EFR firefighter’s life celebrated
August 24, 2010
By Sebastian Moraga
Surely, Tom Stapleton would have appreciated it.
A man whom his friends say thrived on making you smile would have loved seeing his fellow firefighters smile during his life celebration Aug. 17.
A man whom his friends say loved helping others would have loved seeing firefighters help firefighters attend the ceremony at Pickering Farm.
Stapleton, a husband, father, cancer survivor and longtime Eastside Fire & Rescue firefighter EMT who worked at the Pine Lake station, died in his sleep Aug. 10. He was 52.
Seven days later, crews from around the area filled in for EFR crews so they could honor their comrade.
Firefighters from Duvall worked in Carnation; firefighters from Snoqualmie filled in at North Bend; firefighters from Fall City filled in at the EFR station on the Sammamish Plateau, and Mercer Island firefighters worked in Issaquah.
The city of Seattle provided the Seattle Firefighters’ Pipes and Drums; the city of Bellevue provided an honor guard to go along with Eastside Fire Pipes and Drums.
Volunteers from EFR replaced paid personnel.
All of the replacement crews received large pizzas from EFR.
“We purchased pizzas as a small token to say thanks for letting us spend time with Tom and his family,” said Greg Tryon, battalion chief for EFR.
Since their friend had not died in the line of duty, there was no parade of fire trucks on Gilman Boulevard on the way to the ceremony. Instead, the trucks wore a dark diagonal stripe on their logos and firefighters wore a black “shroud” across their badges.
Above the badges, most firefighters wore something else as they reminisced about Stapleton.
“To know Tom was to smile,” said Tryon, who knew Stapleton for 17 years.
Smiling was a way for the firefighters to get a handle on the death of a man who had received a clean bill of health just a few months ago.
Anecdotes about how some people likened Stapleton to Cosmo Kramer mixed with tales about him and a fellow firefighter wondering how to split a stick of string cheese.
“Me being a nice guy,” EFR firefighter Rick Scriven said in a speech, “I gave him one third of it.”
The crowd laughed.
On the next sentence, Scriven’s voice broke and he had to stop talking.
“We’d love to know why he’s not with us, but we don’t,” Tryon said, “and that’s equally hard.”
The celebration of life was an opportunity to reassure not just Stapleton’s family, but the families of other firefighters, too, said Jon Parkinson, a lieutenant with EFR who called Stapleton the best guy he had ever known.
“It’s a way to let other people in the department know that if something tragic happens to them, these very people will be behind you.”
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6424 ext. 221 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comment at www.issaquahpress.com.