Guest column: The legacy of Barry Willoughby

TOM MACCHIA
Willoughby, left, and Macchia doing what they loved.

TOM MACCHIA Willoughby, left, and Macchia doing what they loved.

Guest commentary

The late Barry Willoughby’s story in Southwest Florida begins with a group called the Taxpayers Action Group (TAG).

They used to meet at the Allegro restaurant as a guest of Victor Neiditz, one of the original members.

The group started to drift away from local politics into national politics.

One method of increasing the group’s size was to scan letters to the editor for writers consistent with our traditional American values. We would write them and invite them to join us. It was one of Willoughby’s great letters that prompted us to ask him to join.

Barry suggested to us that he wanted to have a tea party. I had no idea what he was talking about, but since I did have some audio equipment, I offered it to him.

Barry and his wife Jackie stood out on the sidewalks of U.S. 41 and Pine Ridge Road for weeks, with signs, passing out fliers and inviting people to join a tax day rally at that location. Tents were set up, patriotic music was played and we waited. We prayed for a turnout of anywhere from two to 300. The actual count, given to us by a policeman, was 3,000.

Barry was overjoyed, and we all congratulated him on his success.

On that occasion we gathered about 1,400 email addresses. That became the Naples Tea Party list that exists today. Since then we’ve added about 1,100 more email addresses.

Barry had many more successes. The following year we had at least 8,000 people attend the tax day rally. He was a remarkable organizer,

Barry then created a Naples Tea Party board. Barry chose all the members. Those members were me, Terry Paramba and Terry Parr; later, Chuck Marshall, David Galloway and Lavigne Kirkpatrich were added. He eventually chose Lavigne to lead us.

The Taxpayers Action Group that Barry joined morphed into a group called the Council for Constitutional Principles. There were no more general meetings because the Naples Tea Party had taken center stage. The directors of the council still met with a slightly different approach to the national problem, namely the Constitution. Barry was, of course, also a director of this group.

Barry’s ability to write down his thoughts was phenomenal. I used to disagree with the length of the emails he sent out. But I was wrong. I have learned since then that they were greatly appreciated. The proof comes in the fact that on the Daily News blog, he would sometimes receive thousands of replies.

Barry, who died last week at the age of 68, will be missed by his family, friends, followers and the nation. He was as committed to America as any person I’ve ever met, and he can never be replaced.

I must mention this personal note in closing. Because I do not drive, Barry was my constant chauffeur. He drove me to all of our meetings. I would have been useless without him. I feel less capable now that I have lost a friend and a patriot. Barry was always there for those who needed him.

His loss is immeasurable in the vacuum it creates.

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