Sherman Clayton "Jack" Barnes

Barnes, Jack.jpg

Sherman Clayton "Jack " Barnes
July 28, 1927
December 24, 2018

Maine lost a true renaissance man on Christmas Eve when Jack Barnes died.  He lived a long, full life in his 91 years, and was an acclaimed author, beloved teacher, avid gardener and farmer, linguist, athlete, and an experienced world traveler.  Jack had a positive outlook on life that was contagious to people he met and his friends were legion. He will be greatly missed.

Jack was born Sherman Clayton Barnes in Portland, Maine. on July 28, 1927, the son of Clayton and Grace Barnes, and lived in Sebago and Standish for most of his early years.  From birth he was always called “Jack” after being born with both fists raised like a boxer, and the nurses called him “Jack Dempsey” after the world heavyweight champion boxer of the time.  The nickname “Jack” stuck and that is how he was known for the rest of his life.

After graduating from Standish High School Jack enlisted in the US Navy in 1945 and served in both the Pacific and Atlantic theaters on warships.  Following the war, he won an athletic scholarship to North Dakota State College in Dickinson, North Dakota. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in English and Social Studies from North Dakota State and his Master of Science in Education with an emphasis in Geography from the University of Southern Maine.

Jack had a long and interesting teaching career and taught English, Biology, Social Studies and other topics at several different schools in several states including Potter Academy, Bridgton High and Bonny Eagle in Maine.  He taught abroad in Japan and Greece. His courses were rich and engaging and he maintained relationships with his students for years after they were in his classes. When teaching science at Potter Academy in Sebago, he gained a small measure of local notoriety by teaching with a wild porcupine on his shoulders that he had tamed. At the University of Southern Maine, he taught World in Cross-Cultural Perspectives as part of a three-person team, using his own experiences travelling abroad.

A lifelong athlete, Jack was a devoted and skilled basketball player in school and played pickup games well into his 70s.  At only 5 foot 5 inches he was known as “Shorty” on the courts but had a deadly one-handed set shot and a sly left-hook shot and boasted that he could “run around under the arms of those tall players!”  In an exhibition game against the Patriots basketball team while on the faculty team when he was at Bonny Eagle Jack outscored the pros and led his team to victory. He competed in track events, coached track, played football in North Dakota, and played baseball under the legendary coach and baseball bat maker Rupert G. Johnson at Standish High School.  Jack was a long-distance swimmer and swam across Sebago Lake and back several times.

Jack’s lifelong passion for world history and culture took him to over 100 countries around the world, many of them not your typical tourist areas.  In 1952 Jack travelled to then Communist Yugoslavia and was arrested and imprisoned for a few days on suspicion of being a foreign spy. When released, with his funds confiscated, he travelled to Greece where he found work teaching English at the University of Thessaloniki and Anatole College (and incidentally played on the Greek National basketball team).  In 1954 he spent a year teaching in Japan. In 1974 he studied in India at the University of Madras under a Fulbright Student Program grant. In 1984 he received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the National Council of Geographical Education in Toronto. Wherever Jack traveled he had a curiosity about the world and was an experienced, hands-on world traveler. He inspired others with his excitement and knowledge of world history and languages and with the people in those countries that he visited. He had an ear for learning languages and spoke at least twelve languages, many of them fluently.  Until two years ago he and his wife Diane took two extended trips overseas every year and always came back with stories about their travels and the hands-on experiences with people in other countries.

Jack was a recognized author, writing a twice-monthly column on local Maine authors for the Portland Press Herald for thirteen years.  He wrote book reviews and interviewed local Maine authors for several magazines including Down East, Maine Life, and the Portland Magazine. In the 1980s and 1990s he wrote a regular column for the Bitter Sweet magazine and co-wrote several of the “Images of America” series of pictorial/historical books.  His “Best of Barnes” book is still a valuable source of information about Maine authors that he had interviewed.

Neighbors and friends enjoyed the bounty of Jack’s extensive vegetable garden in Hiram, including the Peppermill Restaurant in Limerick where Jack and Diane usually dined every week for nearly twenty years.  Jack loved working in his garden and could usually be found there during the growing season. He also was devoted to his prize chickens, raising rare La Fleche and Blue Andalusian breeds as well as other fowl, and exhibiting them at local fairs.  Jack was particularly proud of winning the Grand Champion of Show Award in Poultry at the Fryeburg Fair in 1993.

Jack is survived by Diane Barnes of Hiram, Maine, his wife of 40 years.  They met when both were on Fulbright scholarships to Pakistan in 1976. He is also survived by his sister Mary Barnes Cote of Roseburg, Oregon, his son Brooke Barnes of Harpswell, Maine, and daughter Tanya Barnes of Winthrop, Maine.  He has two grandchildren, Sam Barnes of Telluride, Colorado, and Jesse Barnes of Austin, Texas. Jack was predeceased by his son David Barnes.


A celebration of Jack’s life will be held at the Hiram Arts Center at 8 Hancock Avenue, Hiram, ME 04041 (next to the Soldiers Memorial Library) at 2:00pm on Saturday, January 12, 2019. There will be a private interment in the spring.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial donations be made to the Soldiers Memorial Library (85 Main Street, Hiram, ME 04041, 207-825-4650,

or the Hiram Historical Society (20 Historical Ridge, Hiram, ME 04041, 207-625-4762,  To leave condolences to the family or to sign Jack’s guest gook, please visit the Coastal Cremation Services’ online guest book (

Online condolences may be expressed below.

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