A few weeks ago, when I wrote about architect Eric Kebon and the medieval-style castle he built on the easternmost tip of Fishers Island in the 1930s, called “White Caps,” I stumbled across a relatively recent I omitted to mention one of the turret owners. A gabled building containing the unscrupulous business partner of late Beatles member George Harrison.
A colleague I didn’t mention was Jonathan Barress of Stonington at the time, once one of the region’s most highly regarded moguls of real estate partnerships during the soaring real estate boom of the 1980s.
A few years before Burres died, in 2008, when he was 58, I traveled to Florida, where he lived in Ormond Beach with his wife, Pauline, and their six children, to learn about Burres’ later life and his tribute to Jesus. I wrote about devotion from the heart.
Raised in Ormond Beach, Burrès is the son of a congregational clergyman who earned a degree from Yale Theological Seminary, was a strong physique and an excellent athlete, and attended Salisbury School, Litchfield County, Connecticut, and the University of Florida.
Pauline Dennis grew up in Norwich, the daughter of French Canadians who moved to Daytona Beach, Florida when she was six years old, and it was in Florida that she met Barrez, who grew up nearby.
Jonathan and Pauline Barress came north after graduating with a degree in architecture and a master’s degree in construction management. He worked for Stone and Webster in London before becoming a stockbroker for Advest and later Payne and Webber.
Riding the real estate boom of the early 1980s, along with prep school friend David Kleeman and the rest of the Barres family, Barres began forming investment partnerships to purchase multiple multifamily homes and other properties.
To manage the holding, he and Kleeman founded Coastal Management, which has offices in Mystic.
When I visited Barres in Florida in 2005, he said his personal fortune during the boom years was about $25 million.
When the real estate bubble burst in the late 1980s and 1990s, the Burres empire collapsed along with banks making too many high-risk mortgages, and Burres lost most of his fortune. He declared his bankruptcy in 2002 and left Stonington for Florida. What remained of his estate here was his restored historic 18th-century house on Water Street in the Stonington neighborhood, which he eventually sold.
A good friend and colleague, John Fiore, was, like Burres, the principal beneficiary of Pinepoint School, a private school in Stonington, and helped Burres deal with banking and financial arrangements. rice field.
Barress said his final year at Stonington was devastating, not just financially.
“I was mentally dead,” he told me in 2005.
In 2001, a benign grapefruit-sized tumor was discovered on the base of his skull, encasing his brainstem. It was the same year his 94-year-old mother died.
“I was excited to make money. From the time I was 12, it was my only desire to make money. Fishers Island had boats and houses and castles. I had many. I had a partner, I had various businesses, I had nothing, I went through hell, I went through the whole fallout of the 1980s, and when the bank went bust, they called your loan and we had hundreds of millions of loans.”
The castle — White Caps — was built for the Simmons family. At the time, the Simmons family was one of the nation’s leading manufacturers of mattresses, including the signature Beauty Rest. The castle is now owned by the William L. Hanley family of Greenwich and Fishers Island, Connecticut.
By 2005, Barres was receiving innovative treatments for his tumors at the Northeast Proton Therapy Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. It was a daily treatment designed to attack the tumor borders with precise radiation therapy to kill cell proliferation, and was also intended to limit risk. To the eyes and cognitive abilities of Barres. He was also taking a course on antiepileptic drugs.
Yet he claimed that his salvation was reborn, coinciding with the death of his mother and the discovery of the tumor. He was 51 years old at the time.
“My failure, my complete loss of everything, was the beginning of my victory,” he told me. “I surrendered completely. Through Jesus I have gone from defeat to eternal victory.I am on a spiritual journey.”
When I visited, Barres was a member of the Calvary Christian Center, a Pentecostal church in Ormond Beach. It has a contemporary design and was built to accommodate 1,000 worshipers. The entire Barrez family attends church, and Jonathan says he is a member of a church choir with 100 voices, spends at least his four hours at church every Sunday, and as others have told me. , he was known to cry while singing.
By his own account and that of the pastor of his church, he was very generous with the Calvary Christian Center.
He devoted much of his day to Jesus, communing with Him from the time he awoke before dawn, even asking the Savior for advice on which real estate transactions to make. It was a $3 million, 12,000-square-foot beachfront home with four cars, including a Lincoln and a Lexus SUV.
“During my seizures and tumors, when the Lord did not demand me, I said: ‘God, what do you want me to do? I started looking for,” said Barrez. “The result of what I’m doing with the Lord is that my marriage is better than it’s ever been. My kids are mall-free, drug-free, and they’re all healthy. I have it.” I want to give them everything.”
When we visited, he had, as he said, left his health in the hands of the Lord and had gone three months off his post-tumor antiepileptic medication.
He died three years later in Ormond Beach, surrounded by his family.
Steven Slosberg lives in Stonington and can be reached at [email protected].