By Ryan Gueningsman
When you didn’t understand something, long-time Delano businessman Jim Barbre had a way of explaining it so it made sense.
“He helped you understand why things were the way they were,” commented Barbre’s grandson, a third generation employee of Delano Dodge Nate Matter.
Barbre owned Delano Dodge for almost 40 years before retiring in 2005. He bought into the dealership in 1965, and was a very active member of the Delano community his entire career. Barbre passed away unexpectedly Feb. 16 while vacationing in Florida.
A charter member of the Delano Lions, Barbre was instrumental in helping the Delano Fire Department obtain a rescue truck, worked to get an outdoor hockey rink across from the city park, and was also involved in the annual Fourth of July celebrations, said fellow Lion Dale Vander Linden.
“Also, when he owned the Dodge garage yet, he hosted our Christmas tree sales for years and years,” Vander Linden said.
Vander Linden also said Barbre was instrumental in establishing the little park by Three Crows on River Street that has a Lions memorial. He said there used to be two buildings on that piece of land, and when they came down, the city wasn’t sure what to do with the land, so the Lions volunteered to make a small park out of it, which was called Vest Pocket Park.
The Lions built a wooden railing and boardwalk, which was later replaced with concrete, and put up the flagpole and memorial.
Matter said his grandfather was very proud of Delano, and that he never planned on leaving it.
“He did love the community,” Matter said. “He liked the fact that when people walked in, everybody knew each other. It was on a first- name basis.”
Born in Peoria, Ill., Barbre moved to Delano originally as a minister in the Methodist church, prior to owning the dealership, Matter said.
He said his grandfather always preferred the “old way of business,” which meant business with a handshake.
“I learned good business ethics, and how to maintain the small-town atmosphere in a growing business,” Matter said. “I can say that he had a philosophy for everything he was very philosophical. When you didn’t understand something, he explained it in a way that made sense.”