At 30 years old, Brett Korves seemed to have it all. A 10-year firefighter at the Swansea Fire Department in Swansea, Illinois, he shared a two-year old son named Brock with his wife Alex.
Sadly, while on his way to work on April 4, 2019, his life was cut short by a driver speeding at 94 miles per hour. Nine months after, he was honored in a touching photo shoot by his newborn baby girl, whom he never even knew about.
“We had our son, we had our house, we were doing everything the right way,” Alex said. “It will be hard for [our family] the rest of our lives.” Faced with the prospect of raising a family on her own, she discovered an even bigger challenge two weeks after Brett’s tragic death – Alex found out that she was pregnant.
Grieving and already in shock, Alex recalled having mixed feelings about the birth. She said, “At first, I’m not going to lie. I was freaking out. I was very excited to have just one more piece of Brett, but I was also very nervous to do this by myself.” Born on December 12, 2019, Alex paid tribute to her late husband and named their newborn baby girl Brett Grace Korves.
To honor him even further, Brett’s siblings, Todd Korves and Kayla Bishop, established a foundation in his name called Brett’s First Responders. The organization aims to help families of first responders who, like Brett, were not injured in the line of duty. The group also offers scholarship programs for community members interested in becoming firefighters.
The siblings stated, “Our brother was very involved in many things and would help any person out at the drop of a hat. We want to carry on his legacy by helping out others in our community.” Todd Korves added, “I guarantee the first thing Brett would have said was ‘Let’s get back to work.’ And that’s what we want to do to keep him alive as much as we can.”
Father and daughter’s heartbreaking story went around the community, and upon hearing about it, local photographer and Sugarfoot Photography owner Samantha Kallal offered to do a free photo shoot with the newborn baby girl.
She said, “I wanted to do anything I could to help them. I specialize in newborns and it felt like the way I could do something for her. The [Swansea Fire Department] is right by my studio, so I would drive by it on the way to work and think about it. I just wanted to reach out.”
When Alex agreed, the pair decided to hold the photo shoot at Swansea Firehouse, since Brett was a third-generation firefighter and was devoted to the department. Brett’s colleagues, as well as his father, fire department lieutenant Jack Korves, were also invited to participate in the photo shoot.
“We expected two or three guys to show up, and then we would just take a couple of quick pictures before going to my studio,” Kallal said.
Instead, more than 20 of Brett’s colleagues arrived to take photos with little Brett Grace. With her grandfather in the pictures, the photo shoot turned into a sweet and emotional session with the newborn baby girl. “We showed up and 26 of them were there, smiling and ready to go. I figured we were onto something special.”
After the shoot, Kallal lauded Alex for her “tremendous strength” in the wake of her husband’s passing. She also thanked the Swansea Fire Department and its chief, Chris Tell, for their support of the Korves family.
The photos of little Brett Grace – asleep on her late firefighter father’s jacket, held by her big brother while sitting on the back of a firetruck, and lovingly cradled in his grandfather’s arms while surrounded by her dad’s colleagues – are a heartfelt tribute to her father Brett.
The beautiful photos also capture the strong support system that Brett Grace and her brother Brock will continue to have even as they grow up without their dad. Alex said, “I just want Brett Grace to realize that even though her father has passed, she has all this outpouring support from all these men, too.”