Everything changed for Chris Burd on Nov. 10, 2009.
Waking around 2 a.m., she realized her husband, Rich, still wasn't home from their Indianapolis Ford dealership. She raced to the store two miles away, crying, worried that he had suffered a heart attack. With no response from her husband and without keys to the dealership, Chris called the police.
They arrived to discover that Rich Burd, 43, had committed suicide by asphyxiation.
"It was a sucker punch," Chris Burd said.
A year later, Chris and her children are still recovering from that blow. But they're making progress. She has taken over the dealership, slashed costs and led the store back to profitability.
Chris also has become an advocate for mental health organizations, speaking out on suicide prevention in hopes that sharing her family's story may help others avoid a similar tragedy.
Before Rich's suicide, Chris knew he was stressed. Burd Ford, the dealership they had owned since 1999 and Rich's dream, had been losing money for 18 months. Their personal savings of $1.2 million had dwindled to nothing. The business was burdened with debt resulting from a December 2006 move to a new $8.2 million dealership in a better location -- just before the market began to weaken.
But Chris never imagined suicide was going through Rich's mind. They had shot a TV commercial the day before and brainstormed ways to shore up cash flow until the economy recovered.
"I really thought we were going to do this together," Chris, 41, said of her high school sweetheart and husband of 22 years.
The pair met as children after Chris' mom, a teacher, had Rich in one of her classes. They married as soon as Chris graduated from high school. She was 18; Rich was 20. The first of their four children was born a few years later while Chris was still attending Butler University in Indianapolis.
Rich worked for a wholesale auto business and operated a used-car store, both owned by his father. Chris ran her own advertising agency. By 1999, the Burds had saved enough to buy the Ford store.