Posted by Joel Gunz.
In opera, it ain't over 'til the fat lady sings, but for Eustacious Barbour, this wicked system ain't over 'til he croaks. For many years, Jehovah's Witnesses taught that Jesus' prophecy regarding the "generation" that saw the beginning of distress -- which they claim began in 1914 -- would also live to see the Great Tribulation, which has yet to occur. Since then, as that group of people has died off, the sect has departed from any dictionary definition of the term and concocted its own meaning of the word "generation." But Mr. Barbour, who clearly remembers the outbreak of World War I, still believes that original teaching. And, as the lone holdout of that generation, he's still waiting.
Born July 12, 1882, Mr. Barbour recently celebrated his 128th birthday. Describing that violation of Jehovah's Witness law in his usual colorful language, he says, "Hell when you get to be my age, you can celebrate any damn thing you want. Shit." Though he only reports 15 minutes of time each month, the old codger remains on the Special Pioneer list.
His memory is as strong as ever. "I met [Watchtower Society founder] Pastor Russell in 1914 while standing at the urinals of the Hotel McKittrick in San Francisco. His sense of urgency in there suggested to me that he either had cystitis or, alternatively, that he had to rush back to his preaching, lest he miss the beginning of Armageddon." As it happened, the itinerant preacher was suffering from a urinary infection. "He wasn't getting along too well with his ex-wife at the time, either," the dozenegarian says with a dusty cackle.*
Mr. Barbour loves to regale younger Witnesses with his memories of Pastor Russell, "Judge" Rutherford and other long-dead members of the religion, and his interviews at Circuit Assemblies and District Conventions are always a hit. But what gets him up and dressed each morning isn't his recollections of times long past, but the future. Because for Eustacious Barbour, the end remains nigh.
* This paragraph has some basis in actual history. As WT President Fred Franz once told an audience at "Bethel Family Night," he met Russell while pissing in the men's room of one of the venues in which Russell was speaking. Franz also observed that Russell was in some discomfort while doing so. (Russell did, in fact, suffer from cystitis.)