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Bears players rallying to dead fan’s family

William Pettry Lake Villhis wife Karen. | Special Sun-Times Media

William Pettry of Lake Villa and his wife, Karen. | Special to Sun-Times Media

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Updated: December 12, 2012 1:58AM

Karen Pettry couldn’t climb out of bed every morning if not for her three children.

Pettry has been nearly catatonic since learning in the wee hours last Sunday that her husband, Chris, was murdered at an Irish-themed bar in Jacksonville, Fla., hours before his beloved Bears played the Jaguars.

“It’s shocking,” she said. “I feel like I’m going to wake up from this dream and it’s going to get back to normal. “But I can’t believe this is happening. My kids don’t have a daddy, and I don’t have a husband anymore. All because of him.”

‘‘Him’’ is Matthew Hinson, who confessed to the crime. He slashed Chris’ throat at Fionn MacCool’s at Jacksonville Landing, a short distance from the Hyatt Regency, where the Bears were staying.

While Karen doesn’t understand Hinson’s motive, her focus is on the welfare of her children, including how she’s going to pay the $1,500 mortgage on their Lake Villa home.

Chris, a general contractor, insisted his children “grow up with a mom instead of a baby sitter,” Karen recalled. Chris provided, working seven days a week, sometimes 20 hours a day, but they lived paycheck-to-paycheck.

Karen has been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support, from strangers donating $500 to Bears players — led by tight end Kellen Davis — setting up a fund-raiser tonight at John Barleycorn in Wrigleyville to raise money for the Pettry family. In addition, receiver Brandon Marshall and his wife, Michi, pledged their support to Karen.

“She was concerned about not having a job,” Marshall said. “I told her to take her time and get through this. Use the people around her. Use us to breathe and take the time she needs and be there for her children. Don’t worry about any of that because we got her.”

“I just thought it was such a senseless and just a terrible thing,” Davis said. “It was pretty much a no-brainer just helping out a fellow human being who is in distress.”

Karen and Chris met in 1993. Karen initially approached Chris, who was a bartender at Hidden Cove, a bar in Lincoln Square. She was drawn to his warm personality and his willingness to help his friends whenever they needed him.

They married and lived in Old Irving Park, but Chris wanted to move to the suburbs after the birth of their second child.

“We wanted a house with a white picket fence,” she said.

Karen had an office job at a bathroom and kitchen remodeling store, but Chris wanted her to stay home with their children.

“Roofing, flooring, you name anything that needed to be done in a house, and he could do it,” said Nick Viverito, one of Chris’ closest friends, who accompanied him to Jacksonville.

But Chris’ business was hit hard with the economic downturn, forcing him to work constantly to pay the family’s bills. Viverito had Bears season tickets and offered to take Chris often, but Chris always declined because of work.

Viverito insisted Chris join him on a road trip to Jacksonville. “He was so excited for the weekend to see the Bears,” Karen said.

Since that fatal Saturday, daughter Alexandra, 15, is quiet. Son Brandon, 13, “has his moments.” Jessica, who turns 6 in December, doesn’t grasp their reality.

“How come daddy isn’t coming home?” Karen recalled Jessica saying. “She still doesn’t understand.”

But Karen is encouraged by strangers who have offered her money and prayers. She’s overwhelmed that Bears players would reach out directly to her and insist on helping.

“It’s been very stressful for us,” she said, “but I can’t thank everyone enough for helping my family. I can’t believe it.”

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