A former Bellevue couple known for their devotion to children and their faith were among those killed Sunday in the massacre at a Texas church.
Shani and Bob Corrigan expressed much of that commitment in their former church here, Chandler Acres Baptist Church, where Bob Corrigan worked as the music minister. He was also a chief master sergeant at Offutt Air Force Base before retiring from the Air Force a few years ago.
They were involved in vacation Bible school, mission work and with worship services, said the church’s pastor, the Rev. Dan Wills Sr.
“They worked tirelessly with the children,” he said. “They were the genuine Christian man and woman. They not only said they were, they lived it. There was no denying. They walked the walk. … And they loved people.”
The Corrigans were among the 26 slain Sunday morning at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, when a gunman identified by officials as Devin Patrick Kelley opened fire on the worshippers.
The attack also killed eight members of one extended family, a couple visiting for the first time, the pastor’s teenage daughter and other churchgoers. Investigators said the victims ranged in age from 18 months to 77 years old.
The Corrigans, who had been high school sweethearts in Michigan, were gifted musically, Wills said. Bob wrote his own music and played the guitar; Shani was a skilled vocalist.
“Anything she sang, she sang well,” he said.
Wills recalled an anecdote that exemplified the Corrigans. During vacation Bible school one year they purchased two bicycles, one for a girl and one for a boy, to give away. The boy and girl who brought the most guests to vacation Bible school got a new bike.
“That was from them, not from the church,” Wills said.
The couple were members of the church for about three years earlier this decade, before they moved to Texas.
Bob Corrigan served at Offutt from October 2012 until September 2015, said Delanie Stafford, a base spokesman. Before he retired, he was the superintendent of the 55th Medical Group, serving as the senior enlisted adviser at Offutt’s Ehrling Bergquist Clinic.
The Detroit Free Press reported Monday that the couple had three adult sons, one of whom, Forrest Corrigan, died by suicide not quite a year ago. His funeral was held at the Sutherland Springs church.
Their two other sons are on active duty in the military, the Free Press reported. A memorial vigil was to be held Monday night for them at Veterans Freedom Park in Harrison, Michigan, where the couple graduated from high school in 1985.
When Wills saw the news of the massacre Sunday afternoon, he recognized it as the Corrigans’ church. He pulled them up on his phone’s contact list.
“I tried calling both of them and neither answered,” he said. “Later on we found out the reason why.”
John Holcombe, another parishioner at Sunday’s service in Sutherland Springs, was expecting a small miracle: His wife, a mother of five, was pregnant with their first child. But the following morning, his family would bear an unspeakable burden: nearly a third of the fatalities of the shooting.
The massacre spared Holcombe’s life, but not the lives of his wife, three of her children, his parents, a brother and a toddler niece.
Holcombe and his 36-year-old wife, Crystal, had recently married, said Julius Kepper, who lives about two blocks from the church.
“She was starting her life all over again,” he said. “That’s a crying shame.”
Another victim was the pastor’s 14-year-old daughter, Annabelle Pomeroy. Her parents were both out of town during the shootings. Another young victim was 16-year-old Hailey Krueger, the church and family members confirmed on social media.
The grandmother of suspect Kelley’s wife, 71-year-old Lula Woicinski White, was attending the service and also died in the shooting, according to family members. Her stated occupation on Facebook: doing whatever was needed at the church.
Karen and Scott Marshall had recently retired to Texas from Pennsylvania and were visiting the church for the first time when they were killed, Scott’s father, Robert Marshall, told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.
On Sunday, Michael Ward rushed to the church after he was abruptly awakened by his wife, Leslie, when she heard gunfire from that direction as she set up a yard sale. Ward told the Dallas Morning News that he found and carried out of the church his 5-year-old nephew, Ryland, who had four gunshot wounds.
The boy was flown to a hospital in nearby San Antonio; the child’s mother and two of his sisters were killed. On Monday, the yard sale was still set up, with clothes laid out or hanging on plastic racks, along with kitchen items. No one was there.
World-Herald staff writer Steve Liewer contributed to this report, which also includes material from the Associated Press.