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Retirement Comes for Ray Barndt

The Montgomery Township parks foreman is heading to northern Pennsylvania after 23 years with the township. Pine Grove picnic area was named after him for his dedication to the parks system

Like a doe nurturing her fawn, Ray Barndt cared for Montgomery Township's parks as if they were his own.

After 23 years of service to the township, Barndt, 65, retired last week as parks foreman. He was honored with a luncheon with all his peers.

"I love my job. I really love what I do," Barndt told Montgomeryville Patch. "Over the years, I have gotten a bad knee and a bad back. It's to the point where bouncing around on equipment doesn't work anymore. I'm going to go into retirement and enjoy myself."

Barndt and his wife will head north to Potter County, where he will "turn over the ground" and do a bit of hunting and fishing.

"I like to plant for wildlife," he said. "I like seeing them more than hunting them."

However, Barndt, although retiring and moving to Potter County, will always be with the township.

This month, Montgomery Township Supervisors approved the renaming of Pine Grove picnic area to Raymond C. Barndt Pine Grove.

"We will all miss you and the great job you've done for us," said supervisors Chairwoman Candyce Chimera. "Come back whenever you want."

"Ray's a great guy," said former police Chief Richard Brady. "He loved the parks. He was self-motivated."

Barndt left his job of running the vacuum machine in the packing division at Hatfield Quality Meats to begin his tenure with Montgomery in 1989.

"I needed a change. It's a great business, but it takes a toll on your body," he said. "I saw an ad for the township, and working in parks was right up my alley. (Former public works director) Paul Henning saw I was a farmer, and that was it."

Through his career, Barndt was instrumental in developing the township's Bark Park and the Pine Grove at the Zehr tract. He kept all parks, like Public Works Director Kevin Costello said at Barndt's luncheon, "in pristine condition."

Barndt is best known as the "Autumn Fest King," for he would be the one at the helm of the hay tractor each year at the township's autumn event.

Barndt has many accolades under his belt: landscape management specialist, horticulturist, Rhodes Scholar, pesticide specialist and Eagle Scout project supervisor.

"I never took the time to think about someone who took care of all the fields and parks," said Supervisor Mike Fox. "The parks are such a point of pride for the township and he cared about them as if they were his own backyard."

Fox said Barndt went beyond his job description; he saw the potential in everything the township did for the parks system. For instance, when Sugar Maple Grove was created, Barndt anticipated future generations of the township being able to see how to tap for maple syrup. 

He also taught people methods and techniques he learned growing up on a farm, like cooking chicken on charcoal in a metal bucket or how the height of a wasp's nest in a tree can predict the weather.

"He was a proud teacher, and I was proud to count myself as one of his pupils," Fox said. "He is a remarkable man. Obviously, when you would do anything for the guy, that's the hallmark of a true leader."

Barndt told his peers that he was really going to miss Montgomery Township and miss his job with the parks.

What he's most proud of is his time working with Eagle Scouts.

"There are not enough toes and hands to count how many Eagle Scouts I helped put through. I enjoyed it," he said. "I liked helping the kids. It was always fun."

One Scout, he said, was a legally blind teen named Alex Murdoch. Barndt said Murdoch didn't let his disability hinder him — and he built a 60-foot bridge over a natural area in the township. 

"It was impressive to see that," he said.

Barndt said he would get "very upset" when somebody would abuse the parks.

"I took it personally because I cared about them," he said.

His favorite park: Fellowship Park.

"It's a cute little  park. It's one of those hidden parks, quiet and out of the way," he said. "They wanted to put a street hockey court in there. That would have changed it. It would not be as homey."

Barndt said he also remembered when William F. Maule Park at Windlestrae was just a field. 

"I love mowing it," he said. "I would see weasels all the time. Now, I don't see them anymore."

Barndt reminisced about some memorable moments in his career.

There was the time he rescued a bat from a soccer net, and another time he rescued a fawn from a soccer net.

Then, there was the time a wild turkey was stationed outside the township building.

"It was chasing people. It was there because people were feeding it," Barndt said. "I had a chicken catcher with a hook, and I was able to grab it. People were afraid I was going to eat it."

There was also the time Barndt helped a little girl who fell on her bike and got her leg twisted in it.

"It took a while to get it out. I'll never forget her," Barndt said. 

Then, there was the one time he helped a woman off a bridge during a flood.

"I don't think I'm a hero," he said. "It's little stuff like that where I'm just doing my job."

What Barndt will miss the most about his job is the team that worked under him.

"I had a great park crew," he said. "I would do anything for them. We helped each other out."

As far as having a park named after him, Barndt said it was "awesome."

But, he felt another person who has a park named after them was the most deserving of the honor.

"Bill Maule is why we have all that we have today. He deserved it," Barndt said. "I'm just an average person."

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