T. Dennis Barney, an influential East Valley developer and businessman who played a key role in improving the neighborhood around the Mesa Mormon temple, died Monday at the age of 62.
Friends and neighbors, who had not expected his sudden death, said he was involved in much charitable work and played a key role in major East Valley developments through his companies Circle G Development, The Carpet Company and Landmark Equity Investors.
Roc Arnett, president of the East Valley Partnership and a longtime neighbor, said Barney practiced the Golden Rule in his business dealings, confirmed when he received the Darl Anderson Award during the Arizona Interfaith Movement's annual Golden Rule Awards Banquet last year in Phoenix.
"The loss of Dennis is going to affect us all in many ways, and in particular his dear family," Arnett said. "He will be missed, but the memory of his example will live on."
Barney may be best known for his work around the Mesa Arizona Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in central Mesa. Although the temple itself has always been a showplace, the neighborhood around it deteriorated over the years, becoming a high-crime district.
Beginning in 2005 Barney, a bishop and stake president in the Mormon church, began buying homes and other properties in the neighborhood, demolishing them or fixing them up as rental units. He also bought commercial properties on the south side of Main Street west of LeSueur and planned to build a retail/condo project with space for church facilities such as a bookstore and clothing distribution center.
Barney said the intent was to create an attractive gateway to the temple.
"The temple is such a huge asset to the community, and (church officials) are concerned about doing something that is nice as an entrance way," he said in a 2006 interview with the Tribune.
Although the site has been cleared, the economic recession has delayed development.
"It might need to wait for the economy to turn around," Arnett said.
Barney was a major donor to the Mesa United Way, providing money each year to help cover administrative and overhead costs, said Carol McCormack, president of the Mesa United Way.
"It ensured we would be here year-in and year-out and allowed us to turn our efforts to make sure services were available in the community," she said.
On a personal level, she described him as "a larger-than-life guy. ... You couldn't help but feel a sense of comfort in his presence. He cared so much about people. His presence seemed to say that everything would be okay."
Other groups that benefited from Barney's time and resources were the United Food Bank, the Boy Scouts of America, Brigham Young University, the Boys and Girls Clubs and Arizona Interfaith Movement.
One of his favorite activities was counseling young people, and he was stake president to students at Arizona State University.
Barney was a member of a pioneering Mesa farming family, working on a farm at Val Vista and University drives in his early years. As the city expanded out to the property, the family developed a mobile home park that helped establish their financial base, Arnett said.
Barney later started The Carpet Company, which became one of the largest home-interior businesses in the southwest and eventually was sold to The Home Depot.
Along with business partners, Barney developed Val Vista Lakes, Circle G Ranches and San Tan Village in Gilbert. Also Circle G Development was a major custom-home builder in the East Valley.
Barney is survived by his wife, Ann, 10 children, 24 grandchildren and four sisters.
A viewing will he held from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday at the Barney home, 1075 N. Honeysuckle Lane, Gilbert. Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Monday at the Val Vista Stake Center, 1005 N. Voyager, Gilbert.
Due to expected large attendance, the funeral service also will be broadcast at the LDS Institute of Religion, Tempe Arizona University Stake, 1000 S. McAllister Ave., Tempe; LDS Chapel, 1150 E. Guadalupe Road, Gilbert; and LDS Chapel, 1483 N. Driftwood Drive, Gilbert.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Arizona Interfaith Movement, United Food Bank, or General Missionary Fund of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, c/o President Lothaire Bluth, Val Vista Stake.