Obituary: Gerson Barnett, Former Giant/Landover SVP-Store Operations

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Former Giant/Landover executive Gerson Barnett passed away October 8 at ago 90 after a long illness.

Barnett was born in Utah in 1923. He attended the University of Utah and served in the Merchant Marines during World War II as a purser on a ship traversing the Atlantic. Upon his discharge, he moved to Philadelphia where he met his wife, Dorothy Coates Lehm. They were married in 1946.

In the early 1950s, Barnett was recruited by Giant/Landover. Success with the chain required six day work weeks and 12 hour days at offices originally located above the company’s store on Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC. He spent the rest of his career with Giant, culminating with the position of senior vice president of grocery operations. He received numerous awards and recognition within the food industry dealing with innovations in the industry and an enduring commitment to consumers including programs that spearheaded nutritional labeling on packaged food products that is now a national requirement.

After retirement, the Barnetts retired to Hollywood, FL and in 1998 they decided to move to Billings, MT to be closer to their family living in Montana and Utah.

While in Billings, they both enjoyed being involved in the community and generously supported the Billings Food Bank, Billings Studio Theatre, Billings Symphony, Billings Opera and the Elks Lodge. Barnett was also a member of the Hilands Golf and Country Club. He also enjoyed being politically active and supported a number of senatorial and congressional campaigns.

The Barnetts were both very supportive of ZooMontana, and upon the death of Dottie, Gerson’s wife of more than 50 years, Gerson created “Dottie’s Garden,” a large water-wise garden with wandering paths and sitting areas. Later, he also helped establish the “Children’s Garden” at ZooMontana, which features large aluminum animals for children to enjoy.

Barnett was very active in many Billings activities and enjoyed many fundraising events. For the annual fundraiser for RockyMountainCollege, the Black Tie and Blue Jeans Ball, he was delighted to dress up in a Stetson hat, boots, jeans and a tux jacket to attend the event.

Barnett’s wife Dottie died in year 2000 and three brothers and one sister preceded him in death.

Barnett is survived by his sons, Robert (Donna) Lehm of Laurel and Evan (Joanne) Barnett of Brookeville, MDl three grandchildren, Dianne Lehm, Rob Lehm, Renee (Michael) Bomba; two great-grandchildren, Charlotte Bomba, Luke Bomba.

Tribute To Gerson Barnett 

When Barney retired from Giant in 1985 it was thought that Giant would suffer a tremendous loss. How could you replace such a dynamic individual? How could Giant continue to move forward without Barney? The skeptics were proven wrong. Gerson Barnett was a teacher, a coach and a developer of people. He trained a staff that could step into his shoes and build upon his legacy. Giant would not suffer because of his departure, but instead would use his teachings to build a better Giant.

Many people feel as I do. Barney was a man of principle, intellect and eloquence. Most importantly, he was a person of integrity. Of all his qualities, integrity is the word I most associated with Barney. He taught it, he preached it to staff as well as suppliers and he lived by it. In doing so he created a reputation of the highest regard for Giant. Wherever I went, people would comment on Giant’s commitment, honesty and reliability – in other words, its integrity.

Barney, for all you were to me and the many folks of the Giant family, we thank you. You exhibited strength, fairness, generosity and compassion to your fellow associates as well as to Giant’s suppliers.

It was a privilege knowing you and working with you for more than 20 years. I am proud to call you my friend. As a writer once said, “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.” You have done so with me.

May peace be with you my friend,

Dave Herriman, Giant/Landover, retired