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Family still shaken by volunteer fire captain's death

Posted at 1:57 PM, Jun 29, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-29 14:57:22-04

SUN PRAIRIE — The City of Sun Prairie and Sun Prairie Fire and Rescue will host "Sun Prairie Stronger" - a remembrance ceremony to honor volunteer fire captain Cory Barr, who was killed in a gas explosion in downtown Sun Prairie last summer.

It will take place on July 10, exactly one year since the tragedy happened. The ceremony will begin at 6 p.m. at Fire Station 1 on North Bristol St., followed by a walk to the site of the explosion, prayer service and moment of silence for Barr.

Cory Barr's wife, Abby, will speak at the ceremony. TODAY'S TMJ4's Katie Crowther spoke exclusively with her Thursday.

"It doesn't hurt me to talk about him," Abby said. "I don't want to hide him from our girls at all. I want them to be very exposed to him and who he was, and know him even though he's not physically here."

Photos of Cory fill their home. Their twin daughters, Aubrey and Hailey, turn four in a few days. It's the first birthday they'll celebrate without their dad.

"I've been direct, straightforward with them, saying daddy's not coming home but he's in heaven and in our hearts, and he's always going to love you," Abby said. "They seem to understand it, but I don't think they fully grasp it. Every so often they'll say something that blows me away. Aubrey recently told me she wanted to open up her heart so she could see daddy. The toughest part for me is that he won't be here to see the wonderful girls they are, and for them to not experience the wonderful man he was."

The bar, known as the Barr House, that Cory and Abby owned in downtown Sun Prairie, remains boarded up. Cory died trying to save it. Abby passes it every day.

"It still kind of hits at my heart and stomach, but for the most part, I've become numb to it," Abby said.

She still has a long road ahead in the wrongful death lawsuit she filed against the contractors who hit a natural gas line, causing the explosion and fire at the Barr House, which ultimately killed Cory.

"I wear a chain he had on when he died and put my wedding ring and his wedding ring on it," Abby said. "For me, it symbolizes us still being together. I feel him with me all the time, giving me strength."

She also got three tattoos in his honor. One that says "heaven has my hero." Another with his and her thumbprints in the shape of a heart. And a third, the symbol of fortitude.

"Which means having strength and courage through pain and adversity," she said.

It's something she knows all too well.

"I'm still taking it day by day," Abby said. "Reality is kicking in a little more recently. Trying to grasp what happened is still difficult. In the beginning there were days I couldn't eat or sleep. I now am hoping I can start helping others who are fresh into the grieving process. I feel like me talking about it may help others feel like it's okay to not be okay. It's okay to talk about the struggle."

Abby says this past year has also given her new faith in humanity. She's truly humbled by the amount of people who have stepped-up to try and support her any way they can.