes was gruesomely murdered near downtown Grand Junction. The 19-year-old suspect, whose arrest affidavit said he suffered from mental health issues, told investigators he had sought to kill someone who would not be missed and chose Barnes as his victim. 

However, Barnes wasn’t who he assumed him to be. 

Barnes was a staple of the downtown Grand Junction community. He was a man who loved to read and had many friends, including the local wildlife. Feeding birds and getting lost in books, Barnes could often be found in the same breezeway day after day.

Between Monique’s Bridal Shop and Out West Books, Barnes’ story lives on through a new, permanent metal art memorial dedicated to who some called “the reading man.” 

“To me, I would call him the bird man,” said Monique Lanotti of Monique’s Bridal and Formal Wear. “Every single day he would eat Subway and give half of his bread to the birds, half of it. There's not many people that I can say would do something like that, to have so little and still give half of it to birds.”

Colorado Voices“And you also:” How one man changed the lives of many

Lanotti said Barnes always refused any kind of handout. Money and food were of no interest to him, only friendship. Lanotti was one of his good friends. She used to sneak cookies into his bag when he would decline a free meal. 

Lanotti would often place a chair outside in the breezeway so Barnes had a place to sit and read. 

“I've never seen him not finish a book in a day,” said Lanotti, “he would sit behind the shop and just read religiously.” 

Loving a good western by Louie L’Amour or a mystery by David Baldacci, Barnes' avid reading was one of his most recognizable traits. Not long after his murder in February, Barnes’ friends sought to honor his memory with a permanent sculpture that would sit in the same place he did, forever occupying his favorite reading spot. 

From memory to metal 

"It just seemed like so many things just fell into place,” said Tim Navin, the metal artist who sculpted Barnes’ memorial. “There was one little sketch, and other than that, I kind of just threw the tape measure to the side and kind of let it go and let everything flow the way it needs to happen. That’s how I tried to live my life the last few years, trying to get my life back together - it seemed like maintaining that mindset with this project only seemed fitting.” 

Navin said he knew what it was like to be in Barnes' shoes. He himself experienced homelessness in the past. Although he didn’t know his name at the time, Navin shared an experience with Barnes he said he will never forget. 

“I was living at the homeless shelter in town, and I didn’t have to be back there till 5:30 in order to get my spot for the night,” said Navin. “There was a traveling musician playing downtown, I was between errands and sat down and ate my lunch. Warren was there listening to the music too. It was kind of fun to request a couple songs back and forth and just spend my lunch there, chatting with him for a bit.” 

It wasn’t until another friend of Barnes approached Navin that the weight of what happened to his lunch buddy began to sink in. Early in March, word spread on social media that Barnes had gone missing. Allie Telinde, a local mortgage loan officer, was one of the first to learn his fate. Devastated by what happened, Telinde asked Navin for his help in erecting a memorial for their beloved friend.

Tim Navin, who works at Sparks Fly Studio, created Barnes' memorial.

Navin now owns Sparks Fly Studio, where Barnes’ memorial came to life. Navin spent upward of 285 hours over the summer working with metal to sculpt a chair reminiscent of the one Barnes once sat in, along with books welded to its seat and a tree for shade. The title of the book on top—whose pages are blowing in the wind—came from a response that Barnes often gave when offered the welcoming words of having a nice day: “And you also.” 

'And you also'

“I’ve heard him say it to all of his friends,” Telinde explained. “They would say, ‘Have a good day Warren,’ and he would always say, ‘And you also.’ That was just his response, and it was kind of unique, you don’t hear that verbiage very often.” 

“I’d say, ‘I’ll see you tomorrow Warren, have a good night’ and he’d say, ‘And you also.’ Every single day we’d say the same things,” Lanotti recalled through tears. “It’s a good memory now, but it’s just hard because he’s missed. And I can’t hear it again.”

The top book on Barnes' memorial has his signature phrase engraved on the spine.

When she was working downtown, Telinde often passed by Barnes on her commute. Over time, the two became friends. 

“He was super friendly, really gentle and really, really kind,” recalled Telinde. “You could tell he would never hurt anybody. The one word I can really describe him with is gentle.” 

Barnes did have family, and Lanotti and Telinde are two of his many friends. The memorial that now rests in his old reading spot serves as a reminder that everyone has a story.

“Being in a similar situation myself, there's little hope for those individuals sometimes,” Navin explained. “When they get outside home and outside joy and happiness from others, that means a lot to somebody that’s in their situation. To just think that they are just somebody that doesn’t matter is just so far from the truth, and I think it’s defiantly apparent with how much Warren is missed.” 

A man of a thousand lives 

Novelist George R.R. Martin once wrote that “a reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.” 

That was certainly the case for Barnes. From his go-to spot in the breezeway, Barnes was able to travel the world through his reading. The original chair that Barnes sat in was burned in a private ceremony that included some of his closest loved ones. Telinde kept the original pencil drawing of the memorial. It is now framed for her own reminder of Barnes’ unforgettable kindness. 

“He taught me to not be afraid to talk to people,” Lanotti explained. “We don’t know their story, we don’t know what they’ve been through. They might not be sitting there with their hand out for money.” 

Lanotti said she never stuck her nose up at unhoused people, but she admitted she had never really engaged with them or tried to talk to them. That changed when she met Barnes. And once she began learning his story and developed a friendship with him, she uncovered his sense of selflessness, refusing food or anything else she would offer. All but the chair. 

“He taught me to be kind,” Lanotti stressed, “he really did.”

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