SUN PRAIRIE, Wis. — After Sunday was a somber start to the week for the fourth anniversary of the natural gas explosion that killed Sun Prairie Fire Capt. Cory Barr, on Thursday, the community honored the local hero with a day of light.
Families swarmed the business of downtown Sun Prairie shouting “I found it!” when they spotted little sunshine stickers, which they marked on their Adventure Day maps.
“They bring their map here, and for every map turned in they get three raffle tickets,” said Susan Schmidt, the director of development for Sunshine Place.
The second-annual Adventure Day benefitted Sunshine Place, which provides services like a food pantry, and housing help to those in need. Last year, the event raised roughly $2,500.
“We try to just be one place where people can come and not sort of have to go around if they need help with one thing, we can refer them to some other programs too to kind of take care of their full need,” said Schmidt.
But for some, the smiling sunshines represent someone else smiling down.
“It’s definitely bittersweet,” said Abby Barr, Capt. Barr’s widow.
The scavenger hunt was the late fire captain’s dream.
This year, she participated with her new gym, Burn Boot Camp.
“To have kind of like my husband and the fire department involved with my new business, it’s just marrying a couple of my passions together that mean a lot to us,” Abby Barr said.
As a firefighter, Capt. Barr died doing his duty — helping people.
“I’ll tell you not knowing Cory, being a part of this year, you certainly feel the memories of Cory,” said Sun Prairie Firefighter John Loeffler.
In 2018, Barr rushed to help the hundreds evacuate due to a natural gas leak downtown and died during a massive explosion.
“There’s some pictures of Cory within the fire department and every shift that I’m on personally, I take a moment and I stare at the picture and I thank Cory for the opportunity for me being here,” Loeffler said. “I thank Cory for the opportunity that the community has come together in a way that is an absolute miracle.”
Dozens were injured and many businesses were destroyed, including the Glass Nickel Pizza — now rebuilt, offering dine-in service for the past week.
“We kind of put it off because of COVID, then it got put off again because of no windows, and so it’s been a long uphill struggle, so it’s good to finally be at that place where we can start serving pizzas and serving the community again,” said owner Adam Bougie.
The fact that his community helped him find a new location shows they’re carrying on Barr’s commitment to his city.
“It’s definitely fitting that… doing something that Cory was passionate about something he had envisioned doing for the downtown,” Bougie said.
For Abby Barr, “this grief journey that we’re on is never-ending. but everchanging,” but her family, like her town, is showing her late husband they’re Sun Prairie Strong.
“It makes me proud that to be his wife and that we can still remember him and honor him and he’s still part of the memory of the community because he’s part of my everyday life,” she said.
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