Family, friends and the local law enforcement community will honor the life and selfless service of retired Schaumburg police sergeant and former FBI agent Charles Barr at a memorial visitation Saturday, Aug. 3.
Not only did Barr, 70, have a distinguished career of dedicated service to law enforcement in the Northwest suburbs and nationally, he was an organ and tissue donor who benefited 20 people after he died from pneumonia on July 9.
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"Even in death, he was continuing to give to people," his widow Cheryl said.
After graduating from the police academy in the late 1960s, he worked for the Mount Prospect and then Schaumburg police departments before becoming a special agent in the FBI's Chicago office for several years in the 1970s, Cheryl Barr said.
Out of a desire not to be transferred to New York, Barr sought a return to the Schaumburg Police Department but first spent a year in Woodstock while waiting for an opening, which came in 1977.
Barr was pleased to use his FBI training on many big cases in Schaumburg over the next 22 years, including several homicides and an auto-theft ring. He knew that staying with the more rural Woodstock department would not have afforded him the same opportunities in the 1970s, his wife said.
"Knowing him, he was an adrenaline junkie," she said.
As much as she heard about his Schaumburg cases, her husband was never able to talk about his work for the FBI, Cheryl Barr said. Even among family and close friends, decades after the fact, he never broke his oath not to discuss his work there.
He remained with Schaumburg through the rest of his career, reaching the rank of sergeant before his retirement in 1999 at age 55.
At the time, Cheryl Barr said, her job was requiring her to travel more so Charles happily became "Mr. Mom" to their then 11-year-old son.
His police work benefited from his large and imposing presence, Cheryl Barr said. Other officers would sometimes enlist his help in persuading unruly arrestees to behave. In fact, he had to consciously drop his "sergeant" voice before returning home to their young son, she added.
But his fellow officers knew him as a warm, generous colleague.
"He was a very nice, friendly guy," Schaumburg police Sgt. John Nebl said. "He always had a smile and a good sense of humor. He was the type of guy that you always had a comfortable feeling when Sgt. Barr was working. He had the type of personality and demeanor that everything was under control and everything was going to be OK."
Though retired from the force for 14 years, Charles Barr shared current Schaumburg officers' dismay at the damage done to the department's reputation by three undercover officers' arrests in January on charges of dealing drugs they had seized, his wife said.
He had worked to help the department attain its first accreditation in the 1980s, she added, and was devastated by this year's turn of events.
"It was really hard for him," Cheryl Barr said. "He took it so personally. The department had such a stellar reputation."
Outside of work, Barr was an avid model train builder, a motorcyclist and a voracious reader who loved camping and fishing at Eagle River, Wis.
Through private security work and other endeavors he met many famous people including former President George H.W. Bush, former Sen. Everett Dirksen, Jimmy Durante, Nat King Cole and Barry Manilow.
Though Barr had been ill and occasionally hospitalized during the past 10 years, his death this month was relatively unexpected, his wife said.
His memorial visitation will be at 9 a.m. Saturday at St. Marcelline Church, 822 S. Springinsguth Road in Schaumburg and last until Mass at 10 a.m. Police honor guards will participate.
The family is asking that in lieu of flowers, memorial donations be made directly to them who will distribute them among Charles' favorite charities.
• Daily Herald staff writer Melissa Silverberg contributed to this report.