Growing up on West La Donna Drive in Tempe two houses from each other, Tempe police Detective Tim Barber and Sgt. Dan Peckham first became friends when they were 4 years old, riding bikes and skateboards and later playing golf and billiards.
It was a friendship that lasted all their lives until Barber's life ended at age 42 on Saturday morning after battling prostate cancer for slightly more than two years, two days after about 1,000 people attended a barbecue fundraiser to help with his mounting medical bills.
In fact, it was Peckham who encouraged Barber to join the Tempe Police Department about 10 years ago after Barber had worked for the former ABCO grocery store chain as a store director before joining the department and graduating from the police academy in November 2001.
Barber, who mostly investigated property crimes, believed he was going to beat the disease that wound up taking his life.
"He was always extremely positive," Peckham said. "He never gave up. He battled with everything he had and always believed he was going to beat his disease. The hope hinged on a lot of medication, but he never lost hope and his will to live."
"We spent every day together," Peckham added. "I was like another son to his mother. After his parents moved to Mesa when he was in the eighth grade, we still stayed in touch, and I spent a lot of time together. We built a closeness through our childhood and our friendship never died."
Peckham said Barber is survived by his wife, Autumn; his daughter Brittany; parents and Jim Barbara Barber of Camp Verde; sister, Liz, who both live in the Valley; and brother Ted.
Barber and Peckham were among about 1,000 people who attended the barbecue fundraiser "Bustin' Perps and Fighting Cancer" hosted by the Tempe Police Officers Association on Thursday at the Tempe Police Department's Apache Substation. The event benefitted Barber and helped with his mounting medical bills, and Barber's friends are putting on another push they hope will have a good showing: the Prostate On-site Project Walk on Sept. 24 at Tempe's Kiwanis Park. The walk will benefit and help offset the costs of those needing prostate screening, and many members of the Tempe Police Department as well as his family and friends will walk in Barber's memory for "Tim's Team."
During the POP Walk in 2009, more than 100 people walked on Tim's Team, including Barber himself, and this year, his team's organizers are looking to go far beyond that number.
The Prostate On-site Project is a nonprofit organization that has two mobile prostate screening units that travel throughout Arizona, making annual screenings easier to come to at workplaces, health fairs and community events and offset out-of-pocket screening costs for uninsured or underinsured men.
Members of Tim's Team will be wearing T-shirts with Barber's face on the back that says, "Bustin' Perps and Fighting Cancer."
Tempe police officer Greg Bacon, who worked with Barber for seven years and also walked in the POP Walk two years ago, said Barber would be anybody's hero because of the way he fought cancer.
"On Thursday, he was still cracking jokes," Bacon said of Barber. "We spent a lot of on-duty and off-duty time together and played on a lot of great golf courses throughout the state. He truly believed he was going to beat cancer. He never let it beat him."
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