John Barton (d. 2010) was a police reporter for the Ann Arbor News from 1975 to 1999.

In the news


John William Barton, a longtime reporter at the Ann Arbor News, died on Wednesday at the age of 68 at his home in Ann Arbor after having first been diagnosed with cancer nearly four years ago. John was born an only child in Denver,Colorado. His early years were spent in the tiny town of Battleground, near Vancouver, Washington, where he learned to love the out-of-doors and fished the small streams nearby. He was an outstanding English scholar and athlete at West Seattle High School, playing star offensive tackle and defensive end with the football team. Upon graduation, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and was stationed at Fort Lewis, Washington, before being sent to North Wuerttemberg, Germany, and Verdun and Paris, France, where he served as a military courier for two years. He was selected in a competitive process to spend a year at the Defense Language Institute Foreign Language Center at the Presidio of Monterey (CA) where he studied the Indonesian language. He served three tours of duty in Vietnam in the years 1966-69. He made an annual private pilgrimage to the small Veterans Memorial in Ypsilanti Township, Michigan. He chose never to visit the national Vietnam Veterans Memorial, not wanting to see in stone the names of the dear Army friends he had lost in battle.

After being sent to Detroit, Michigan, as a state-wide Army recruiter in the waning days of the war, John left the Army after 10 years of service and enrolled at Eastern Michigan University in the journalism program. Before graduating, he was recruited to work at the Ypsilanti Press as a police reporter. Thus began his career as an award-winning police, courts, and sports reporter, during which he served on the staff of the Ann Arbor News from 1975 -1999. He was especially proud of his early coverage of the 1976 murder trial of two nurses at the VA Hospital in Ann Arbor which later received significant national coverage. He very much enjoyed the years he covered Michigan football under Bo Schembechler, with whom he enjoyed a relationship of mutual respect.

In some of his most difficult moments over nearly four years of successfully fighting small cell lung cancer, kidney cancer, and esophageal cancer, John was comforted by the poetry of Billy Collins. Himself a passionate wordsmith, reader and puzzle-solver, who revered good writing of all kinds, John always treasured the moments he was lucky enough to spend with retired Michigan Supreme Court Justice John Voelker who wrote Anatomy of a Murder and many books on trout fishing under the pen name Robert Traver. An excellent and dedicated fly-fisherman who loved fishing with dry flies(he eschewed night fishing and wet flies) John tied many exquisite flies for his own use. He introduced his wife, Jane, to the world of flyfishing and they shared wonderful times together on the AuSable River in northern Michigan. They fished the classic western rivers as well, including the Beaverhead, Bitterroot, Big Hole, Big Horn, Madison, Missouri, Ruby, Upper Ruby, Poindexter Slough (near Dill-man, Montana), the streams of Skalkaho Pass above Hamilton, Montana, and the Crowsnest River in southwest Alberta. They fished over many summers on the Crowsnest, staying at the Nestle Inn near Blairmore.

A longstanding dream he had to land a grayling was realized at Bear Pond in Alberta west of Calgary in the summer of 2005. He and Jane enjoyed two 5,000-mile road trips to Alberta in the two summers before his death, traveling on Route 2 across much of the central plains and western U.S., crossing the highest pass in Glacier National Park, and visiting landmarks like Mount Rushmore.

Speaking for many others, Gerry Nichol, his host and fellow fly fisherman at the Nestle Inn, said, "My life and my memories are a lot better for having known John." John enjoyed his long and deeply satisfying relationships with many fellow flyfishing friends, including Rusty Gates, who ran the Gates AuSable Lodge until his death last December.

A man who could sit for a long time studying a stream and plotting new strategies for landing a wary trout, John found his spirituality in the serenity and complex ecology of the waters he so loved and understood. Committed to catch-and-release fishing, John always returned the trout he so happily caught, to their waters. Deeply devoted to preserving the AuSable's beauty, he wrote articles for The Riverwatch on behalf of the Anglers of the AuSable in their fight against the U.S. Forest Service to allow oil drilling in the area.

Through his acquaintance with the owner of an erstwhile fly shop in Roscommon, John was introduced to German shorthaired pointers, a breed for which he and Jane developed a great and enduring love, owning three of the dogs over several years.

John was an accomplished chef with a great appreciation for good food. His last meal, two days before his death, was a plate of fresh oysters on the half-shell.

John's robust spirit and great wit carried him valiantly to the end of his life, with his last quip to two dear friends from his breakfast group who visited him a few hours before his death being, "Did you bring the dancing girls?"

A private, independent man who knew what he valued and was more modest than his talents and intellect might have allowed, he adored life to its last moment, and will be deeply missed by his family and his wife, Jane, to whom he was married for nearly 26 years and whom he met as a fellow reporter in the newsroom of the Ann Arbor News, where they shared a deep dedication to the craft of journalism. He was very fond of his stepchildren, Jennifer and husband, Erich, and James and wife, Didem, and his grandchildren, Henry, Alisa, Charles and John-John, and greatly appreciated the opportunities to experience parenthood that they provided him, including a gathering at Disney World in January 2010. A small memorial celebration at home is planned for early July 2010. Contributions in John's memory may be made to the University of Michigan Cancer Center, the Ann Arbor Hospice,the Chris Parks Fund at Student Publications at the University of Michigan and to the Anglers of the AuSable. (Photo: John Barton with Bo Schembechler, circa 1980).

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