Today would have been the 105th birthday of my great-grandfather, Virgil Barmes. Those who remember Grandpa Virgil tend to remember the outrageous practical jokes played by this witty, yet seemingly quiet gentleman. Virgil Barmes was well known in my hometown as a fantastic baseball player, and one of the nicest gentleman one could have the honor and pleasure of knowing. Although I was only six when he died in 1970, he remains, to this day, one of the most memorable personalities of my youth, and of my family’s history.

To keep the children away from the lake’s dangers when parents were not around, Grandpa Virgil created a now legendary monster at Lake Dewart in Northern Indiana. Although a generation of grandchildren had been raised on the creature, it was not lost on his great-grandchildren, nor the following generations. The Woofenwalfus is still known to many at Lake Dewart up by Syracuse, Indiana, and naturally, it is a mainstay in the memories and recollections of his children, grandchildren, and a few of us older great-grandchildren.

December, 1970, the Grandpa Virgil’s last Christmas, he pulled me on his lap and said, “The Woofenwalfus came up out of the water the other day to scrounge for food and a hunter shot him. But, there are baby Woofenwalfus in the nest over on the island, so they will be up running around next spring.” As the years passed, and I shared stories of the Woofenwalfus with others, I could not help but think of the irony in his last Woofenwalfus story. Grandpa Virgil and the Woofenwalfus both took their final bows, and the next generations of Barmes and Woofenwalfus family members stepped up to the great baseball player’s plate.


Virgil Barmes as a teenager


Virgil with my great-grandmother, Thelma Daugherty Barmes


Various photos of Grandpa Virgil

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