Benjamin B. Barnert, 59, of Breckenridge, Colo., passed away peacefully at home July 29, 2013, following a courageous 18-month battle with cancer. Ben was born in Marshall, Mo., but grew up in Chillicothe, Mo., where he graduated from Chillicothe High School in 1972, and was a member of Grace Episcopal Church. Ben received his Bachelor's of Architecture Degree from Kansas State University in 1977. At K-State, Ben was a member of Alpha Tau Omega Fraternity where he served as Social Chairman and President. His love and support for his fraternity was a life-long relationship as he served on the Building Committee and was highly involved in the building of the new KSU Chapter House, which opens this fall. Alpha Tau Omega honored Ben by naming one of the new conference rooms, The Benjamin B. Barnert Conference Room.
Ben earned his Eagle Scout as a teenager, and was a member of the Mic-O-Say Tribe. His support of Boy Scouts continued as he served as Committee Chairman for Troop 282 in Leawood, Kan., where his son, Andrew, was a member. Ben so enjoyed the relationships he formed with all of the dads and sons involved in the troop, being able to watch first-hand as his son became a member of Mic-O-Say, attending Boy Scout camp all those hot summers, and finally witnessing his son achieve rank of Eagle Scout as well. Ben organized two trips taking 20+ scouts and dads on week-long dive trips sailing from Miami to Bimini and back. Ben and his son, Andrew, shared their love for diving with many dive trips together off the coast of Mexico and Florida.
While living in Leawood Kan., Ben was a member of Christ Church, in Overland Park, Kan., for nearly 30 years. He volunteered as usher and was elected a member of the Church Vestry where he served as Junior Warden. He also was involved in the formation of the church Disciples’ Garden, where he designed the gates and grapevine arbor that are present.
Ben was a Senior Principal and Partner at Populous, where he had joined the firm as the eighth employee. He jumped into the world of sports architecture as project manager for Coca Cola Field in Buffalo, N.Y. From there, Ben served as project architect for Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a ballpark that changed the course of history with the way fans experience sport. His commitment to greatness quickly elevated his status as one of the best architects at Populous, and he went on to lead more than 20 sports facility projects in his three-decade career at the firm. His portfolio of projects includes some of the most innovative and iconic sports facilities in the country-Camden Yards, M&T Bank Stadium, Heinz Field, Bridgestone Arena, PETCO Park, Sprint Center, JetBlue Park, Citi Field (which was a personally fulfilling as he worked with his daughter, Libby, on this project), and many others upon which the Populous brand was built. Though small compared to his usual projects, one of personal pride for Ben was overseeing the designing and building of the Shawnee Mission School District Stadium at Shawnee Mission North High School, and then watching his son, Andrew, play football as a defensive end for the SME Lancers football team in the inaugural season, which coincided with Andrew’s senior year.
Page 2 of 2 - Ben was known for bringing people together and nowhere was that more relevant than in his hometown of Kansas City, where he managed the Sprint Center arena team, a collaboration of three competing sports architecture firms who came together to form the Downtown Arena Design Team. Under Ben’s leadership, the project won many design awards including the American Institute of Architects’ 2007 Kansas City Chapter of the Year Award. Ben also served as the Chairman of Populous’ Board of Directors for many years, helping to establish the firm as the top sports and convention center design practice in the world. Ben demanded a lot of his partners and his project teams, but he also demanded they keep life in stride with a healthy dose of fun. Thus, the real hallmark of Ben’s work wasn’t in the bricks and mortar—it was in the relationships he built with colleagues, clients and employees.
But the greatest joy and pride Ben felt was in his family. He married his high school sweetheart, and they have two children which have given them the greatest joy imaginable. He is survived by his wife, Darla, of the home, their daughter, Libby, an interior designer, and her soon-to-be husband, Andrew Wetzler, architect, and live in New York City. Their son, Andrew, is a Lance Corporal in the United States Marine Corps and soon to deploy. Ben is also survived by his beloved parents, Dorothy and Brad Barnert, and his in-laws Helen and Gerald DeWitt, all of Chillicothe, Mo., sister Cathy Payne, her husband Larry, of Lathrop, Mo., and numerous nieces/great-nieces, nephews/great-nephews, and dear, dear friends.
A memorial service will be held at 10:30 a.m. Saturday, August 24 at Christ Church Anglican, 5500 W. 91st, Overland Park, Kan., with internment of ashes following in the Disciples’ Garden. You are invited to join the Barnert Family for a reception celebrating Ben’s life in the church reception hall following services. In lieu of flowers, the family is requesting donations be given to Christ Church Anglican, Overland Park, Kan., in memory of Ben, or to the Ben Barnert Memorial Scholarship at Kansas State University established by Populous.