Coming this Sunday in the Missoulian is a story sure to warm, and break, your heart.
You’ll meet Barry Webb, a fixture – and joy – of life in Polson for more than 60 years. As told by reporter Vince Devlin and photographer Linda Thompson, Webb’s story is one of a town embracing a boy – and later, a man – who some might have shunned. But Polson basked in the love Webb brought on his daily walkabouts in town, greeting all who came for lunch at the senior citizens center, signaling the start of each Monday night’s movie with a wave of his hand, ringing the bell for the start of services each Sunday at the Presbyterian church.
Now Barry is dying, and the town he so loves – and that loves him so – is quietly and sadly saying goodbye.
“I can’t imagine life without Barry,” says Wanda Burland, who has cooked at the senior center for 16 years.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you, Miss Wanda,” Barry hollers at her from his wheelchair outside the kitchen.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do with you,” Burland yells back.
“I don’t think until Barry got sick I ever knew how many people in town know him, and how many people love him,” his sister says.
The church choir squeezed into his crowded little living room over Christmas to sing him carols. The weekly newspapers have done stories about “Polson’s most famous resident.” The high school basketball team honored Barry before a recent game, giving him a plaque proclaiming him the Pirates’ “No. 1 fan.”
Barry’s story leads the Territory section of Sunday’s Missoulian; Linda’s beautiful slideshow accompanies the story online at Missoulian.com.