Photo: Sam Barnhouse
By Jeff Gilliland – [email protected]
Jovial, kindhearted, community-minded, passionate about sports, and someone you just wanted to be around. Those were the words some of those closest to him used Wednesday to describe Sam Barnhouse, a longtime Hillsboro educator who passed away Sunday at the age of 66.
He had been battling an infection.
John Barney, a 1983 Hillsboro High School graduate who remembers watching Barnhouse as a teacher and coach from his junior high days, said he visited Barnhouse in the hospital on Sept. 6.
“He’s been through a lot for a long time, but when I saw him last Tuesday he had a twinkle in his eyes and I would have bet the farm he was going to get better,” Barney said. “But I guess the infection kicked back in.”
Barney described Barnhouse as the brother he never had.
“I could count on him for anything. If you called Sam and said you needed him, he wouldn’t ask why,” Barney said. “He’d just ask where and when. That’s the type of guy he was really.”
Jim “Chief” Winner officiated junior high, high school, and state playoff football games with Barnhouse for 25 years.
“He always had a smile on his face. He was the kind of guy you were better off for knowing,” Winner said. “He was kindhearted, civic-minded, and just wanted everyone to get along and enjoy themselves, and make sure everyone around him had a positive experience.”
Winner said that even after they quit officiating, he and Barnhouse went to football games on autumn Friday evenings, and on other Fridays got together to bet on upcoming college football games.
“I will miss him. He was my best friend,” Winner said.
Barney said he and Barnhouse were two of five guys – Terry Britton, Dave Hilliard and Fred Yochum being the other three – who got together to go to ball games and “just do things.”
“I thought a lot of him,” Britton said. “Sam was a guy that enjoyed young people really well. He did a lot things that a lot of people don’t know about for kids in Hillsboro. I don’t think there was ever one kid under his wing that ever had a bad thing to say about Sam. He was kindhearted and he wanted to make sure kids had the opportunity to succeed.”
Britton said Barnhouse battled diabetes off and on for years, then got sick with an infection in the spring.
Yochum said that when he landed his first teaching job at Hillsboro in 1975, Barnhouse, who had started teaching at Hillsboro the year before, was one of the first teachers to approach him.
“He welcomed me to Hillsboro and said, ‘If you need anything, let me know and I’ll try to help you out,’” Yochum said.
“He was one of the most jovial and happy going guys there could be,” Yochum added. “He was caring and held no grudges. You just never saw Sam mad. He had a way of making a situation work out.”
Barney said that up until the last year or so, he and Barnhouse went to almost every home Ohio State football game. Barney said he always wondered how Barnhouse became such a huge Ohio State fan when went to college at Ohio University and got his master’s degree from Xavier.
“I never really understood it. He just was,” Barney said. “When you thought of Sam you thought of Ohio State.”
But, Barney said, Barnhouse’s father-in-law was a big Ohio State guy and that it was through his father-in-law that Banhouse got OSU season tickets.
Barney said Barnhouse enjoyed his family and thought the world of his wife and two kids.
He also said Barnhouse loved going back to Wellston and often talked about Ski soda that was, or at least was at one time, made in Wellston. It was mentioned in the song “Dumas Walker” by the Kentucky Headhunters.
Barnhouse graduated from Wellston High School in 1968 and from Ohio University in 1972. He retired from the Hillsboro City Schools in 2007 after 35 years of service as a teacher and administrator. At the time of his death, he was serving his second term on the Hillsboro City Schools Board of Education. He was a football official, heavily involved in the Masons and was a member of the Highland County Retired Teachers Association.
While Barnhouse’s death was a hard pill to swallow, Barney said that maybe there was a silver lining. He said Barnhouse’s recent illness had cost him two discs in his back and that he probably would have spent the rest of his life in a wheelchair.
“I don’t think he would have liked living the way he was going to have to live,” Barney said.
Barnhouse is survived by his wife, Dr. Lisa (Lockard) Barnhouse, and two children, Will and Samantha.
Visitation is from 4:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the Hillsboro High School gymnasium. The funeral is at 10:30 a.m. Friday at the Thompson Funeral Home in Hillsboro.
“Sam had a code he lived by,” Winner said. “He treated everyone like he wanted to be treated.”
Reach Jeff Gilliland at 937-402-2522 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.