Decades before the Internet caught on, Richard Barnes foresaw how something along those lines could have an adverse effect on his business at the time.
“He was a visionary, I guess is the word,” Brad Barnes recalled of his father, a lifelong Cecil Township resident who passed away Nov. 10 at age 88.
In 1965, Mr. Barnes founded a weekly newspaper called The Advertiser, which eventually was joined by a sister publication, The Almanac, to serve South Hills communities. And as a young man, Brad went to work for his dad.
“Toward the late ’70s, he started saying, ‘Yeah, I don’t think I want to be in this business.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’” Brad recalled. “He said, ‘No, it’s changing, and I just don’t think it’s going to be there.’”
The follow-up question was, what do you think is going to be in its place?
“He said, ‘I don’t know. Some people say TV, and some people say something like TV.’ And that’s when he sold it to the Observer,” Brad said. “They completed that sale in 1981.”
With the newspapers then run by the Observer Publishing Co. in Washington, Barnes turned his full attention to another venture he had started a couple of years prior with his first Hallmark shop, in McKeesport. He subsequently opened another at Donaldson’s Crossroads shopping center in Peters Township, which happened to be the point of origin for The Advertiser.
“When Carlo Teodori was building the Crossroads, my dad thought, wow. It would be nice to do advertising for them,” Brad said. “He knew Carlo. They were friends. And he told Carlo he’d like to start a weekly advertising piece for the Crossroads and do community news, too.
“That’s how The Advertiser got its start,” he added. “It was probably craigslist and Facebook all wrapped into one, back in the day.”
A 1949 graduate of Cecil Township High School, Mr. Barnes served for eight years in the U.S. Navy. During the Korean War, he sailed aboard the aircraft carrier USS Midway and was awarded five battle ribbons.
Afterward, he enrolled at the University of Pittsburgh and graduated in 1959 with a bachelor of arts in English. In June 1958, he married Patricia VanTassel, another resident of the same Cecil neighborhood, Lawrence.
While attending college, he was employed as a reporter and feature writer for the Observer Publishing Co. and a reporter and on-air news director at WCNG-AM 540, a Canonsburg radio station.
Following his graduation from Pitt, Mr. Barnes was hired by Equitable Gas Co. as a public relations specialist. Later, he joined Fourth Allegheny Corp., a firm for which he later became president.
In his hometown, he was elected as a Cecil Township supervisor and served as the board’s chairman. Barnes was a member of the township’s parks and recreation committee and was currently serving as vice president of the Cecil Township Municipal Authority.
Brad told about a long-ago contract reached between the township and police officers.
“My dad was one of the people who was liked on both sides, and he helped them negotiate that,” he said. “The police chief came to his office one day and gave him a badge and a gun, and they made him the ‘police commissioner.’”
Mr. Barnes made sure to keep the honorary emblem for the rest of his life.
“He never used it or did anything with it,” his son said, “but it was really a nice gesture.”