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August 1999

Barry White: One of the mesa's originals heads out

Barry White. (Photo by Carlye Calvin.)

There aren't many staff who remember first hand how the NCAR mesa looked in 1965 as I.M. Pei's design began taking shape. Barry White remembers: he worked on the construction. But Barry's memory goes back even further, to a time when cattle instead of scientists roamed the mesa.

"We used to go up there and horseback ride on the trails from the mesa to Eldorado Springs. You used to be able to hunt deer up here before it became the greenbelt," recalls Barry.

A native of the Boulder Valley, Barry is also the senior member of the NCAR maintenance team. After going on long-term disability due to respiratory problems in December, Barry was honored with a party on 24 June at ML.

Clad in painter's whites, Barry was a fixture on the mesa. "We figure in his 34 years, he's probably painted every interior wall in this place at least six times," says John Pereira, head of Physical Plant Services. "He's the walking memory of how often things need to be painted."

Barry's brio with a paintbrush is legendary. At the party, colleague Bruce Kovalski told of an instance where Barry was working on one side of a wooden wall when a sledgehammer came through from the other side. "They told the carpenter to tear it down before they told me to stop painting," explains Barry. "They knocked it down before the paint was even dry." Former UCAR vice president Bill Rawson sent a note, read at the party, recalling that Barry's "courage and work ethic were unsurpassed." In 1983, Barry received the Outstanding Performance Award for Administrative Support for his upkeep of the ML walls.

Along with painting, Barry was often the one who scaled the Mesa Lab's exterior walls to repair windows and carry out other tasks at altitude. It was Barry's skill in a swing stage that landed him a job at NCAR. "I was working on the engineering center at CU, doing the high work on the building. A contractor came by one day blowing the horn on his truck. He asked me, 'Who are you working for? Do you have a job when you're done? I've got a building called NCAR and we need high work done on it.' " Shortly after starting on the mesa, Barry joined the maintenance crew.

Barry admits that he never expected his new job would last 34 years. "When I first started to work, I was wondering how long NCAR would be in business--if they'd get enough money to keep it operating. All it's done is grow by leaps and bounds since then."

Like most retirees, Barry says he'll miss the people of the mesa more than anything else. However, he now has more time to spend with his wife and with his uncommonly extended family. "My uncle was a farmer in Louisville on South Boulder Road--they owned the whole top of the hill [Davidson Mesa]. They were one of the old-time pioneer families of the Boulder Valley." He adds, "It's amazing to see what Boulder was then and what it is now. I guess [the growth] is all right, but I liked it the way it was before it got too big." •BH


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Edited by Bob Henson, bhenson@ucar.edu
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