Derrick C. Barnes, a structural and civil engineer who in his off hours was a singer and drummer, dies

Derrick Barnes was known as his neighborhood’s “unofficial mayor.”
Derrick Barnes was known as his neighborhood’s “unofficial mayor.” (Handout)

Derrick C. Barnes, a structural and civil engineer who in his off hours liked singing and playing the drums and helping out neighbors, died Aug. 10 from a heart attack at his home in Bolton Hill. He was 44.

“Derrick was a giving and warm person, and one of the things that struck me about him was that he was busy with a job and kids and was strapped for time, but he never let that lead him,” said Lester Davis, a longtime friend.


“We became close friends because our kids go to Friends School, and he would help us out picking up our kids after school. He was never too busy to make room for our kids, and even though he was always working and had a limited amount of time, he was always giving, and it was never a chore,” said Mr. Davis, who is Mayor Bernard C. “Jack” Young’s spokesman.

Derrick Clemont Barnes, the son of Calvin D. Barnes Sr., a telephone company technician, and his wife, Tronette Barnes, a homemaker, was born and raised in Jacksonville, North Carolina.


Mr. Barnes was baptized at the Shiloh Apostolic Church in Jacksonville. From an early age, while growing up in the church, he exhibited a talent for playing the drums and later became the church choir’s percussionist.

After graduating from Jacksonville High School, Mr. Barnes began his college studies at Drexel University in Philadelphia and because he was a musician joined the university’s choir.

In 1996, he joined the Philadelphia Citywide Chapter of Delta Eta of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. He was subsequently elected chapter president, a post which he held for two consecutive years. He was also step master of the Delta Eta Chapter Step Team and held the same position for the nationally known Philadelphia All-Stars Step Team.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in 1997 in structural and civil engineering, Mr. Barnes began his career with Kiewit Corp. in highway construction in northeast Maryland. He later joined Clark Construction Co. in Washington.

He founded Imagine Designs, his own design and construction firm, which he owned and operated until 2010, when he went to work in Linthicum for Energy Systems Group as a senior project manager.

In 2008, Mr. Barnes married the former Davia Lilly, the web director and designer for Charles Street Research, a division of The Agora Companies, in Baltimore.

“Derrick was known as a hard-working, humble, dedicated family man and loving husband,” Ms. Barnes wrote in a biographical profile of her husband. “He was a man who lived his life with integrity, love in his heart, and a desire to always help others. Derrick never met a stranger and treated everyone as if they were the only person in the room.”

“Derrick never let the stress of the moment not allow him to help someone out,” Mr. Davis said. “He did it so effortlessly and efficiently and I admired that about him. He did it in a real genuine way and he was happy to do it.”

Mr. Barnes was known as his neighborhood’s “unofficial mayor,” his wife said.

“Derrick took care of our neighbors, took the elderly to the bank, made home repairs in people’s homes, shoveled snow and wouldn’t accept payment,” Ms. Barnes said. “He accepted people as they were and tried to help anyone in need.”

Three of his daughters play soccer, and he and his wife avidly followed their games.

“Derrick and I spent a significant amount of time cheering the girls on the soccer fields traveling from New Jersey to Virginia on weekends with our travel soccer team the Baltimore Celtics,” Ms. Barnes said. “The oldest, Dylan and Daryn, also play for the Maryland State Team Olympic Development Program, and Daryn is on the Eastern Region Olympic Development Program team.”


Until the end of his life, Mr. Barnes continued to embrace his love of music

In 1998, he joined Dedicated, a Spanish gospel group that was later renamed Four24.

" He would later step into the recording studio, playing the drums, for the band’s first ever album, ‘Libre,’ " Ms. Barnes wrote. “He also recorded tracks with other musicians and played with the hip-hob group Serengetti.”

Mr. Barnes attended Douglas Memorial Community Church, where funeral services were held Aug. 17.

“He had over 1,000 people at his service, which is a testament to the amount of lives he touched,” his wife said.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by four daughters, Dylan Barnes, 14, Daryn Barnes, 12, Devyn Barnes, 9, all of Bolton Hill, and Phoebe Barnes, 22, of Miami, Florida; his mother, of Jacksonville, North Carolina; two brothers, Calvin Barnes of Bel Air and Darryl Barnes of Jacksonville, North Carolina; two sisters, Camille Sawyer of Richmond, Virginia, and Daphne Moore of Charlotte, North Carolina.

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