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Brian Barnard remembered for his big heart

Published September 19, 2012 7:36 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Kristen Stoker could not get a permit for the first animal rights protest she ever organized — until, Brian Barnard came along.

The civil rights attorney fought for her and won, and before long, Stoker found herself befriending him and helping the Salt Lake City man out in his garden. He would come pick her up every Sunday to help him mow the lawn, clean and nurture the plants. Before long, Barnard offered Stoker a position in his law office, and eventually made her a paralegal.

Annual Christmas get-togethers at his house, barbecues, summer trips to theatre productions and — as ever — more gardening, soon followed. Years ago, Stoker was his client. But it was not long before they were family.

"It feels like losing a father," Stoker said.

Friends, clients and coworkers gathered Tuesday evening at Starks Funeral Parlor to remember the best of Barnard, who died Sept. 1 at the age of 67 after a long and prominent law career.

"Though the courtroom will remember Brian as a bulldog for civil rights in the courtroom, we will remember Brian also for the big-hearted man he was outside of the court," Stoker wrote in his obituary.

Draped over his casket was a thick blanket of earthen colors and native American designs. The Navajo tribe in San Juan County gave Barnard the blanket for the attention and compassion he showed them. In 2010, Barnard and fellow attorney John Pace settled an 18-year fight between the state and tribal members over unpaid oil drilling royalties.

All along the way, Barnard drove down to San Juan County and went door-to-door, kindly and patiently explaining the case to everyone in layman's terms, said Harry Johnson, who helped Barnard as a translator. The tribe threw a celebration for Barnard when they won, complete with music and drums. And Barnard was always one to appreciate culture.

Barnard had an unbridled passion for local arts, Stoker wrote in his obituary. Barnard would have a big column of tickets on one wall of the office, like a visual calendar, of all the productions he intended to see; he would also give the tickets out to everyone.

Every summer, he staked out a space at the Red Butte Garden Concert with his windsock, and every year he would take the office out to see Saturday's Voyer, the Salt Lake Acting Company's annual production and fundraiser. He was even a strong patron of dance. Susan Sandack, director of development for the Repertory Dance Theatre, said that even when he couldn't make it to a show, he would sponsor a reception or support them with advertising, which meant a lot to them.

Stoker intends to see that the rest of the season's tickets get to people, giving as he would give. But what she's held onto herself is the dehydrator she got him for his fruit, which is now in the trunk of her car. He loved giving out fruit to people.

He loved to give, she said.

mmcfall@sltrib.com