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Dean Barnett, 41; was conservative columnist and blogger

By Gabrielle Dunn
Globe Correspondent / October 28, 2008
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Dean Barnett never let his lifelong battle with cystic fibrosis fade his political and intellectual ambitions, his older brother, Keith, said last night from his home in Westwood.

Mr. Barnett, a well-known conservative columnist, author, and blogger, died at Brigham and Women's Hospital of cystic fibrosis yesterday. He was 41.

"All his life he's been aware that he had this terminal disease but it never stopped him from doing everything and enjoying life to the fullest," his brother said. "Whether it was writing about politics, or working on his golf game, or spending time with friends and family."

Mr. Barnett was born in Boston and diagnosed with the disease at 9 weeks old. He grew up in Newton and graduated from Newton South High School in 1985.

He went on to graduate from Harvard University with a bachelor's degree in government in 1989 and from Boston University's law school in 1992.

Mr. Barnett lost a race for state representative in Newton that same year, running as a Republican. He then started a Boston-based legal recruiting company in 1993, working to place attorneys at law firms across the country.

He remained politically active, however, becoming one of the first half-dozen volunteers to work for Mitt Romney's fledgling Senate campaign in January 1994. As part of his duties, Mr. Barnett would often drive Romney to town meetings and events.

Mr. Barnett also began blogging about conservative politics and sports in the early 1990s as a hobby for family and friends on his website, soxblog.com. Early this decade, he took an executive position at his father's Boston construction company but continued to blog.

His website's popularity grew steadily, leading to recognition from radio host Hugh Hewitt, who in 2006 invited Mr. Barnett to also blog on his website, hughhewitt.com. Mr. Barnett later became a regular guest host on Hewitt's radio program, "The Hugh Hewitt Show."

Mr. Barnett started blogging for The Weekly Standard about a year ago, which he continued until his death. His work has also appeared in National Review Online, the Philadelphia Inquirer, The Boston Globe, and Townhall.com.

Mr. Barnett loved to engage others in political discussions and share opinions, his brother said. He said it was not a surprise to him when Mr. Barnett's blog garnered recognition and fame.

"He very much enjoyed that he touched people, inspired people, provoked thoughts. It was perhaps the most fulfilling thing he did professionally," Keith Barnett said. "Although he didn't set out to do this, he was an example to the entire cystic fibrosis community that one could still build a life with meaning and I think he took pride in that."

In addition to his brother, Mr. Barnett leaves his father, Richard of South Natick; his mother, Karen of Chestnut Hill; his wife, Kirstan of Belmont; and seven nieces and nephews.

A funeral will be held tomorrow at 1 p.m. at Congregation Kehillath Israel in Brookline.

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