By Rich Bockmann
Pamela McGlaughlin said her brother, Billy Barnes, worked on subways and trains underground as an electrician for years, so when he got a job to work on the Throgs Neck Bridge, he was delighted to be out in the fresh air.
“He loved being outdoors and working on the bridge, and he loved extreme sports like sky diving,” she said. “Changing a light bulb all the way up on the bridge was nothing for him!”
The Throgs Neck Bridge opened in 1961, and to commemorate the 50th birthdays of both the bridge and Barnes, who was killed in an accident while working on the bridge in 2009, the Bayside Historical Society will host a 5K foot race in October that will follow a new course from Fort Totten to the bridge.
The bridge was named after John Throckmorton, who settled the area in 1643, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Barnes was one of seven siblings raised in Bayside by parents John and Eileen, both of whom are members of the Bayside Historical Society. Billy, like all of his brothers and sisters, attended Sacred Heart School and St. Francis Prep. He eventually moved to Port Washington, L.I., but McGlaughlin said he returned constantly to visit friends and family.
Barnes founded a motorcycle club at his chapter of Local Union 3, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and even built a motorcycle himself.
“He had all these tattoos and muscles, but then he’d put on a polo shirt and go golfing,” his sister remembered.
On Aug. 25, 2009, Barnes was operating a remote-controlled crane boom that came crashing down on him from his position on the bridge. He was 48.
McGlaughlin said she did not get the chance to speak with as many of Barnes’ friends at his wake as she would have liked to, and she hopes the Totten Trot will be a good opportunity for his friends and family to come together and share their memories of him.
“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I want to hear Billy’s stories from his friends. One of his best friends is going to get the guys who worked on the bridge with him to come,” she said.
For the past 10 years, the historical society has hosted an annual foot-race fund-raiser, and this year organizers decided to take the course to the Throgs Neck Bridge. This year’s race will take place Oct. 30 at 9 a.m. and proceeds will support the society’s education programs.
The historical society is also presenting an exhibit commemorating the construction of the Throgs Neck Bridge and the Clearview Expressway and their impact on Bayside. For more information about the race or the exhibit, call 718-352-1548 or visit baysidehistorical.org.
Reach reporter Rich Bockmann by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4574.