Cherie Barnett is ready to carry the ashes of her late husband to North Wales and scatter them in the valley where he played as a child.
“That was his wonderful, safe place and he wants to go back there,” she said. “That was the place where he got a lot of love.”
David Lloyd Wyn Barnett, better known as ‘Trader Dave,” died in Sarnia last September after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 86.
To help pay for their final sojourn together, an auction house is selling off Trader Dave’s collection of numerous historic and military artifacts this week.
The treasure trove includes hundreds of War of 1812-era coins, buckles, buttons, musket balls and other curios. He found many of the artifacts himself using a metal detector Cherie gave him as a birthday gift in 1986.
One of his favourite haunts were the fields of Essex County on which Chief Tecumseh and British forces clashed with U.S. soldiers during the War of 1812.
“He would go out all day,” Cherie said. “I had a list of other things I’d like to do so I gave him a lunch and a love note.”
When she picked him up, he’d proudly show off his finds and then spend days researching them.
“He was a hard worker. He loved what he did.”
Born in 1932, Barnett spent his early years in London, England. But when the Germans began bombing the city he was sent to live with grandparents in a Welsh mining town, Cherie Barnett said.
He moved to Canada in 1967, met Cherie one summer night in Windsor in 1976, and they married four months later.
Together, the Barnetts ran several food companies, including Cozy Kitchen Foods in Sarnia in the ‘80s. But history was Trader Dave’s true passion.
He became well known in the metal detecting community, and was even invited to join a hunt in Prince Edward Island, where he impressed the Islanders by finding the plug from a rare Spanish “holey dollar.” A club member offered him $3,000 for it on the spot but Barnett declined, preferring to enjoy the bragging rights instead, Cherie said with a laugh.
“Metal detector people, they’re looking for jewelry or they’re looking for coins. But he wanted to promote history,” she said. “That was his deal.”
Eventually, the collection cases filled an upstairs room of their Courtright home.
When Dave was diagnosed with cancer in 1993 he transitioned to a teaching role. Donning a settler’s suit custom-made in Stratford, he adopted the persona of “Trader Dave” and would present at schools and historical societies across southern Ontario and Michigan.
Although his historical collection is on the block, Cherie said she’s keeping the box of thank-you cards and letters as well as Dave’s costume. Holding it up to show a reporter, her eyes begin to brim.
“There’s not another like him, for sure,” she says.
Cancer hounded Trader Dave for 26 years. But like the long-forgotten soldiers he studied, he would hide his pain and discouragement, she said.
He loved life and enjoyed his beloved collection to the end, with the family dog, Charlie, by his side.
In April, Cherie Barnett will use the money from the sale and fly to the old country to scatter her husband’s remains in the green valley, behind Manod Street, in the town of Blaenau Ffestiniog, Wales.
To view or bid on Trader Dave’s collection, visit www.gardnergalleries.com. His items are listed under Historic, Military & Curios Auction. Bidding closes Feb. 19.
His book collection is listed under Collector Canadiana Books, available from Feb. 15 to 25.