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Reba Barnes dances her way into 80th birthday
062008 DANCE PARTY 1
Ballroom dancing lover Reba Barnes, center, celebrates her eightieth birthday with friends and family Friday at the Honey-Bowen building. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff
    When Reba Barnes thought of her 80th birthday, she never imagined she’d spend it dancing with scores of her closest friends.
    Barnes’ daughter, Lydia Johnson, wanted to do something different for her mother’s birthday, and since Barnes loves to dance, it seemed only natural to Johnson that her mother should spend her big day doing what she loves.
    “You can’t go to my mother’s house without dancing,” said Johnson. “She’ll go downstairs at night, put on a record and dance by herself before going to bed.”
    Johnson said Barnes’ love of dance carries her to three or four nursing homes a week to either dance with the residents or dance for them. And because of this, Johnson figured Barnes would love dancing on her birthday. The ‘goal’ for the day — besides Barnes having fun — was for her to dance with 80 friends to celebrate 80 years.
    Barnes, clad in a shiny gold outfit at her dance party held at the Honey-Bowen Building, said she wasn’t sure about the idea at first.
    “I was really angry at first because Lydia had gone out of her way and planned it alone,” said Barnes. “I didn’t know it would turn out this way. It worked out great. I’m tickled to death.”
    Barnes wasn’t sure just how many dances she’d had so far, but said she knew it had to be close to 40.
    Barnes said she began dancing in the third grade, but truly fell in love with it in high school. Over the years, the love for dance developed into a passion of hers.
    While Barnes was dancing, her best friend and housekeeper of 38 years, Gloria Simmons, sang her friend’s praises.
    “She is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever known,” said Simmons. “She’s kind, giving and she would do anything for anybody. She truly cares for everyone.”
    During the party, a friend walked up to Barnes and said, “But I can hardly walk, now.”
    Barnes took the man’s hand and said, “Oh, but you’ll dance. And you’ll dance better than you walk,” and she led him to the dance floor.