"Gindlesmith" Life
written by stacey smith May 2023

Bernard Louis Stoffel 11

(and evolving work of progress)
  • Barney, (lovingly referred to as Barnacle Bernard, Uncle Barney, or Little Barney) was born sometime in 1946 in the state of Louisiana to Hilda Sims Stoffel and Bernard (Big Barney) Louis Stoffel.  By 1950, his father, Bernard Sr., worked for the U.S. Naval Ordnance Test Station in Kern, California (China Lake).  His only sibling, Karen Lynn Stoffel, was born on March 22, 1951.  Little Barney was 5 years old at the time of his sister's birth.

  • Sometime between these years, Little Barney's family moved to Alaska because Big Barney began working for Cubic Corporation; and was working on early warning radar systems.  Alaska would be mentioned in some of his short stories later on in life (See book entitled Barnacle Bernard).  What is known is that in May of 1954, Big Barney was sent to  McGrath, Alaska.  It is highly likely that he was assigned the job of surveying the mountain tops for future installation of distant early warning radar.  This information comes from notes written on a set of photos in Big Barney's collection (see page entitled Grump).

  • Eventually the family moved back to Florida.  Barney’s father built a home on Choctaw Beach, along the banks of the Choctawhatchee Bay just outside of Destin, FL in the panhandle.  This was where Little Barney attended Jr. High School.  He wrote short stories for school assignments and his personality, wit, and sense of humor abounded.  He, his little sister, and his cousins had their run of the then wild area.  They played in the creeks, the bay, the barrier islands, and the Gulf of Mexico.  Barney had his own small sailboat and he would launch from the bay in front of their home and sail across the bay.  They would then trek over the barrier island to the coast.  His sister Karen told stories of having to watch the clouds closely so they could estimate when storms would roll in to avoid being caught out on the water in a storm.  During these years, Big Barney worked with a defense contractor at Eglin Air Force Base while Hilda worked as a school teacher.  Hilda would ride the school bus to and from work, just as the students would.  Back then, you had to ride around the bay because bridges across the bay had not been built  yet.

  • Later, the family moved to Merritt Island, Florida because Big Barney began working for NASA on the Mercury project.  This was roughly 1959.  This is where Little Barney attended High School and eventually graduated.  He continued his entertaining short stories during his time in school.

  • Little Barney served one tour, on a riverine patrol boat at Cam Ranh Bay, Vietnam, for the United States Navy during the Vietnam War.  He returned from the war changed and jaded about his service and America's involvement abroad in general. This followed him and colored his views for the remainder of his life.  Drawings and illustrations of the area are included in the book entitled Barnacle Bernard.

  • Sometime after Little Barney had been home from Vietnam, he enrolled in Lake City Community College (now known as Florida Gateway College) in Lake City, Florida.  He was part of the Forestry Program at the college and upon graduation, he joined the National Park Service.  He served in Everglades National Park, Florida; the U.S. Virgin Islands National Park; and Lava Beds National Monument, California.  While moving his sailboat from the Everglades to the Virgin Islands, he and his father had a harrowing experience on the ocean.  They were grounded on a shoal in the middle of the ocean and lost at sea for roughly a week.  They were finally able to rescue themselves and did eventually make it to the islands.  Big Barney took meticulous notes of the journey.  Additionally, during his time as Park Ranger, he wrote stories and drew illustrations of endangered species and sent them to his nephew Jeremy along with a stuffed animal of each (see book titled Barnacle Bernard).

  • Little Barney took a 3 day ocean kayaking trip to reminisce on the old stomping grounds of his youth.  The trip started out from Okaloosa Island/Rocky Bayou, FL.  The trip was reported to be "cold & windy."  None of his family can recollect where the trip concluded on December 16, 2000.

  • Family history says that Little Barney combined a trip to Florida for his "favorite niece’s" wedding with a river kayaking trip.  This would end up being his last visit to his home state of Florida, as well as, the last time he saw any of his Florida family members.

  • Upon receiving an invitation to his nephew Jeremy's wedding, Little Barney wrote him a letter, essentially stating that he would "never return to the fascist state of Florida" but that he truly wished them the best and was extremely happy for them both.

  • Barney died due to complications during a routine medical procedure sometime between September 4 and 15, 2015.  His passing was a shock to all who knew and loved him.   He was preceded in death by his mother, Hilda Stoffel.  His wife De passed not long after (possibly a year later).

  • With permission from Little Barney’s niece and nephew, his niece-in-law, Stacey Smith, compiled his writings and drawings into a book in September 2021.  That book is available on amazon.  The book is titled: 

  • Barnacle Bernard

  • https://a.co/d/34PzLxd