By Doris E Rufli
On Oct. 1, 1982, Robert (Bob) Richard Felker signed up as a volunteer firefighter with the Forest Grove Fire Department.
Exactly 34 years later, on Oct. 1, 2016, he was remembered by colleagues, family, friends and members of the community after losing his courageous fight with cancer on Sept. 13.
Fire trucks from Forest Grove, 100 Mile House, 108 Mile Ranch, 150 Mile House, Deka Lake, Greeny Lake, Hawkins Lake, Lac La Hache, Lone Butte and Wildwood, an ambulance as well as search and rescue vehicles left 100 Mile House at 1 p.m., travelling along Canim Hendrix Lake Road to the Forest Grove Fire Hall via Canim Lake.
Along the way, people watched the convoy go by and silently paid their respects to a man many had known and admired.
At 1:45 p.m. firefighters (including former members now residing in Mission), emergency personnel, family and close friends marched behind colour party carrying one Canadian, one British Columbian and one Cariboo Regional District flag from fire hall 1 to the community hall.
Piper Glen Esdale headed the procession with Fire Engine 11 bringing up the rear.
Norm Wilcox acted as master of ceremonies and started the service with a heartfelt eulogy.
He recounted many stories and spoke fondly of his friend of 45 years – describing him as a lifelong outdoorsman and brilliant technician.
“Bob was a good and very down-to-earth man who loved life, his family and helping others.”
Bruce Wilcox directed his thoughts towards Bob’s love for music and accumulation of an impressive collection of tunes.
He also recalled singing around the campfire and proceeded to perform Peaceful Easy Feeling by the Eagles to everyone’s great delight.
Crissy Felker opened with the heart-rending words: “My father touched many lives. He was my hero and he will live on in my heart.”
She thanked everybody from near and far for taking the time to attend the ceremony. Crissy also put together an impressive and touching slide show – her father’s life in pictures.
Deputy fire chief Ron Lister talked about Bob’s determination of building the Forest Grove Fire Hall and his insistence that all fire trucks had to be red.
His favourite recollection was Bob introducing the Twelve Days of Christmas at Forest Grove Elementary School.
Ron concluded that the former fire chief’s most important concept was his foresight to look 20 years ahead rather than five years, and then he declared that the Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department will continue to honour this vision.
Cariboo Regional District (CRD) Protective Services manager Rowena Bastien said she admired Bob’s passion and dedication.
“He was an all or nothing guy. He mentored everybody in the fire department and they are ready to continue his legacy.
CRD Area H Director Margo Wagner first read out an accolade from CRD chair Al Richmond, stating that volunteers like Bob were a rarity. He also commended the former fire chief’s service and devotion to both the fire department and the community.
Added Margo, who is the regional instructor for first responders: “What Bob did not know about fires is not worth knowing. The Forest Grove Volunteer Fire Department will move forward following Bob’s integrity and leadership.”
In the wake of the various speakers and the slide show, piper Glen Esdale played a final song and Bruce Wilcox closed with a prayer before the “Last Call for a Fallen Firefighter” announcement.
They spoke highly of their former comrade, his volunteering for 34 years in Forest Grove, 32 of which as fire chief and declaring that he will be missed. Many people reached for the tissue box.
Upon completion of the formal part of the service, all in attendance were invited to remain and enjoy the offerings provided by the Ladies Auxiliary and helpers. They once again outdid themselves catering for this event, providing a variety of sandwiches, cheese platters and meat cuts as well as delicious deserts, tea, coffee and juice.