Barley Street community remembers Juan Felix
by B.J. Huchtemann
Loyal friend. Fierce Protector. Full of Light. And a generous giver of epic hugs. Juan Felix was one of the best people I have had the privilege of knowing.
Juan Felix was a beloved member of the Benson music and arts scene, where he was bartender and door-man at the Barley Street Tavern for six years, from about 2009 – 2015. Entertainment writer and Benson resident MarQ Manner said it well when he noted Felix was part of the core group of people who helped make the revitalized Benson “Benson” during its formative years.
Felix passed away unexpectedly on Oct. 4, 2017. He was 40 years old. As the Kremer Funeral Home obituary noted “Juan is survived by parents Freddie and Arcelia Felix, sister Maribel (Cory) Pribyl, nephews Gabriel and Ganner, and many beloved family members and friends.”
Services for Juan were Monday, Oct. 9, at Kremer in Benson. It was standing room only, as was an informal gathering at Barley Street Tavern Tuesday, Oct. 10. Both events were filled with so much love for Juan and so many remembrances of him and how he had touched each of us.
Juan Felix | photo by Josh Williamson
For me, as for so many who have shared stories of Juan, he was a beloved friend and a person who was a real light in the world. He shared his kindness, gentleness and unconditional love with his friends, and in his role at the Barley, with strangers too. He treated everyone with great care and his hugs were legendary. I would often stop by the Barley Street just to see if Juan was working, to visit and gather up a hug and some of his warmth. Many others say the same. He set an example that all of his friends cherish and, I believe, that we all hope to follow more closely in his memory.
He left the Barley Street job a little over two years ago to work as the Land Management Specialist for UNO’s Glacier Creek Preserve, a tall-grass prairie habitat near Bennington. At the Preserve, his work included caring for the property and helping with educational initiatives such as student visits. I know from my own conversations with him that he was so very excited for the opportunity and he loved this job. He loved being outdoors in all weather and relished his work there. The UNO flag was lowered to half-staff on Thursday, Oct. 12, in his honor.
Despite the fact he was no longer a daily part of the Benson scene, his passing illustrated clearly that he was and is still part of Benson’s heart. He made a lasting, positive impact on everyone he met. I loved him dearly and I will miss him.
Here are some remembrances of Juan from some of his friends, provided for this piece to celebrate his life and his lasting effect on each of us.
MarQ Manner: “One of the kindest, most friendly and welcoming souls I have ever met. When Benson was becoming what Benson has become, Juan was one of the faces of that. Huge part of our community and a friend to many. My thoughts are with his many close friends who I know are aching today.”
Amy Wilke: “In this lifetime we will meet so many people and there will be a handful of them that will be the best people you will ever meet, Juan was one of those, not just for myself, but any person that ever met him.
When Juan hugged you he never pulled away first, he would hug you as long as you needed and you would leave that hug feeling so warm and so full, hugs from this man were spiritual. Like, you wouldn’t go into the hug knowing that part of you was empty, but after, you would feel like something had been filled. This man oozed warmth and love and he was never scared to tell you he loved you. His smile was infectious, everyone around him would be smiling and laughing, sometimes you wouldn’t even know why, but it was him. I spent so many nights over the past few years at the end of the bar at Barley Street watching TV with him or having insanely crude conversations that would just get worse and worse till one of us admitted we had gone too far. Eric and I started going to Indian Caves after Juan praised it so much and now I will always think of him when we go.
I’m glad that I was able to see him more recently and that we spent the whole night in our favorite spots.. Right at the end of the bar. I can’t remember any specific thing we talked about, but I remember laughing till my face and guts hurt and I remember how soft his hair was and I remember the most perfect hug. Words will never describe how I felt that night getting to see him, but I’m forever glad I can remember how I felt.
Juan, I love you and I will miss you forever, but I’m glad I had you in my life.”
Juan Felix nuzzles with Shooter at Barley Street | photo courtesy of Barley Street Tavern
Lauri Labs: “We lost an authentic, loving, caring, and compassionate man yesterday. Absolute gentlemen, Juan Felix. I loved him dearly. He was an angel masquerading as a man. My heart weeps until we meet again.”
Emily Cox: “Juan was the kindest person in Benson who gave the best hugs. The type of person who really cared about you and your family. He was THE reason for going to Barley Street Tavern every Wednesday and we had many great nights at ol’ Trackside, too. Juan was a form of therapy; his presence was simply calming. He would listen and not judge. He would protect you and not cause harm toward others all at the same time. Months could pass between seeing each other but I would still receive the annual birthday text from Juan; and not just the words or a jpg or gif to go along with it, but the kind of message that sounded like a greeting card, but one that he took the time to write just for me. I’m going to miss those texts, those hugs, and those moments of just chatting at Barley or at some random show we appeared at the same time. Juan was everyone’s friend. And he will be greatly missed by many.”
Wayne Brekke: “This week will be hard. For a lot of us. Friends will bond closer, some will reconnect, and some will be gone forever. Processing death is never fun and for our family it hits close to home in other ways. My life has changed over the past couple years, but my friends and family have always been there, even when I am distant at times. I appreciate that more than you know. I appreciate you more than you know. I appreciate that my friends hug and tell each other they love them when they leave. That was the last thing I did and said to Juan before driving home from the cabin.”
Travis Sing: “Like many of us, I got to know Juan from his time as doorman and bartender at Barley St. Tavern. After we were somewhat acquainted, I would stroll in and yell to him behind the bar, ‘Oye, cabron!’ (It literally means, ‘Hey, goat,’ but it’s actually a not-very-nice insult. Maybe a ‘friend-sult’ in this context.) He always chuckled, but it was Juan, so I thought, ‘Maybe he doesn’t enjoy this salutation, and just won’t tell me.’
After several instances, I took him aside and told him I hoped he knew I was not trying to be offensive. He laughed heartily and told me he wasn’t offended in the least. He then told me that he thought it was hilarious, as nobody else greeted him that way. I almost always greeted him in that manner no matter where we saw each other. As time went on, we found ourselves in the same, small circle of tight-knit friends. What can I say of Juan that hasn’t already been said? He was a kind soul who invariably greeted you with that beaming smile and a big hug. And there was always a ‘goodbye’ hug, as well.
To say I’m heartbroken and bewildered can’t even begin to sum up my emotions. When I heard of his sudden and tragic passing, I posted a photo of us together on Facebook. It was from a chance meeting in Las Vegas in late 2012. We met up for dinner and drinks at The Peppermill on The Strip. It was nice to be with an Omaha friend so far from home. At the time, I captioned the photo with: ‘Does Benson miss us?’
I miss him terribly. And I’m know greater Benson does, too. Adios, cabron!”
Juan Felix (first row left) and friends pose for a picture on the Barley Street Stage | photo courtesy of Barley Street
Kati Flori: “I had the pleasure of seeing Juan quite often at Leo’s where I was a server. He always had a hug for me and asked about my mental health. I’m quite open about having borderline personality disorder. When I quit drinking Juan was one of my biggest champions. I always called him my Mexican in a sweater. He was also very kind to my daughters who work at Leo’s also.”
Samantha Hanson: “I wanted to share my favorite things about Juan. Juan was always such a warm spirit and soul. He was very kind and hardly ever charged me for coffee when I needed it at Barley Street. Sometimes I would stay and help him out past close and we would go to IHOP and literally speak in a British accent the entire time. We lost touch the last year, but he was such a fun person to be around, and I was always glad to get to have a chat. He is missed. Wish I had not gotten so busy, but such is life. I had seen him last at handmade Omaha, and he was really excited and passionate about what he was doing at UNO’s Preserve.”
Shelly Robbins Sukstorf: “My remembrance would be enjoying nature and sitting outside shooting the breeze around the fire pit. He was such a gracious listener and always believed in honesty and not beating around the bush. He was kind and gentle and funny and mischievous. And of course, there were the hugs. Hugs of the real kind. Hugs that lingered and felt safe and secure. I’m normally not one for hugging but my goal now is to hug often and hug like you mean it and hopefully make someone else feel like my friend Juan made me feel.”
Katt Elworth:“That warm blanket in the cold bar lights is now gone. Juan made the Barley Street feel like home. It’s hard to put into words what an extraordinary person he was. He seemed to have some mystic sixth sense for knowing just what people needed. Juan always looked out for me even if I wasn’t ready to hear what he had to say. The last time I saw him, he told me he still had a note I drunkenly wrote him on a napkin years ago (no one knows what it says, but we think it may have been directions). He said he would find out where it leads someday. That was the kind of person he was. When he loved someone, he gave everything he had to that person and had a way to make you feel like you were the only one in the room. He cherished every part of a person, even the parts you didn’t like about yourself. He could also be hilariously catty and had a certain way of dealing with bar patrons he was less than fond of. I’m going to carry on so much of what I learned from Juan: his compassion, his generosity, kindness, and loving nature. That was a gift that he gave us all, and I want to keep that part of him in this world.”
a poem by Cindy Grady:
creating a light
so bright that I swear
I could see your very
A depth of conversation–
that seemed to
Let the cares of the day
wash over me like
A tranquil stream
Sit with me and
Find wonder in
A shock wave to
the depth of my soul.
I will honor your
Turn my face to
the lightness of
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Photo coverage: The Rewind album release show at The Bay
HN multimedia intern Arianna Bohning dropped by The Bay Saturday as Lincoln hard rock band The Rewind played an album release show for its debut LP Casting Shadows. While the album officially released in September, the show gave the four-piece band a chance to hold forth songs they have been working on for nearly five years. Ghost Town Radio and The Other Side of Now opened the show. See photos below.
The Other Side of Now
Ghost Town Radio
photos by Arianna Bohning
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Photo coverage: Tera Melos, Speedy Ortiz, Oquoa at Slowdown
HN visuals editor Lauren Farris went to Slowdown Saturday to catch Sacramento math/progressive rock band Tera Melos, Massachusetts indie rock band Speedy Ortiz and locals Oquoa in the front room. Tera Melos is fresh from its fourth full-length studio album Trash Generator. See Farris’ photos below.
photos by Lauren Farris
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Check out some early-week happenings with our picks below and plan your week with our statewide event calendar here. Submit your own shows, venue listings and band bios using the contribute form here, or email us with news tips, story ideas and song submissions at email@example.com.
Delve Trio at Pageturners Lounge – Luke Polipnick, Mitch Towne and Dana Murry reconvene for the first time in two years at Pageturners Lounge for an evening of progressive jazz. 9:30 p.m. show, 21-plus, RSVP here.
The Black Dahlia Murder, Suffocation, Necrot, Worm Witch at Slowdown – The downtown Omaha venue packs a whopping death metal billing into the main room tonight with Michigan’s The Black Dahlia Murder leading the way, backed by Long Island band Suffocation, Oakland’s Necrot and Vancouver band Worm Witch. 7 p.m. show, $25, RSVP here.
Remo Drive, Diners, Strange Ranger, Salt Creek at Lookout Lounge – Minneosta post-punk band Remo Drive and Phoenix dream pop project Diners come to Omaha, play Lookout Lounge with Portland’s Strange Ranger and local indie rock band Salt Creek. 8 p.m. show, $10 in advance/$12 day-of. RSVP here.