A smile that could light up a room

RUHS students and staff remember Vincent Barbee

Around the end of February, math teacher Ben Wakefield had a conversation with freshman Vincent Barbee.


The two talked about the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that had recently occurred; Wakefield confided in Barbee that in the case that an active shooter came into the classroom, he would not “really have anything” to protect himself — unlike the students, who were armed with tennis rackets, lacrosse sticks and other sports equipment.


“I got you,” Barbee said.


The next day, Barbee walked into class holding a baseball bat, which now sits in the front of the class as a reminder of Barbee’s “outgoing” and “caring” personality.


Just about a week after his conversation with Wakefield, Barbee died on March 5, after having fallen from his home’s balcony.


Freshman and long time friend of Barbee, Paige Wolf, describes him as a “dedicated, funny, and intelligent” person who touched the lives of many.


“He was all over the place. He made friends with every new person because he never wanted people to be left out,” Wolf said.


Freshman Miko Hawk remembers Barbee as “the funniest guy,” recalling the times the two spent together.


“He had that kind of personality where he could light up a room,” Hawk said. “He was just such a great person to be around that you looked forward to seeing him everyday.”


What Wolf misses most about Barbee are the times when she and him would talk about anything, good or bad.


“Sometimes we wouldn’t be super close, but we would always get back together and remain best friends,” Wolf said, “We’d talk about our day and then if anything was going bad that person would talk about it, and if our day was going good we would talk about that — we would talk about anything.”


Wakefield describes Barbee as a “mature” and “smiling” teenager, known by everyone.


“He was happy. He came in the room and always made some kind of funny joke.  He was an outspoken kid and everybody knew him, but he was also mature enough to know when to stop talking,” Wakefield said.


Barbee’s baseball teammate Jaden Cho misses the fun times, hilarious jokes and overall kind attitude he and others witnessed from Barbee.  


“I miss the fact that he was always there, because when everyone else was busy he’d be the one to come with me to class so I didn’t have to walk alone or just always be with me during lunch,” Cho said, “It sucks that it was so normal for him to be with me and now he’s not.”


Hawk was close to Barbee after meeting over the summer during Junior Lifeguards and simply misses having Barbee by his side. He and Barbee often found themselves spending almost everyday together both during summer and the school year, doing anything from playing video games, to eating doughnuts or just talking.


“Vince was just a great guy. For those who didn’t meet him it sucks, for those who did know him it’s a tragedy,” Hawk said, “I miss his presence. I miss being there with him and having those good times.”


Hawk sees Barbee’s death as not only a tragedy, but also something that has brought his friends and family closer together. He finds himself inspired to make Barbee proud, not only by remembering him, but also by being a better person.


“The impact he made on us was just amazing and that motivates me to be a better person,” Hawk said. “I feel like his qualities and his traits will always be passed down to those he knew. He influenced those around him in such a good way that it’s almost contagious.”


These qualities and traits were visible everyday, according to Wakefield. He never saw Barbee without a smile on his face.  


“He was smiling all the time even when he would be in a situation that would cause him not to smile,” Wakefield said, “He was funny, he was amusing, he was nice, and he was polite to absolutely everybody.”


Hawk is now determined to remember the good times, fun laughs and caring moments Barbee brought into the world, as he knows that is what his friend would have wanted.


“If Vince was here now, he’d want us to remember all the good things about him,” Hawk said, “He impacted us in such a good way that the fact that his memory lives, makes us closer.”