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Barry Webb makes life better in Polson

POLSON — Barry Webb is a familiar sight on the streets of downtown Polson, waving to motorists, acting as a crossing guard, saying "Hi" to everyone he meets and stopping in at Jackie M’s or Beacon Tire or Pier 93 or the Polson City Library or the barbershop on his appointed rounds. Barry no longer walks everyday or comments on the weather and on church attendance, and Polsonites are wondering about Barry. 

Barry has late stage lymphoma, Barry’s sister Charlotte Skofstad explained, “the aggressive kind.” 

Barry’s world has narrowed from all of Polson to the Polson Senior Center, The Cove for a milkshake and the Showboat movie theater on Mondays since he is now getting around in a wheelchair. He’s made it to church on the last couple of Sundays to ring the bell, though. 

In some thoughts Skofstad wrote down, she said, “Barry wasn’t born with the ability to analyze, ponder or question. But he was born with an abundant capacity to love. He was also born with an irrepressible spirit.”

Skofstad said Barry’s spirit was tested when he was a child because his peers teased him unmercifully. 

But his spirit survived and is very evident when he goes to the Polson Senior Center for lunch most everyday. Barry has a greeting for everyone, from “Hi, girl,” to “Oh, Jo.”

Going to the Senior Center for lunch takes a lot out of Barry these days, and he needs to go home after lunch and take a nap or sit in his chair, “my wonderful chair.” Barry did mention, however, that he’s “got a game on Saturday against Stevensville.” 

Barry is a big fan of Polson High School basketball and football and usually can be found in the stands, cheering loudly. Barry was honored several weeks ago as Polson's #1 fan at the Polson-Libby basketball game. Barry used to catch a ride to or from games at the high school with friends, just a few of whom were  Amy Knutson, Ginny Fuqua, Jane Nelson or Jay Doyle. 

In addition to those folks, Skofstad said Polson has “a lot of caring souls.” John Payne and Carl Waddell are two she mentioned. Payne has a wonderful spirit and ease with all people, especially Barry. 

Waddell brought over a big case of Ensure because Barry isn’t eating very much. He also brought ice cream and a blender so Skofstad can make Barry milkshakes.

Barry is also big into Russell Stover chocolates, really “any sort of chocolate cream bon bon things” that he can nibble on and boost his caloric intake.

Barry likes to watch western movies, American Movie Classics and Turner Classic Movies, Skofstad said. She’s sad that Barry can no longer watch “Jeopardy” and “Wheel of Fortune,” his favorites, because those shows are no longer available on his cable provider.

TV doesn’t take the place of having friends, though. Skofstad said Barry “longed for a friend” when he was a child. Barry “kept looking and looking for that friend,” Skofstad said, “… learning and remembering the names of almost everyone he met in Polson.”

“It was his gift to remember names,” Skofstad added.

And Barry succeeded. 

“He (Barry) has the whole town of Polson for his friend,” Skofstad said.

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