Born: April 7, 1941
Died: July 20, 2014

Chaplin Bradford BarnesChaplin Bradford Barnes was born in New Haven, April 7, 1941, the son of Irston Roberts (B.A. 1926, Ph.D. 1928) and Lidorra Putney Barnes. He prepared for Yale at the Choate School (cum laude, 1958).

While an undergraduate, Chap was a resident of Silliman, and member of the Elizabethan Club and the Yale Corinthian Yacht Club. He was an honors major in History, the Arts and Letters and a ranking scholar, graduating magna cum laude. He earned his law degree at Yale Law School (J.D., 1965). He subsequently studied international law at University College, Oxford University.

Chap wrote in his 50th Reunion essay that his early development was more influenced than he had realized by his father, Irston Roberts Barnes who, though professionally a distinguished economist, found his greatest satisfaction in his avocation of ornithology and his commitment to what in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s was called simply "conservation." His father wrote a weekly "Naturalist" column in the Washington Post and Roger Tory Peterson, Rachel Carson and Supreme Court Associate Justice William O. Douglas were close friends and colleagues.

Chap wrote his 1965 Yale Law School thesis on a new legal device to protect land, the conservation easement. This in turn led to a number of years with the National Audubon Society (where he headed its international program), various federal agencies including EPA and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), as well as the Piedmont Conservation Council (PEC) and a regional land trust/conservation organization in Virginia, where he served as President. These were followed by an extraordinary stint with the 1982-85 Conference on the Long-Term Worldwide Biological Consequences of Nuclear War, involving astrophysicist Carl Sagan and a roster of internationally renowned biologists, physicists and climatologists. The subject phenomenon was so-called 'nuclear winter'. That event included the first "space bridge" television linkup meeting between members of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and their Soviet Academy counterparts.

The sense of place, and Chap's life-long attachment to Watch Hill and the Rhode Island coast, where he had spent summers, led to his 1985 return full time to that community and to the practice of law in Rhode Island and nearby Connecticut. That, in turn, led to his helping to found a local land trust, conservation and historic preservation organization, the Watch Hill Conservancy. Later, in retirement he served as part time Executive Director. He was involved in one way or another (active member, Board member or emeritus officer) with all the other organizations of Watch Hill. He wrote a history of Watch Hill, "Watch Hill Through Time," published by the Conservancy. Subsequently, the Conservancy commissioned another publication, Watch Hill Style, a history of the architecture of Watch Hill, of which he was a collaborating author. An independently produced documentary film, based on "Watch Hill Through Time," and titled "Watch Hill: Portrait of a New England Seaside Village," was aired, in March 2014, on the Rhode Island Public Broadcasting System, as part of its spring membership promotion. It continues to be aired from time to time and was scheduled to be a centerpiece of the channel's current fall membership promotion. [Ed. note: we featured an article devoted to Chap's Watch Hill documentary, which can be found here.]

Chap always stated that he had no intention to retire, but to remain as busy with a variety of organizations and causes as in his earlier professional life. If his "pond" was small, he said, it was special, beautiful and well worth commitment. Yet he had to retire when forced to do so by cancer in late 2013.

During his last years, Chap received a number of commendations from the organizations he served, including the Watch Hill Fire District (Citizens Service Award, 2009), the Town Council of Westerly (2013), and the Watch Hill Chapel Society (2013). Also in 2013, the Watch Hill Conservancy honored him with the designation of Watch Hill's most significant natural resource, its barrier beach, Napatree Point, as the Chaplin B. Barnes Napatree Point Conservation Area. In addition, he received a Gubernatorial Citation from Governor Lincoln D. Chafee, and an appointment as the first Distinguished Senior Fellow of the University of Rhode Island Coastal Institute, in recognition, in the Governor's words, of his "work to protect and preserve the natural and cultural resources of Watch Hill... an historically important, ecologically significant, and beautiful corner of the Ocean State."

Classmate Bill Doying recalled Chap's devotion to the New England seashore from their first day together in Farnum. The documentary, "Watch Hill Through Time," was a tribute to the Chap, he said. Bill wrote to Chap in 2014:

"The more I think about the documentary, the more I'm struck by the genuine warmth and respect your friends and collaborators expressed toward you. Thinking back, though, I'm not sure that anyone expressed sufficient regard for the sense of humor that is such a strong memory for me - and not just from our college and law school days, in which we may have been co-conspirators against the seriousness of those places!"

Looking back recently at his message, Bill said, "I wouldn't have written so lightheartedly if Chap himself, in his final months, hadn't shown such tranquility in the face of the doctors' forecasts. He still found a source for wry amusement in the tendency of his friends, with the kindest of intentions, to tiptoe around the reality of his situation. I only hope that, if/when I face the same circumstances, I will be able to remember and emulate Chap's bravery and grace."

Chap was a member of The Misquamicut Club (Watch Hill), the Watch Hill Yacht Club, the Ocean House Club (Watch Hill), the Elizabethan Club and Mory's Association, the Yale Club of New York City, and the Society of Mayflower Descendants in the State of New York.

Chap died July 20, 2014, at his home in Westerly, Rhode Island. Chap is survived by his second wife, Barbara Trowbridge Barnes, and two daughters by his previous marriage, Sarah Chaplin Barnes of Yarmouth, Maine, and Diana Brewster Barnes Bender (and her husband D. Farrell Bender) of Los Angeles, two stepchildren, Nathalie Sheriff Comstock of Scarborough, Maine and Andrew R. Sheriff (and his wife, Amanda C. Sheriff) of Magnolia, Massachusetts, three grandchildren, and four step-grandchildren.

A Memorial Service was held at the Watch Hill Chapel on July 26, 2014. The family asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to Home and Hospice Care of Rhode Island.