Former reporter moved to Reno, but ‘heart never really left Chicago’
By Steve Metsch firstname.lastname@example.org June 20, 2014 8:26PM
Tom Barton at the Southtown in 1986. | Supplied photo
Updated: July 23, 2014 6:45AM
Tom Barton, a former reporter for the Southtown Economist newspaper who covered New Lenox, Mokena, Frankfort and Will County in the late 1980s and early 1990s lived most of his adult life in the Beverly community in Chicago’s 19th Ward.
Mr. Barton, who was born Oct. 3, 1942, in Evergreen Park, died of a heart attack in Reno, Nevada, on March 6. He was 71.
He and Lois, his wife of 46 years, had moved there to be near their only child, Eithne Barton, 42, and her family. But his heart never really left Chicago, she said.
They sold their house on Artesian Avenue last year, having moved to an apartment in the Hyde Park community on the city’s South Side, Eithne said.
Myer Eder Helfer, who worked for The Star when Barton was with the Southtown, said he was “really helpful to this cub reporter.”
“We were both covering Will County and I was panicked. I was used to covering small villages as a stringer, but he kind of helped me through that,” she said. “Sometimes, I’d have him read my stories to make sure I got it all right.”
After Barton left the newspaper in the early ’90s, he went back to school and got his degree in library science, eventually working in the library at Rosary College, now Dominican University. He enjoyed the job and retired from there in 2011.
He and his wife have one grandchild, Eithne’s son named Atticus, 7, whom Barton nicknamed “The Bunny Man” because had worn a bunny suit for a few Halloweens as a toddler. The name stuck. Atticus didn’t mind one bit, his mother said.
An avid Sox fan, one of Barton’s prized possessions was a photo of an old billboard advertising the Southtown which read “The Cubs Lost. The Sox Won. What a great day.”
Barton was proud of his roots. He and Lois held an open house for the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade ever year, and plenty of Irish coffee was served, Eithne said.
“I’ll remember his warmth, generosity and his bear hugs,” she said.
Mr. Barton suffered from asthma but never made a fuss about it. At least one longtime friend was shocked to learn that Barton had asthma, she said. “That’s how he was. He never talked about his physical limitations,” she said.
“The irony of it is that mom is a retired nurse, and my husband and I are both doctors. We used to tease him that it was a fate worse than death, living with the three of us,” Eithne said.
Before he became a reporter, Mr. Barton drove taxi cabs and school buses, worked in sales and executive recruitment and was a community organizer with the Southwest Federation, Lois said.
“He enjoyed talking politics, sports, history and literature. He had a distaste for conversations waxing on and on about the beauty of nature, medicine or the world of science. That said, he would often reference the ‘Laws of Physics’ when making a point in conversations about accident prevention such as, the ‘Laws of Physics will get you every time,’” Lois said.
Mr. Barton was an avid reader. His daughter recalled “piles of books everywhere” when her parents downsized from house to apartment.
“The family has lost our historian and our storyteller,” she said with a laugh. “One thing he always said was to never let the facts get in the way of a good story.”