Obituary: Stephen John Barcay, former CSU entomology student

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Stephen John Barcay, of Burnsville, Minnesota, died unexpectedly Nov. 19, 2019, at the age of 59. John was the son of Dr. Stephen J. and Norah (M’Gonigle) Barcay. Born on Jan. 9, 1960, in Portsmouth, Virginia, John grew up in Maryland and Colorado with his siblings Helen and Bob.

After receiving his B.S. at Colorado State University, John completed his M.S. and Ph.D. in Urban and Industrial Entomology at Purdue University. While at Purdue he met his future wife, Heidi Greger (also a Ph.D. student) on a blind date. John knew she was the one when, for a second date, he suggested a tour of the insect collection in the entomology department and Heidi not only agreed but actually showed up.

In 1990 John and Heidi moved to Minnesota where John was employed by Ecolab, Inc. for nearly 30 years, most recently as Senior Scientist in research and development of products for urban pest management. Well-known and highly respected in his field, John held many patents, was widely published and was a regular national speaker on urban entomological issues.

An accomplished semi-professional musician, John excelled as a keyboard player, singer and songwriter. He was a founding member of the Moss Piglets, performing and recording with the group for more than 25 years, until his death. As the Moss Piglets evolved from a rock band to a more-or-less bluegrass band, John lent a distinctive sound by incorporating unusual instruments, including melodica, hurdy-gurdy, musical saw and turkey baster. He could also whistle a melody like nobody’s business.

John remained humble despite being featured twice in the Minneapolis Star Tribune, once for his professional work as an entomologist and once as a member of the rarefied community of Minnesota musical saw players. A familiar figure at Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Association events, John, when not performing onstage, was known to make his way from one jam circle to another with his melodica and head-lamp, quickly winning over skeptics of his unorthodox instrumentation with his immense talent and devotion to traditional songs and musical conventions. An excellent and enthusiastic cook, John relished mastering new dishes but could be relied upon to bring his signature eggacados to most gatherings of his music family.

John valued the outdoors and was an avid backpacker. Much to his fellow hikers’ delight (and sometimes chagrin), John could identify and expound on any insect one might encounter in the wilds of Alaska, Montana or Colorado. He was a friend to abused and abandoned animals and with his wife regularly sheltered rescued companion and farmed animals as well as wildlife. A man of substance, John was a deep thinker, a not-too-shabby artist, a pumpkin carving whiz, a competent downhill skier and, unsurprisingly, adored by his in-laws.

John leaves his wife of 29 years, Heidi Greger, and their beloved cats, Amelia, Theo, Peaches and Socks; sister, Helen Barcay, and brother, Bob Barcay, both of Colorado; aunt, Jo M’Gonigle; aunt, Georgia Duncan; brother-in-law Jeff (Debbie) Greger; sister-in-law Amy Lovering; nieces Rachael, Madi, Samantha and Cheyenne; nephews Nick, Andy and Asher; and cousins Ruth and Sharon. He also leaves behind his esteemed music and entomology families and many friends. John is preceded in death by his parents, parents-in-law and uncle, John M’Gonigle.

John’s endearing sense of humor, compassion, intellectual brilliance and joie de vivre will be missed by all who knew him. His sudden loss leaves a huge hole in the lives of many. In challenging times, John’s favorite saying was, “We must endure and prevail.” For all of us who dearly loved John, our task is to endure and prevail over the gut-wrenching grief his death has caused; he would want us to remember him with laughter and joy. A memorial celebration of John’s life is planned for late April 2020. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to: National Parks Conservation Association (777 6th St NW, Suite 700, Washington DC 20001) or Minnesota Bluegrass & Old-Time Music Association (PO Box 16408, Minneapolis MN 55416).

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