Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Remembering Barb Larson one year after her murder via an act of domestic violence December 21, 2017

Barb Larson, an employee of the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce & Tourism, was murdered on December 23, 2016, at her workplace. A memorial mosaic on the building exterior honors her.

 

ON DECEMBER 23, 2016, Barb Larson was murdered inside the Faribault Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism office. She was shot by her ex-husband, a former cop, who then turned his gun on himself.

 

This plaque fronts the artwork.

 

The murder of Barb Larson and the suicide of her killer, Richard Larson, just days before Christmas 2016 stunned my community. Both were well-known in Faribault. For Barb to die in an act of domestic violence in the workplace—in a place promoting our community—seemed unfathomable.

 

Caron Bell’s mosaic is titled “Love Remains” and was designed with input from Barb’s family and friends.

 

But it happened. Just like domestic abuse and violence still occur daily in my city. And in yours, too. Most often the violence does not result in death. Sometimes, tragically, it does.

 

I see grief, a swirling of emotions, in the grey tile.

 

A year out from Barb’s murder, I wonder if anything in my community has really changed. Reports of domestic-related calls continue to fill police reports published in the local newspaper. Domestic violence stories still cover too many column inches.

 

Even after Barb’s death, beauty and hope still bloom.

 

Are we more aware, educated, alert now than we were before Barb’s high profile death? And if we are, what are we doing to make a difference in the lives of those affected by domestic abuse and violence? I’m talking individuals here, not those who already serve victims/survivors/families through advocacy programs like those at HOPE Center and through Ruth’s House, a local shelter for women and their families.

 

Inspirational and honoring words are embedded in the mosaic tile.

 

Initially, some positive action followed—a Faribault church gave away battery-operated candles to shine the light of hope; the Chamber celebrated Happy Barb Day on what would have been Barb’s 60th birthday; public art exhibits honored Barb and spotlighted the darkness of her death and hope rising; a statewide It Happens Here awareness campaign highlighted the issue of domestic violence; and HOPE Center staffers attended a Domestic Violence Homicide Memorial event honoring Barb and other victims.

 

 

In addition to the art commission, the Chamber interior was refurbished by volunteers after Barb’s murder there. Inside the office, a word collage also honors Barb as does a fiber art piece by long-time friend and Northfield artist Judy Sayes-Willis.

 

As a Chamber employee, Barb was especially welcoming.

 

Additionally, the Chamber commissioned an art piece by Minneapolis artist Caron Bell. Titled “Love Remains,” the mosaic on the exterior of the Chamber office honors Barb through a peaceful landscape scene and six words describing her: friendly, passionate, hopeful, beautiful, strong and welcoming.

 

“Love Remains” needs to be viewed up close to see all the words celebrating Barb.

 

 

 

I didn’t know Barb personally. But I especially appreciate the words hopeful and strong. Strong and hopeful.

 

 

I’m thankful for these multiple efforts focusing public attention on the issues of domestic abuse and violence. I hope these efforts continue. Our awareness and concern must remain even when headlines vanish into the next day’s news.

 

 

In the year since Barb’s death, 21* known individuals have died in Minnesota due to domestic violence. That’s too many in 2017, or ever. We need to remember these victims and their families and friends. And we need to care about those who remain in abusive relationships. Whether sisters by blood, sisters by community connection, sisters by workplace, sisters by church or neighborhood or friendship, we must pledge to believe them, support them, help them. Stop blaming them.

We need also to question why men continue to abuse women. Beyond that, how can we prevent such abuse and change the negative ways in which some men and boys view women and girls?

We need to break the silence. We need to do something. And that starts with each of us.

 

Please click on the highlighted links within this post (especially in the final paragraphs) to view enlightening and informative stories and videos on the topics of domestic abuse and violence. These are important and worth your time. 

 

 

 

FYI: If you are in an abusive relationship, please seek help. Confide in someone you trust such as a family member, friend, co-worker, pastor, women’s advocate… You are not alone. There is hope and help. You deserve to be free of any type of abuse whether verbal, emotional, psychological, mental, financial, spiritual, technological and/or physical. Believe in yourself and in your strength.

If you are in immediate danger, call 911. The time period in which you try to leave (or after you’ve left) your abuser is the most dangerous time for you. Have a safety plan in place. In Barb’s case, a harassment restraining order had been served on her ex-husband the week he murdered her. Don’t rely on a piece of paper or “the system” to protect you.

If you know someone in an abusive relationship, offer your support, love and care. Educate yourself. Seek professional advice so you best know how to help a victim. That’s vital.

 

* This number may actually be higher, but is the most recent figure published on the Minnesota Coalition for Battered Women Facebook page.

NOTE: Since most victims of domestic abuse and violence are women, I choose to use that gender when I write on this topic. I am aware that men can also be victims.

© Copyright 2017 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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20 Responses to “Remembering Barb Larson one year after her murder via an act of domestic violence”

  1. Ruth Pitt Says:

    Very nice article Audrey and so true to have a plan. I have been thinking about Barb and her sisters the last few days.

  2. Valerie Says:

    Thank you for your reminder of Barb’s death a year ago. My heart goes out to her family too.

  3. Thank you for continuing to shine your light on domestic violence and its prevalence in our world. Perhaps with all the stories coming out about sexual harassment and assault, this, too, will become a front-and-center topic and change will happen. I certainly hope so.

  4. What a lovely tribute. so sad!

  5. ——-As always,
    thank you for your passionate, strong VOICE, Audrey.
    Telling our stories is part of the solution.

    One thing we much realize is that MEN must come forward to say “”””NO MORE NO MORE NO MORE!””””

    —Tomorrow, one of Barb’s children will be on my Facebook Page.

    xx from Duluth.

  6. Jackie Says:

    I remember your post a year ago, it still makes me sad to know that this dear woman lost her life because of someone else’s “mental illness” and inability to think beyond himself….. so so sad!!! I will never in my life be able to wrap my head around how someone is capable of these horrific acts. God bless those who are suffering and may HE give them the strength to break away from these toxic relationships.

  7. Vicki Matzke Says:

    Thank you for this beautiful tribute. Just this morning driving to work I was crying while I remembered receiving the call at work. Sending love to her sisters, sons and grandson’s this holiday season.

  8. Sheila Bossmann. Says:

    I drove by the Chamber that morning, saw the police tape and all the emergency vehicles, and immediately called a close friend of Barb’s and mine and asked, “Just how crazy is Dick these days?” My friend indicated that in talking to Barbie the day before, that Dick was not reacting well to the divorce or that Barbie had found a new love interest. Then she asked why I wanted to know. I told her of the scene at the Chamber and the rest is a very sad history. Miss you Barbie.

    • Dearest Sheila, I am sorry that you lost a dear friend in Barb. And I am sorry that you had to see the situation outside the Chamber, knowing in your gut that something bad had happened to Barb.

      I can’t speak specifically to Barb’s case. But, in general, an abuser feels he “owns” his victim. And if he can’t have her, no one will, sometimes leading to deadly results. If an abuser ever threatens suicide, the threat should be taken as seriously as a threat of murder. As I’ve written many times on this blog, the most dangerous times for a woman are when she leaves her abuser or shortly thereafter. It’s all about power and control and if the abuser loses control of his victim…

      In all of this, in Barb’s tragic death, I hope we can all rise, raise awareness, use our voices to make a difference and refuse to remain silent. We have that power.

  9. Sandra Says:

    Thank you for your beautiful words and photos once again Audrey.

  10. Such a heartbreaking story. I can’t believe it’s been a year already. Beautiful art work


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