Emmett Barnes

Posted 2/9/21

Emmett Leroy Barnes, 89, Malta, passed away peacefully on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 at Kishwaukee Hospital, DeKalb, after a short illness, and went to be with our Lord.

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Emmett Barnes


MALTA — Emmett Leroy Barnes, 89, Malta, passed away peacefully on Friday, Feb. 5, 2021 at Kishwaukee Hospital, DeKalb, after a short illness, and went to be with our Lord.

Emmett was born on the farm outside Esmond in 1931. He grew up tending to the animals and working in the fields, and often talked about his time baling hay. He attended Rochelle Township High School and shared many stories of his “shenanigans” with friends, and his favorite motor-powered bicycle. He took piano lessons and then was interested in becoming a draftsman, so his mother signed him up for a correspondence course. One of his first jobs was as a draftsman at Ideal Industries in Sycamore. He was a talented artist.

He married Pauline Jones in 1952 and they lived in Sycamore, and then DeKalb with their three children. Emmett was also a draftsman for Wurlitzer Company, worked at Mel Elliott Music Store and Palmer Music Store as a salesman and teaching piano and organ lessons.

His family moved to Steward in 1963 and they added their fourth child. Emmett was mayor of the village in the late 60s/early 70s and one of his proudest accomplishments was starting the event, “Farmers Market Days” (along with other community members) to raise money to develop the village park and purchase playground equipment, some of which is still there today being enjoyed by many. His original drawing of his vision for the park is still hanging on the wall of the village hall. During all of those years, he played piano and organ with different musician friends and sometimes solo all over the DeKalb area at special events, supper clubs, and the DeKalb Elks Club. His talents, in addition to his humorous personality, drew many fans.

He opened Barnes Music in the 70s and his family also moved to Rochelle at that time. The music store touched the lives of many and was a place of family and friends gathering to be together, typically ending in a jam session. Emmett obtained his private pilot’s license and enjoyed flying his family and friends around, enjoyed fishing, riding his motorcycle, golfing, and doing woodworking in his basement. After the store closed in the 80s, he opened a wood shop in Rochelle.

He married Marilyn Krahenbuhl Harleman on June 11, 1988, and moved to Malta, expanding his beloved family to include two stepdaughters and their families.

He moved the shop to Shabbona and one of his favorite things to do all of those years was to hang out at the shop with his buddies and friends who visited, and to go to the Shabbona Cafe down the street for coffee or a meal and to hang out with more. He also enjoyed his Sunday night dinners at the Junction in DeKalb with his buddies there.

In addition to the shop, he worked as a draftsman for Mayrath in Compton, went back to school at Kishwaukee College in his 60s to learn CAD, and then worked at Alloyd and Algus Packaging in DeKalb before devoting all of his time to the shop. He enjoyed taking his woodcrafts to craft fairs all over the area and was one of the longest running vendors at Oregon’s “AutumnFest” attending for 30 years. Again, he was surrounded by family and friends at these events as they either came to work the booth with him, or stopped to chat awhile.

He and Marilyn enjoyed taking trips together to Shipshewana in Indiana and to the Amana Colonies in Iowa (both which carried his wood products) where one shop owner would bring out her accordion, call in friends, Emmett would sit down at the organ and they’d all enjoy a jam session. He also enjoyed going to his stepdaughter and husband’s condo up north, visiting and fishing.

Emmett loved spending time with his children and grandchildren, joking around and playing music together. He was known for his clever wit and humor. He also had a sweet, sensitive side that was cherished by his family. He brought smiles and laughter to most everyone he met. People loved being around him. He had an attitude that he was going to live his life the way he wanted and he did just that, enjoying everything he did.

Emmett was predeceased by his son, Brian; granddaughter, Kristen Bucey; parents, Russell and Edith Barnes, Rochelle; brothers, Edwin (Marilyn) Barnes, Esmond, brother, Charles (Delores) Barnes, Paris; and baby sister, Mary. 

Survivors include his wife, Marilyn; his children, Pamela (Mark) Bucey, of Byron, Nora (Ron) Jeter, of Rockford, and Nola (Anthony Greco) Addante, of Bartlett, and their mother, Pauline Jones Barnes Cultra, of Rochelle; his stepchildren, LuAnn Samardzija, of Sycamore and Mary (Todd) Olson of Sycamore; eight grandchildren; 11 great-grandchildren; six step-grandchildren; six step-great grandchildren; his sisters, Doris Lindaas, of Rochelle, and Susan (Allen) Crowther, of Elmhurst; sister-in-law, Delores Barnes, of Paris; numerous nieces and nephews, cousins; his beloved cat Blackie; and many friends. His friendly, humorous presence will be missed by all.

There will be a walk thru visitation (no family present) from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 19 at the Unger-Horner Funeral Home, 400 N. 6th St., Rochelle. There will be a private family funeral service at 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20 with Pastor John R. Hilbelink officiating. The service will be live streamed on the Unger-Horner Funeral Home Facebook page. Burial will follow at Malta Cemetery in Malta.  

Visit www.ungerhorner.com to sign the online guest book.