I have googled off and on, information about the first Florida friends I ever had, when my parents moved me to Cape Coral, FL from Beachwood, NJ: Andy Barry, his little brother Bobby “Bud” Barry, a kid named Barry (ironically)… can’t remember his last name at the moment, and a cool girl I had a crush on named Liz Tursi. It was 1988-1989. Literally, the Barry brothers were the first friends I made, in Cape Coral, FL. The four of us (minus Bob, as he was still a little young compared to us) did everything together from late 1988 through most of 1989. We even trick-or-treated together (Halloween 1989). Andy went as “a skateboarder” and I had a Weird Al moustache, glasses, wig, and Hawaiian shirt. Good times.
I miss them all, but especially Andy and Bob.
Andy Barry doing a handplant (April 1989).
Obviously, I skateboarded at that time, which is how I met the Barry brothers. I skated badly. Always badly. I quit in 1995, but skated a little more in 1999. While I love skateboarding, music had always been my true calling and passion.
The Barry brothers were immensely talented at skateboarding though, even at their young ages… Andy was 11 when we met, and his little brother was 8. They had an older brother Rom, who was ALSO an incredible skateboarder, and their parents Ron Barry and Wendy Barry (who had just moved from the San Diego area) were super cool. They even opened a skateboard shop shortly after they moved, in the Coralwood Mall, called Skate World. We all loved it, because it was something cool, in Cape Coral, FL. And there wasn’t much, in the way of “cool” back then.
Andy Barry launching off his quarter-pipe right in front of his house (while in an arm cast). Late 1988 or early 1989.
Andy and I often took the Yacht Club trolley to the mall, to visit his parents, skate around the parking lot next to their skate shop, and generally raise havoc where we could (I mean, hell, we were kids). I lived on Dolphin Drive and he lived very close to me, a few streets down, in a house on Floridian Court, which was right by the tennis courts (as shown in some photos), and had a small cul-de-sac to the left of his house. It was the coolest street, coolest house… just literally, the best time.
I took some photos of Andy doing skateboarding tricks on the ramps his parents helped him build (in his driveway), and his brother doing tricks, too. Shown here are iphone photos of the actual photos. We even made a home video together… shot by his mom mostly, of us skateboarding (to a radio blasting Guns N Roses “GNR Lies” EP) and generally having fun. It’s ridiculous in places, funny in others, and shows how talented these kids were and what a great time it was.
I even have audio tapes of me, Andy, and possibly another kid named Steve Dumas, recording ourselves doing ridiculous things, like farting, and burping on demand. I can’t do that (and never have been able to burp) but Andy was a master. There was a thing that cracked us up when no burp came out, then you hear Andy hoarsely say “shit…” and then immediately after, he belches loudly and powerfully, “fuckin’ DICK!”... amazing. I have never laughed so hard. Never. I HAVE to find those tapes.
Andy Barry doing a railslide from the launch ramp (late 1988 or early 1989).
I’m writing this post on my site to hopefully someday reach Ron Barry, Wendy Barry, or Rom Barry, to let them all know that I still miss Andy and Bob (“Bud”), and I have thought of them regularly for over 20 years. And I’m going to scan the photos I took of the boys, and find that copy of our skateboarding video (it’s got to be somewhere)… if they want a copy for posterity and memories.
Andy and his brother Bob, along with another friend, died in a severe car crash near Escondido, California on the evening of May 9th, 1997. The fourth person in the car (also their friend, who survived the crash) died from his injuries shortly after, in the hospital.
I never knew that Andy and Bob died until my friend Dan told me in 2000, after I moved back from California (I had moved there in 1999 and moved back to Cape Coral, FL 13 months later). I didn’t even believe Dan at first, or even months later, as I could find no evidence of it, online. The crash was initially (falsely) blamed on drunk driving as some beer was found, but much more evidence showed it was related to loss of control of the car due to a blowout at high-speed driving– Bob was driving at the time, but I’ve never been able to find true evidence of this until today.
Andy Barry was only 19 years old when he died, and his little brother Bob (who had just graduated high school early) died at the age of 16. They both had corporate skateboarding sponsorship in the early/mid-90s (I believe through H-Street). Again, it’s hard to find evidence of this online, either.
Interesting story behind this terrible-quality photo-of-a-photo… (took from my iphone)… Andy Barry jumped off this quarter-pipe, while little brother Bob Barry was standing there saying “why is he jumping off the ramp and making this a fake photo?”)… Like a few other photos shown here, Andy has a cast on his arm from breaking it (I believe from skateboarding, just weeks prior).
The following is an excerpt from a long 1998 article from the San Diego Reader, about roadside memorials and shrines for those who have died in car accidents. Here is the link to the official article that I finally found today, February 18th, 2020. My, how time flies.
………….Crosses erected at death sites in San Diego County rarely bear names or personal information, merely denote anonymous death, as they often do in Mexico, leaving me to wonder if such are to Latino dead. The hauntingly beautiful memorial on West Lake Road in Bonsall, for example: a Latin cross wreathed in puppies — vines spilling about, a thorny barrel cactus before it — against which some joker has rested Coors bottles. There’s something of the religious reliquary in such shrines, their stark simplicity and isolated longing a cry for mercy. They seem to say: No need to name him. God will know his name. Erected more for the dead than the living. More personal shrines show religious symbols except in pop forms. Upbeat, garlanded with flowers and personal iconography, symbols of a lifetime, they are about mourning the dead, keeping memory alive. Erected for the living.
None more clearly so than the elaborate memorial under the Interstate 15 overcrossing on Mesa Rock Road, north of Escondido. For Ron and Wendy Barry, who lost two sons here, the shrine is about resurrecting the good names of four young men characterized posthumously as boozing, speed-crazed teenagers. If shrines are places hallowed in shared emotional needs and touch-points of experience, this is more aptly called “shrine” than “memorial.” Private sadness offered here as a public gift.
In hills north of Escondido, the landscape is a palimpsest of California whole: cactus gardens, houses with Spanish tile roofs, palm trees and rugged hills covered by chaparral and sienna boulders, avocado and citrus orchards. Under the I-15 overpass beyond a chain-link fence stand four stylized redwood tau crosses set in concrete: scalloped crossbars symbolize lotus flowers and bear the inscribed names of Scott Rathbun (20), Andy Barry (19), Bobby “Bud” Barry (16), and Billy Minicola (19). Between the Barry brothers’ crosses sits a picture of two young men dressed in tuxes, blond hair slicked back, taken at their half-brother Roger’s wedding near Yosemite a month before their deaths. Fresh red roses in a coffee can, notes jammed into chain links, Palomar College parking permits. Personal mementos: cigars, golf balls — all four boys golfed, Scott worked at the Fallbrook golf course — a stick of gum for each, a blanket in a plastic bag beside Billy Minicola’s cross, a Tharum cigarette box. Up the embankment four crude wooden crosses tilt forlornly: red-and-white Tibetan prayer flags waver from a pole.
Nearby, a grizzled, cranky-faced old fellow sits in a light blue ’70s model Dodge in the shadow of the overpass watching me, a For Sale sign in the back window. He tells me the boys’ Mustang came off the overpass, tore off some of the concrete abutment, plowed through a chain-link fence, and crashed onto the road below between north and southbound overpasses. “A shame, a waste.”
According to official CHP and press versions: At 10:40 p.m. on May 9, 1997, a red Ford Mustang driven by Robert Barry at 100 mph came off the overpass and plunged 50 feet to the road below, landing on its roof. Three of the boys died instantly, one later in the hospital. Beer cans were found in the wreckage; the driver had a .10 blood alcohol level.
Ron and Wendy Barry feel burned by press and CHP report characterizing their son as reckless. Ron summarizes his side of the night’s events in a written statement: “While traveling south on I-15 at 10:30 p.m. a tire deflated. As the driver pulled over onto the center divider somehow the car got tangled up in the guardrail, flipping the car over and sending it to the road below.” One of the tires was installed “illegally” and it blew, and his son was trying to pull off the road. “We think he didn’t see that railing. And somehow it just showed up all of a sudden.”
One bright Sunday morning in November I arrive at the boys’ death site to find the blue Dodge’s owner standing mid-road staring up at the freeway overpass like one possessed, smoking a cigarette. Sandy-haired, with drooping mustache and glasses, he is lanky and itinerant as an albatross. Disregarding me, he stares.
A flashy red Mustang pulls in behind me, its teenage driver’s eyes concealed behind dark sunglasses. Colby Raymond tells me he stops to “hang out for a while,” every time he runs into town. Bud Barry was “a pretty smart guy” who loved his car, he says. “We’re into hot rods, you know.” I ask what he thinks of shrines. “I think it’s good to have them. I think it’s damn good to have them. It gets people thinking, you know. ‘Cause anything can happen — Wham! just like that.” The boys hit something on the road that night and pulled over, he says. They never saw the bridge.
The Barry family arrives in the blue Mustang that once belonged to their son Andy, Ron casual in purple long-underwear top and blue jeans, salt and pepper hair worn in a ponytail, a bushy mustache, amber tinted glasses. Wendy Barry is slightly built, her eyes deep-set and watchful, sharp-featured yet gently attractive. While I talk to Ron, she stands aside with her oldest son Rom, a strapping fellow in his 20s, hair sandy-blond like his dead half-brothers. They look up at 3:15 as if speculating about that night six months before. Nearby, the old man rotates his tires. Ron Barry says he lives here in his car. He considers him guardian of the shrine.
“The morning after the boys died there must have been 40 kids here,” he says. “Just so shocked by everything, they didn’t know what to do but to come out here.” Wendy spent six weeks making and finishing the crosses. The Barrys, who had come to the region to raise their sons, planned, now they were dead, to move somewhere “more merrier” and wanted to have something to which they could make annual pilgrimages: Markers for future emotional reference. Wendy made them to last 100 years.
Ron tells me his son died right here on the dirt shoulder of the road before the shrine. Then blood soaked into the soil all over here, Wendy adds. My instinct is to step away, but the Barrys are as comfortable as if it’s a room in their home. Ben picks up a cigarette left near potted flowers and says it’s new since his last visit. The boys’ friends stop by regularly and leave cigarettes as offerings. At times, strangers stop to ask what’s going on, he says. “And I’ll say, ‘my boys died,’ and then they’ll say, ‘Yeah, we know. I just lost my dad…and you know I was feeling pretty bad about everything and just wanted to stop and talk to you.’ “
The Barrys, who are Tibetan Buddhists, held services here for 40 days after the accident. Nine weeks after their deaths, a crowd gathered to send the boys off. “That’s when the Tibetans say is the first departure then that gets reborn somewhere.” Ron says, “We pretty much followed the Tibetan Book of the Dead to get ’em through it.” Next “I built things, an understanding of the mind.” Where consciousness leaves the body is sacred. “Consciousness can linger, especially in a sudden, unexpected death.” And the thought and prayers of the living can help the dead to understand what has become of them “and assist them in their journey.” He says sometimes at odd places — all those “entities” piled up in one place, when it’s Peaceful” and “serene.” Fortunately, the boys died in a place where they could erect a shrine. If on the freeway it wouldn’t have been possible.
I mention Caltrans’ position that road shrines can prove a hazardous distraction. Ron’s stepson Rom, cuts in: “Then they should like outlaw billboards. Women and beer, stuff like that, where guys are breaking their necks looking at it.” Square-jawed and more, every inch the hockey player. “If somebody pays then puts up a billboard, then it’s okay. But if somebody dies and you put of a few crosses, that’s offensive?” Ron says it’s absurd to think they’ve created a nuisance. They keep the place cleaned up, have taken out barrels full of trash.
Telling me his son Andy worked with him in construction and was his best friend, Ron is overcome with emotion, grips the bridge of his nose, asks me to give him a minute. I step back to give him space. Wendy’s eyes hit me hard; she grips her husband’s arm from behind. Ron shakes his head and continues. “You know, the materialistic world…words like ‘closure’ and ‘letting go,’ principle in the materialistic world. They want to get back to work, to forget about it. Life goes on, which is true. But they’re really all fueling these wishes, because the only real way to deal with this is to look it right in the face and go through whatever it is that you have to go through.” Wendy Barry nods grimly. People he’s seen who cover death over and go on with business as usual, “after a couple months, they’re hit with despair and hopelessness. Nothing seems to matter anymore. You really need to not get away from it, you need to not forget.” Speaking, it seems, for all road shrine makers.
Wendy says her mother told her that “happiness is fleeting and grief’s forever.” Flanked by her eldest son and husband, Ron’s arm around her, she says the lotus petals on the crosses “symbolize the beauty that can grow from the mumbly swamp.” Her voice cracks, tears course her cheeks, but she goes on. “I know they will do around here. I know they will when people come and pray for them and think about ’em and, as the kids say, ‘kick it with them.’ “
The Barrys become most animated discussing their boys’ many accomplishments. Bobby skipped grades, had finished his final semester at Palomar at age 16; his goal — to have his bachelor’s degree by the time he would normally have graduated high school. He was a person of strong convictions who despised injustice. Wendy mentions an incident that magnified her youngest son. “One friend worked a grave yard shift and didn’t have his car, and Bob would get up and drive him to work, and set his alarm, and get and go pick him up from work.” Andy, she says, was even-tempered. He liked doing yardwork, just “to make the earth more beautiful.” Ron says, “Andy was a stand-up for all the kids. He would never lie.” He refused to golf with his father when Ron got angry about his game. “Do you golf?” he asks. “No one is like that.” Oddly, they don’t mention that their sons were corporate-sponsored skateboarders, Andy two-time state champion and gold medal winner in international competition. Concerned perhaps I will consider them speed-happy daredevils?
Their friend Scott, who died that night, was at “the top of the top” of his class. “A sweet, sensitive boy,” Wendy says. She considered him a personal friend and discussed holistic healing with him. “Quite a special group of friends,” she says. “Some of them still come by to visit” She had friends who died when she was a girl. No one ever thought to visit their parents.
“When they found that beer they all jumped to conclusions,” Ron laments. “It was really unfortunate for the boys and especially Bobby, being the driver and such a beautiful person, to have his name smutted.” Wendy tells me he was “a responsible, good driver.” There were bruises on his hands from trying to control the car. “The tire did blow out,” Ron says. “And we know the tire was illegally put on there.” The Mustang left red skid marks along the concrete railing of the overcrossing and nearly made it to the other side. “They were real close.”
“The impact, it was like an airplane crash,” Wendy says.
When they turned the car over, the firemen said their sons were sitting upright in their seats, Ron says, “and they felt like saying, ‘Hey, you guys okay?’ And we saw ’em, you know, before we burned them — no cuts, no broken bones.”
“Flawless. They bled to death out their noses and their mouths. It was internal injuries.”
“We’re pretty sure they weren’t going 100 miles per hour.”
Ron says Billy Minicola’s father told them he was scared of speed; he wouldn’t have been in a car going that fast. “I mean, they were chucking down the road, there’s no doubt about it. But I don’t think they were going 100 miles per hour.” They rehash details of that night, seeking answers, knowing they won’t change the outcome. The shrine part testimony to the agony of doubt. “But the whole idea that they were out joy-riding drunk — “
A blowout that night? Possibly. Other motorists along I-15 reported heavy debris on the road that night. Could Bob Barry have hit something and lost control? Does it detract from the boys’ memory to know they were speeding? Must the young die faultless? Don’t the faulted die young? I wonder at portraits of idealized young victims I encounter again and again — washed clean, sentimentalized, made principles rather than people. Bereft of a life lived fully, survivors take comfort in the perfection of a few short years. We wouldn’t tolerate such idealization of the older, whose deaths are commonly marked with a simple cross (a black-and-red prayer flag wrapped around a charred stick among glass shards on Highway 79 near Dripping Springs). No denying the grief and pain that motivates such shrines. But victimization is at work here too, an attempt to deny what role — however slight — the young may play in their own deaths. As Cheri Smith says of the drunk driver who killed her daughter, “He was just a kid being reckless, and my daughter was reckless for being in the car with him. The kids were being kids. He didn’t leave that night with all the girls, saying, ‘Okay, I’m going to go out and kill somebody.’ “
Perhaps one shouldn’t have been driving so fast, another should have told his buddy to slow down; neighbors and relatives should have intervened and gotten the kids out of that house. Guilt lingers here.
Friends of the Barry boys, Torrey Alkire and Chris Colgan, arrive in a black pickup. Torrey a tall, imposing, thoughtful girl in a black sack dress, broad, puffy cheeks, eyes naked and direct. Chris lanky and nervous, eyes hidden behind silver lenses. They stop by “at least once a week,” he says. “Hang out,” she says, “tell ’em what’s going on.” Torrey says the Barry brothers were “good at everything” and “made kind of a mark wherever they went.” I ask if they’ve left any objects here. Chris says his little brother Mikey left the gum, huskying his voice, ” ‘Oh, I’m gonna give ’em all a piece of gum.’ So he jumped the fence and gave them all a piece of gum.”
“Goooood,” Wendy says. “We like that.”
Why shrines? I ask. A warning.
“A reminder of what can happen,” Torrey Alkire answers. “Oh wow! maybe I should slow down.”
“Whenever you see any reminder of death it always makes you more respectful of life,” Ron says.
“And maybe your problems aren’t quite so big and maybe you should be happier to be able to go home and kiss your kids…knowing that someone’s not.” Wendy’s voice tightens.
To take it down, Torrey Alkire says, would be just another example of “bringing society down, individualizing everyone more and segregating everyone. This kind of brings everyone together, knowing that we’re all one and we’re all here together, and this is obviously going to happen to all of us.”
Ron adds, “It shows that people care about other people.”
A place of pilgrimage, shout of outrage, reminder, final song of affection, a community created around death and caring, a way to look death squarely in the eye. A tree, a pole, a corner, a cyclone fence, a crash site. A damp spot under the overpass. In a mechanistic world that denies the primacy of feeling, that hides death away and disavows it, road shrines put it right up front and make a cult of it.
Ron points to rocks on a hill to the east by some palm trees. He tells me Wendy lived in a house just below there when the first “got together” 23 years ago. “So we thought that was unusual that the boys died right here. What is it, a mile away?”
Wendy nods. “Where we became a couple.”
Shrines are about the incredible, sometimes terrible, happenstances and serendipities of life. Evidence that life and death will never be the quantifiable commodities some want to make them.
Wendy, Ron, Rom… if any of you find this website/blog post, please comment or send me an email. I’d love to hear from you. I am truly sorry for your loss. Seriously, there isn’t a day that goes by I don’t think of them. I was a weird, shy kid at that time, and all of you immediately befriended me after I moved 1000 miles from Beachwood NJ to Cape Coral, FL… and I will forever be grateful to you all, and all the fun you provided me at that time. But especially, the brief but meaningful friendship with Andy. Thanks.
-Chris Caulder (formerly “Skip”)