John Fitzpatrick "Jack" Barnett
Updated 8:38 pm, Wednesday, May 4, 2011
John Fitzpatrick "Jack" Barnett, a former New Canaan resident, died at home in Houston, Texas on April 10. He was 89.
A journalist and publisher, most notably as one of the founders of Golf Digest magazine, Barnett had recently relocated to Houston from Old Lyme, where he and his wife had moved in 1996 after 32 years in New Canaan.
Born July 19, 1921 in Chicago, Illinois, he was the first child of Marie and Joseph J. Barnett. After graduating in 1939 from New Trier High School, where he co-edited the school newspaper, his first job was as the "overnight" reporter for the weekly papers that served North Chicago suburban communities.
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He entered Northwestern University and became an editor of the Daily Northwestern. In 1942 he landed a summer job as an assistant to the scriptwriter for the Great Gildersleeve show, a spin off of the famous Fibber McGee and Molly show. He thought he had found his calling in Hollywood but, with the war escalating, instead returned to Northwestern and joined the Navy.
He served aboard an LST for two and a half years in the Pacific theatre, first as Communications Officer and later as Executive Officer and Navigator with rank of Lieutenant.
After the war he received a degree from Northwestern and returned to the newspaper business. He was a general assignment reporter and re-write man for the Waukegan, Ill., News-Sun from 1946 to 1947. He then transferred to the advertising department and began another career in advertising sales.
In 1951, a New Trier high school friend asked him to come on board as editor of the fledgling digest-size golf magazine for the Chicago area - Golf Digest.
An avid amateur golfer, Barnett edited, wrote half the material, took photos, and managed planning and production. He also handled publicity as well as advertising and circulation promotion.
Barnett remained as one of the three publishers of Golf Digest, but briefly joined Needham, Louis & Brorby ad agency in Chicago in 1955. He was then asked by G.D. Crain to edit a sales and marketing publication. He later transferred to the ad staff of Advertising Age and became assistant business manager. In 1960 he met and married Helen Conlin, Ad Age's feature editor.
In 1964 Barnett re-joined Golf Digest and settled in New Canaan. He took on various responsibilities on the business and marketing side. He established editions in the Philippines and Japan and launched a highly successful book publishing division.
Golf Digest was sold to The New York Times in 1969. After finishing a three-year contract, Barnett returned to other interests, primarily another magazine he had backed in 1962. Originally called One-Design Yachtsman, then Yacht Racing, it is now published as Sailing World.
In recent years, Barnett continued his long-time interest in theatre and handled advertising for River Rep Theatre Company in Ivoryton.