A retired Gallatin Fire Department captain is one of Sumner County’s first casualties in the fight against the fatal respiratory disease COVID-19. The disease is caused by a highly contagious coronavirus that has left nearly every corner of the world untouched.
A small percentage of Tennessee’s more than 1,800 confirmed COVID-19 cases have required hospitalizations. Even fewer have resulted in death.
However, health care professionals have warned that the elderly and those with underlying health conditions are particularly vulnerable.
After an employee at the Gallatin Center for Rehabilitation and Healing tested positive for the virus last week, more than 100 residents of the facility were transported to Sumner Regional Medical Center over a four-day period March 26-29.
Two of those patients, 80-year-old Homer Barr of Gallatin and 89-year-old Clara Ruth George Summers of New Deal, both died over the weekend.
Barr, a Gallatin native, first started working as a firefighter in 1978 and retired as a captain in 2004.
“He moved up in the ranks to become a captain,” said Deneen Barr, one Barr’s four children. “He was a hard worker who made sure we all got what we needed.”
A stern but loving father, Barr loved to hunt, fish and talk on his CB radio, Deneen recalled.
Deneen said she learned on Friday night that her dad had been taken to Sumner Regional Medical Center. After waiting all night for a phone call from either the nursing home or the hospital, she says a doctor called her at 8 a.m. on Saturday to notify her that her father had died.
“He said he came in last night and he was struggling to breathe,” she recalled. “He was nice enough to sit with me on the phone until I got myself together.”
The daughter says she still has many unanswered questions about her father’s death.
“I’d like to know how long had he been sick, what time did he die, and I want to know that they tried to help him,” she said. “I’m just really going to miss him.”
Gallatin Fire Department Assistant Chief Robert Richie said he has fond memories of working with Barr.
“Captain Barr was my officer when I began my career in 1993,” Richie said. “One thing that always stood out with him was he was always concerned about his firefighters’ safety - and I’m grateful to him for that.”
Mayor Paige Brown extended her condolences Barr’s family and friends.
“Captain Barr is spoken of with such high regard,” Brown said. “It is obvious that he was loved and that he was a wonderful influence on many firefighters. I am so very sorry for the family.”
A member of Summers’ family confirmed to the Gallatin News that she died Sunday at Sumner Regional Medical Center as a result of COVID-19, but declined to comment further.