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Thomas A. Barnett

West Greenwich, R.I.

Thomas Barnett was known for putting others first and his family says he was doing just that, helping people to safety, after the fire broke out at The Station last Thursday night.

Barnett, 38, was near an exit with Jason Morton, his best friend, family members said.

"He's the kind of guy who would have gone back for a dog or a cat," said his sister, Gerry Childers. "He was so big-hearted. Full of sparkle. Full of life."

Childers said that her younger brother, who was the baby in his close-knit family, was an avid music fan. But Barnett, who was self-employed in the concrete construction industry, was not a big fan of Great White and probably would not have been at the club had he not gotten free tickets.

As Barnett's relatives arrived from as far away as Hawaii to mourn him, his mother, Romelle, recalled her youngest son's penchant for playing tricks and clowning for family photos. Romelle Barnett couldn't help thinking back to the last family gathering, on Valentine's Day, to celebrate her husband's birthday. She had no way of knowing her son would be gone less than a week later.

"We always felt he was a gift to us and he's going to be missed for the rest of our lives," she said.