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Publisher's Letter

Publisher's Letter: Bearing Us Into The Past

This month’s issue carries us back to the increasingly distant past in several ways. Two of the artists featured in Christie Galeano-DeMott’s piece on page 40 have painted murals. It isn’t the first time the magazine has covered people who paint big pictures. One of the best South Florida has produced was a longtime friend of the magazine. Bob Jenny painted more than 20,000 murals all over the world. Some of his work survives on prominent walls in Fort Lauderdale, 15 years after he died.

Jenny was fond of nature scenes, and for relaxation, he enjoyed painting historical airplanes. Three of his originals and several prints are in our office. He liked to place several aircraft on the same canvas, and when it came to military aircraft, he pictured planes in historical contexts, such as the Battle of Britain or “The Lost Squadron”—the latter of a group of Navy torpedo planes that disappeared off Fort Lauderdale. He painted the doomed planes against a darkening sky, which led to disaster. He was meticulous in reproducing settings for his work.

Eric Barton’s profile on McHenley Castillo (page 30) reminds us of another figure who was important to our company’s history. A young man bringing fresh ideas and energy to the NSU Art Museum would please Elliott Barnett. The museum, originally known as the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, was his baby. He  was recommended to us when we arrived in Florida in 1970—and he was a commanding figure. We had some tense legal confrontations in those early years, and it seemed as the very  presence of Barnett at meetings caused the other side to back off.

There were just a few lawyers in his firm—then known as Ruden Barnett—but over the years, with the help of his principal partner, Don McClosky, it became one of the largest firms in Florida. Barnett became an influential figure and was a leading fund raiser and eventually president and chairman of the board of the Museum of Art as it grew from a small storefront on Las Olas Boulevard to the impressive facility we know today.

Bob Jenny’s “The Lost Squadron”

It was an important step in Fort Lauderdale’s downtown development, with which Barnett was also intimately involved as attorney for the Downtown Development Authority (DDA) during its difficult formative years. It is hard to believe today, but at one point the DDA built tennis courts on a lot off Las Olas, just to pretend something was happening. Massive buildings now occupy that location

Unfortunately, Barnett’s brilliant career ended pathetically when he pleaded guilty to embezzling from his own firm. His health broke, and he was a pitiful figure when he died in 1998 at age 65. For that reason, he does not get the public credit for his years of outstanding community service. Even the law firm he built does not preserve his name. It collapsed in 2011. But by then his name was no longer part of the firm’s title.

Sic transit gloria mundi.