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(From the Xavier High School newsletter.)
It is my sad duty to report that John Barnes passed away last night after a long battle with dementia and, most recently, lung cancer.
John Barnes was, quite simply, an American rugby legend. While still a player for New York Rugby Football Club, John founded the rugby program at St. Francis Prep in 1966 and served as head coach there for many years. During John's time at the Prep, his kids, who included more than a few future Division I college football stars (including two Notre Dame All Americans) played, and often beat, college teams (including West Point), men's sides and top high school teams from Ireland, England and other leading rugby nations.
One of John's players on that first St. Francis Prep team, Billy Rung, established the rugby program at the United States Merchant Marine Academy (a.k.a. Kings Point) in 1970 and served as player-coach. John himself served as head coach of Kings Point Rugby in the 1980s, when his son, John Barnes Jr., was a midshipman there.
One of Billy's players on that first Kings Point rugby team went on to found Xavier High School Rugby in 1976. Xavier is now the nation's oldest (continuous) high school rugby program.
That makes John Barnes the Father of St. Francis Prep Rugby, the Grandfather of Kings Point Rugby and the Great-Grandfather of Xavier Rugby. Not a bad legacy.
In the 1960s, John Barnes and Pat Ryan opened the successful Mad Hatter Pub on Second Avenue, Manhattan, which, along with Geordie's (George Mayer, Westchester RFC) and, later, Drake's Drum (Frank Casa, New York RFC and Jimmy Duke, Manhattan RFC), offered food and drink to the rugby community and all others.