Mayor Jay Barber celebrated his 80th birthday with a little help from his friends, almost 100 of them, at the Sons of Norway lodge in Gearhart.
People turned out at 4 p.m. sharp to surprise the mayor 15 minutes later. The Barbers entered the room from a drenching downpour outside to find themselves surrounded by friends, family and state and local notables.
State Sen. Betsy Johnson, who is running for governor as an independent, said she first met Barber 35 years ago when he served as the director of the Oregon Health & Science University Foundation, overseeing fundraising programs.
“The one consistent throughout all of Jay’s life is service to others,” she said. “When we met, he was helping sick kids at OHSU. He helped students who went to Warner Pacific. Jay is the chair of the board of Helping Hands Reentry (Outreach Centers) and helping with that. City councilor, mayor — Jay’s life is a total life of service.”
Former Sunset Empire Park and Recreation District director Mary Blake described Barber as a man of warmth and compassion. “He wraps everybody up with love and is one of the best spirited kind of guys, with a killer sense of humor,” she said.
Seaside Fire Chief Joey Daniels said Barber supports firefighters and always plays a role at their fundraisers.
City Councilor Tom Horning said Barber is conscientious. “He cares about everybody and has a great attitude,” Horning said. “He’s always got great ideas and he’s always working with everybody.”
Kirsten Horning said she appreciates Barber’s sense of integrity.
Alan Evans, director of Helping Hands, said Barber has helped him become a better man. “I think his involvement in homelessness, not only in our city, but in our state, gives him the professional ability to understand a little bit more about low-barrier facilities and the need for them and why some of them work and why some don’t.”
Barber was visibly moved by the gathering.
“Nothing makes me richer than knowing that I have a loving, caring family around me who love me unconditionally,” Barber said. “And we love them unconditionally. The other thing that I realized, and was really underscored tonight, is that I have a great heritage of wonderful friends from all over.”
Barber cast a glance at his wife, who had spent weeks prior arranging the 80th birthday surprise.
“Jan has pulled this kind of thing in our 40 years of marriage on a regular basis,’” he said. “She keeps saying, ‘Trust me, trust me.’ How can I trust somebody that’s doing all this stuff behind my back? Who else could pull off something like this?”