Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Reitz Memorial Mourns Beloved Teacher And Coach

Sophomore Summer McIntyre, joined by classmates, teachers and parents, listens as Father Tyler Tenbarge leads the crowd in prayer during the candlelight vigil. The Message photo by Trisha Hannon Smith

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”


These words from the second letter of Saint Paul to Timothy, shared only a few hours after the news broke about the passing of Dylan Barnes, succinctly summed up the memory of a beloved teacher and coach.


Reitz Memorial English teacher and track coach Dylan Barnes, 43, passed away unexpectedly on March 7. That evening, hundreds gathered at the front circle of the Reitz Memorial campus along Lincoln Avenue in Evansville for a candlelight vigil in his memory. The vigil gave those in attendance a chance to process the devastating news.


Father Tyler Tenbarge, chaplain of Memorial, led the prayer service with the assistance of faculty, staff and students, beginning with the simple words, “The best thing we can do for (Barnes) and ourselves is to pray for one another.”


Reitz Memorial President John Browning reflected on the influence Barnes had on all who knew him. “Whether you knew him as Coach, Mr. Barnes or Dylan, he was a friend to a lot of people,” Browning said. “He’d be embarrassed by a crowd like this, but it’s well-deserved.”


Barnes served 14 years at Memorial as an English teacher, and he coached cross country and girls track.  Father Tenbarge described him as the unofficial Memorial mascot. “He embodied the spirit of the place,” Father Tenbarge said.


Boys track coach Mark Schuler remembered Barnes anticipating the beginning of track season.


“There’s going to be a void,” Schuler said, “and there’s no way to fill that right now.”


The Reitz Memorial and greater Evansville communities filled St. Benedict Cathedral for Barnes’ March 13 Mass of Christian Burial. Father Tenbarge celebrated; concelebrants included Father Bernie Etienne, Father Zach Etienne, Father Chris Forler, Father Kenneth Herr, Benedictine Father Godfrey Mullen and Father Ambrose Wanyoni. Deacon Joseph Siewers assisted.


Father Tenbarge began his homily by offering condolences to the Barnes family on behalf of the Reitz Memorial community. “We’ve been praying for you and grieving with you this past week during this hard time,” he said. He then thanked the entire Reitz Memorial community on behalf of the Barnes family, “not because they told me to do it directly; but because as I’ve talked with them, I can see and I have heard how grateful they are that he had such a loving and supporting community here.”


Father Tenbarge talked about Barnes’ father, who said during the candlelight service that “God must have needed a track coach.” He also read from an email Barnes had sent to a friend in which he talked about his work to teach all of his students and athletes “real life lessons” that they could take with them and apply “to a bigger picture.”


“I think the reason he was such a powerful track coach is because he was already God’s track coach on earth,” Father Tenbarge said. “You felt God’s peace, support and love through him, didn’t you? He reached out and gave you something more than this world can give.

“Today, we celebrate his life and we mourn,” he added, noting that there is hope even in the most difficult of times. “We have hope that we who believe in our Lord will one day rise; and that as much love and gratitude as we felt … and as much as we mourn today, that one day our hope will be turned to joy; that one day we, along with our brother and coach, Mr. Dylan Barnes … that one day we will rise.”