Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Shining the light of hope in Faribault following Barb Larson’s murder January 7, 2017

Barb Larson. (Photo source: Boldt Funeral Home.)

Barb Larson. (Photo source: Boldt Funeral Home.)

MORE THAN TWO WEEKS have passed since the murder of Barb Larson, shot to death by her ex-husband at the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office where she worked. Richard Larson, a retired Faribault police officer, then killed himself.

This act of domestic violence has rocked my community. We are grieving, asking why, wondering how we can heal and effect change. I wonder myself.

But already positive things are happening. Earlier this week, the Chamber remembered Barb on what would have been her 60th birthday by celebrating Happy Barb Day. Community members were encouraged to share memories of Barb online and at a Business Before Hours event.

When the Chamber office reopened a day prior, Chamber members and others gathered there to show their support for staff. Professionals are also offering in-kind services to update the Chamber lobby. I can only imagine the mental challenge of walking into that building every day with the knowledge that your friend and co-worker was murdered in your workplace.

Faribault’s faith community is also reaching out with Our Savior’s Lutheran Church taking the lead by focusing on shining light in the physical darkness of winter and in the emotional darkness of grief. At the 9:30 a.m. worship service this Sunday, battery-operated candles will be offered to attendees. The idea is to place those candles in the windows of Faribault homes as a strong visual symbol that we can be a light for each other.

That theme of being here for one another threads through a mass mailing letter I received from HOPE Center, a local organization with a mission “to create zero tolerance for sexual and domestic violence through Healing, Outreach, Prevention and Education.” Executive Director Erica Staab-Absher writes of the personal grief in losing her friend Barb. But she also writes with a renewed determination:

We must change things, and we can start here in our community. I do not want to write yet another letter sharing news like this (about Barb’s murder). We as a community must stand together and say NO More.

Powerful words.

We have the power to make a difference—to care for one another, to show others that they are not alone, to listen, to shine the light of hope.

My community is talking, creating awareness, taking action. Domestic violence/abuse is a hard issue to face. It would be easy just to look the other way, to plunge our heads into the sand of “this isn’t my problem” and then go on with our lives. But we can’t. We mustn’t.

My great niece Kiera painted this stone, which I got at a recent family reunion.

The HOPE stone that sits on my office desk was painted by my great niece Kiera. Minnesota Prairie Roots file photo.

TELL ME: Please share with me any specific ways you, your community, your church or organization has worked toward healing, outreach, prevention and education in the area of domestic abuse/violence. Perhaps something you’ve done would help us here in Faribault.

© Copyright 2016 Audrey Kletscher Helbling


9 Responses to “Shining the light of hope in Faribault following Barb Larson’s murder”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    What a nice tribute during a sad time. Hope is the perfect word for times like this.

  2. Jackie Says:

    I have posted below an interesting and informative, video and article about domestic violence and Threat assessment/prevention. The man in the article/video is Rick’s Cousin, Randy McAlister. I copied a couple of links to some interesting things that are going on in Cottage Grove, MN because of Randy’s passion to stop domestic violence.

    “Detective Sergeant Randy McAlister of the Cottage Grove Police Department speaks on the topic of domestic abuse, and shares some new techniques for prevention and lethality assessment”.

    “He’s launched a threat assessment program at the Cottage Grove police department — the first of its kind in Minnesota — that could change how police interact with high-risk cases”

    This has to stop, it’s good to know that there are those who have this passion, and are working to make us all aware…to help stop domestic violence.

    You may have to cope and paste these links into your browser.


  3. Sue Ready Says:

    As I have stated before your blog site does a great service to the community by writing about domestic violence keeping the problem on the forefront and allowing your readers to share .comment and exchange information. What a tragic event in your community with the loss of a friend, co worker, family member is but a grim reminder we need to be supportive to those in need and vigilant to the signs of abuse trying to be proactive when ever possible.

  4. hotlyspiced Says:

    What a terrible tragedy. And so senseless. I’m very sorry for Barb’s family and for your grieving community xx

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