Engineering student dies of tumor complications

A civil engineering student was surrounded by family members when he died of complications from a brain tumor Aug. 6 in Carbondale’s Memorial Hospital.

James L. Barnett, a freshman from Jacksonville who studied civil engineering, was diagnosed with glioblastoma — the most common and most aggressive form of primary brain tumors in humans — last March and remained upbeat until he died, said John Barnett, James’ brother.

James Barnett graduated from SIU Edwardsville in 2006 and pursued banking in St. Louis. He worked at places such as P&C Bank, Bank of Edwardsville and Evolve, a mortgage company.

John Barnett said James decided to return to school after he became fed up with banking and wanted to do something he could love, even if it meant taking classes again.

“Whenever he decided to do something, he did it no matter what and saw it through to the end,” John Barnett said.

James Barnett attended school at the same time as his sister, Mary Barnett.

Mary Barnett said she was excited to get the opportunity to be with both of her brothers in Carbondale because she didn’t get a chance to grow up with James.

She said the two would get together and play sports from time to time, and James was always there to help her out when she needed it.

“You don’t want to go off to college and be with your brothers, but at the same time it was a good thing because I had someone there to show me the ropes, and I could go over there for a home-cooked meal any time I wanted,” Mary Barnett said.

Diane Barnett, James’ mother from Jacksonville, said it was nice to have Mary and James attending the same school because she could easily seek advice and James could look out for his little sister.

“It worked out pretty well,” Diane Barnett said. “It also helped because him and John could keep an eye out for me.”

Diane Barnett said James was always the quiet one while he was growing up, but he was a very intelligent listener who could relate well to other people.

“You really weren’t sure if he was listening or not sometimes, and then he would turn around when you least expected it and make comments that he was very much observing what was going on,” Diane Barnett said. “He could be a joker.”

Mary Barnett said James planned to return to school in the fall and was excited to get back to his new major.

John Barnett said James attended a few engineering club meetings and showed a genuine interest and excitement toward his decision to attend school again.

Diane Barnett said James will be remembered as family-oriented as well as someone who cared very much.

“He believed very much in his family and friends … and not letting them slip away.” Diane Barnett said. “He wanted people to get along and be happy.”

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at or 536-3311 ext.252.

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