The life of retired Pueblo Police Captain John Barger was honored at a place he spent much of his time, the Pueblo Airport. He service was held inside a hangar at the Weisbrod Aircraft Museum, which is just a few blocks down from a hangar he owned and worked in often.
An airplane that Barger built was showcased as family, friends, fellow officer and pilots shared memories, tears, and heavy hearts, mourning over the unexpected loss.
Loved ones say the 64-year-old died what he loved doing most; flying and helping law enforcement. He was killed along with Pueblo County Sheriff Office Captain Leide DeFusco after their plane crashed while on a surveillance air mission over mountains searching for illegal marijuana operations.
Those who spoke at his memorial service say that the retired officer and flying enthusiast was a man who commanded respect, but also someone who had an ornery sense of humor.
Fellow officers and fellow pilots shared the stories of how Barger would make them laugh with his unique personality and humor.
Many of his brothers and sisters in law enforcement say that Barger was "loyal" and "always had your back". They talked about his "obvious love for family" and how he would always be willing to volunteer his time to fly investigators around to help out law enforcement, whether it was to find a dead body or marijuana operations.
Barger retired as a Captain after 32 years of service, working at both the Canon City and Pueblo Police Departments. Fellow pilots say it was a natural transition as he stepped out of uniform and into the hangar.
Fellow pilot and good friend Clifford Hoyle says he co-owned the plane with Barger that the retired Captain crashed in.
"The thing that was most remarkable about John, was when he was in law enforcement, I'm sure he was a very strong, powerful person, but I knew a softer, gentler side. To me, John was my gentle giant," said Hoyle.
Hoyle described him as a man with a big heart, who was always giving, and always joking. He says they shared many adventures together, flying everywhere. He shared how they fly to the Florida Keys to check that off Barger's bucket list. And how they shared more memories by learning how to do acrobatic flying.
Hoyle says what he will miss the most is seeing him every day.
"Walking to lunch with hi, going flying with him, arguing with him about the best way to build an airplane," said Hoyle. "Every time I see an airplane I will say, there goes John."
Both fellow pilots and brothers and sisters in law enforcement spoke at the memorial, sharing many fond and funny memories of Barger.
Barger was described as having an "unquenchable thirst for knowledge," always eager to learn. Many, including Bureau Chief of Law Enforcement Charlene Graham shared stories about how if he didn't know something, he would study or teach himself until he understood it. He even created a computer program that police department used for 6 years.
Graham says he was "instrumental in building an investigation division that was second to none,". She added, "No one knew search and seizure like John Barger."
Detective Linda Galassini told the somber crowd that Barger "pushed me to be the best I could be and in the end it paid off," and that he "always lent an ear or shoulder to cry on."
Captain Richard Goddard who knew Barger for 35 years shared fond memories of John's competitive spirit. He says they would always go to breakfast together and talked about John's compassionate for animals. He also talked about Barger's ornery side. "To know I was John Barger's friend makes me proud."
Many described Barger as the "go to guy", saying, "you could count on him to help fix things."
Those who spoke talked about Barger's demeanor and how "what you saw was what you got."
One speaker said that "John was bigger than life" and that "they just don't make guys like John anymore."
IN the lengthy memorial many spoke about how he met the "Love of his life" Terri Garcia, and how they have never seen him so happy.
Barger is survived by the love of his life, Terri Garcia, his son, the children he raised, his sister, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.
In lieu of food and flowers, memorials may be made to PAWS, because Barger had a love for dogs.
This was the second time in a week Pueblo mourned a fallen hero.
Captain Leide DuFusco was memorialized in a service Friday.
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