Lieutenant Colonel Michael William Barnes, U.S. Air Force Ret., passed away on January 12, 2020, in Simi Valley, California.
Dr. Barnes was born on February 22, 1940 in Kansas City, MO to George M. & Ruth L. Barnes (Predeceased). Upon the death of his Maternal Grandfather, Joel G. Doyle, in 1953, the family transplanted to Longboat Key Florida. After several short years, the family moved across the bay to Sarasota FL.
Mike attended Sarasota High School, graduating Valedictorian, class of ‘58. He received his bachelor’s degree from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. He received his doctorate degree in Organic Chemistry from the University of Kentucky.
On October 6, 1962 while he was a student at UK, a friend persuaded him to attend a dance at Midway College. That fateful night he would meet the love of his life, Leticia, and they danced the night away. He proposed to her 2 years later in Lexington, Kentucky and they remained married for over 55 years.
Immediately following his graduation in 1967, Mike served active duty in the U.S. Air Force at Edwards Air Force Base, California in the Rocket Propulsion Lab. He then had the honor of teaching chemistry at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado. After leaving active duty in the Air Force, Mike worked as a “rocket scientist” chemist at Thiokol, in Utah. He later worked at Atlantic Research, in Virginia, focusing on developing solid rocket propellants for small-scale rocket motors for military defense. He ended his career at Autoliv, (formerly Morton Thiokol), formulating airbag propellants for use in the automotive industry. Dr. Barnes often said that it was more technically difficult to create a propellant for airbags capable of inflating at different speeds and intensities depending upon the weight and height of different passengers than it was to launch a rocket into space.
Over his years in private industry, Dr. Barnes’s work in solid rocket propellants resulted in over 40 patents. More importantly, his service in the military and his civilian work undoubtedly saved many lives, helped ensure the safety of our Country and also enabled us to explore the wonders of space.
Mike enjoyed many hobbies, such as chess, bicycling, hiking, skiing, watching horse-racing and movies. He will be remembered by his family for being tough on the outside, with a soft center. He epitomized the “toughness” particularly in how he faced his battle with Parkinson’s. Yet he also had tender heart that allowed him, without shame, to love watching sappy movies like “Terms of Endearment” and “Steel Magnolias,” (and cry along with his wife and daughters during sad endings). His battle with Parkinson’s was long and difficult, but he faced it bravely, even in the most challenging of times. His family is comforted in his rest, as he saw angels and his family waiting for him towards the end.
Mike is survived by his wife, Leticia Barnes, and his three loving daughters: Sara Wood (Jeff) of Simi Valley, California; Norma Barnes-Euresti (Alma) of Battle Creek, MI; and Ruth Barnes (Gil) of Glendale Heights, IL and his grandchildren Connor, Naomi, Emilio and Elias. Mike is also survived by his two brothers G. Maxwell Barnes (Nancy, nephew Derek and niece Lisa; deceased) of Sarasota, FL and Jeffrey Barnes (Diane) of Arlington, VA and many other family members in Mexico.
A visitation will be held on Monday, January 20, 2020, from 5 to 8 p.m.at Reardon Simi Valley Funeral Home, 2636 Sycamore Drive, Simi Valley, CA. There will be a Rosary Prayer Service at 7 p.m. led by the St. Peter Claver Catholic Church Bereavement team. The memorial service will be held on Tuesday, January 21, 2020 at 10 a.m. at St. Peter Claver Catholic Church, 2380 Stow Street, Simi Valley, with internment at the Los Angeles National Cemetery.