Kari Firlik was a proud military wife, a devoted mother of three and an outgoing artist who found a way to teach painting classes wherever her family was stationed.
Firlik, 35, was killed Saturday in a double shooting along with her husband, Tech. Sgt. Zachary Firlik, at their home in the Rising View subdivision near Offutt Air Force Base. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is leading the investigation but hasn’t yet commented on the circumstances of their deaths.
Family and friends are struggling to come to grips with the sudden loss. Shannon Picha, an organizer of a fundraiser for Kari Firlik’s children, said her family thought of the two as loving parents with no known history of domestic violence.
“I was unaware of any signs this incident was coming,” Jerry McManigal, Kari Firlik’s father, wrote in a message to The World-Herald.
Zachary Firlik was an assistant flight chief in the 55th Security Forces Squadron at Offutt. He had served in the Air Force since June 2002 and arrived at Offutt in April. His Facebook page says he is originally from Sacramento, California. His family could not be reached for comment.
McManigal said the couple had been married for seven years. They have a daughter, Faith, 5, and Kari has two other children, Jaden, 17, and Grace, 12.
“My grandchildren are safe and in good hands surrounded by loving family,” he said.
Kari had a big heart and bragged about her military husband, her father said. McManigal described Zachary Firlik as quiet but said he was proud to be a member of the Air Force and took his job seriously.
Previous duty postings include Eielson Air Force, Alaska; Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada; and Travis Air Force Base, California, according to public records. McManigal said the social Kari liked to connect with other military spouses.
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Last year at Travis Air Force Base, McManigal said Kari Firlik was involved in a car accident that left her recovering from a broken back. Family members pushed for Zachary Firlik to get transferred to Offutt so she’d be closer to them.
“She was a very intelligent, artistic, hardworking, extroverted young woman,” McManigal wrote. “Her smile would brighten a room and her enthusiasm was contagious.”
Father and daughter were close. While studying for a bachelor’s degree in cybersecurity, Kari Firlik handled insurance at her father’s dental office in Omaha. Another office gave them a plastic pumpkin to decorate for a contest, and Kari went all out, he said, posting updates on the office’s Facebook page of her progress painting a spooky pumpkin featuring Jack Skellington from “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
A Facebook page showed off her art, including paintings of elephants and home décor projects.
“Kari Firlik has been painting since she was 10 years old; when her Dad gave her a set of oil paints and some canvas,” she wrote in a post from 2018. “She loved the process of creating something out of nothing using tools around her.”
A viewing for Kari Firlik is scheduled for Friday from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Hoy Kilnoski Funeral Home, 1221 N. 16th St. in Council Bluffs. The funeral will follow on Saturday at 10 a.m. at Hoy Kilnoski, with a graveside service at Holy Cross Cemetery, 700 Jackson St. in Blair.
In addition to her children and father , Kari Firlik is survived by her mother, Kelly Bock ; siblings Tasha Lighter , Kathrine Conger , Joshua Fattig, Katelyn Holthus , Sara Bock, Matthew McManigal and Patrick McManigal; and grandparents Herk and Beverly Ranney. She was preceded in death by her brother Jerry R. McManigal.
Funeral arrangements for Zachary Firlik are not known at this time.
World-Herald staff writer Steve Liewer contributed to this report.
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