Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The Procession

The memorial for Jeff Smith was Sunday, and began with a procession through the length of town. As I noted earlier on this blog, he was a member of the Willits/Little Lake Fire Department for 31 years, and was Chief for 22 of those years. An antique "steamer" pump wagon, provided by the California State Firefighters Association, led the way, followed by a stream of the department's trucks and personnel. Bringing up the rear was a pack of Smith's Harley-Davidson riding buddies. For more photos of the procession, click through here to my Overflow blog.

I like the quote in the Santa Rosa Press Democrat obituary, where a long-time colleague pointed out that Smith was "the closest thing to a celebrity we had in Willits." When I positioned myself to catch the action near the Willits Arch, I had no idea how moved I would be by the sight of the black cross, pulled by three draft horses. Then, even more, by the long line of silent, flashing fire trucks, knowing how respected he was by so many who knew him so long.

There were no California Highway Patrol officers anywhere to be seen. I believe they were busy looking the other way during this unconventional use of Highway 101. City police officers handled traffic control.

This will be a short series. More tomorrow.


Hilda said...

I don't even know him yet even I find this tribute heart-warming.

Changing the topic though…

Happy birthday, Elaine!
May you be blessed with love and joy, today and everyday of your life.

Laurie Allee said...

Elaine!? It's your birthday!? Oh happy day to you, beautiful soul and artistic genius. This image is so lovely -- and a lovely tribute post, too.

(Eat lots of cake, tear the wrapping paper, all that good birthday stuff!)

Halcyon said...

Now I understand why it was an emotional day. What a lovely tribute to a man who was obviously a pillar of your community. May he long be remembered!

PS: Happy birthday!

Petrea Burchard said...

This is indeed a moving tribute. It's really something when a community feels emotion for a person, and they come out to show it. I think back to MLK and JFK. This is a reminder on a small scale. People who don't know him feel that rush of the group's emotion.

I look forward to the series.

I know you're trying to be somber here, but I hope your birthday is anything but.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you Elaine.

Anonymous said...

Oh my -- Happy Birthday. Forgot what I was going to say now.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Elaine. I had a chance to interact with Jeff when I worked as a reporter for the Willits News. What everyone has said/written about him is true; a super nice guy, well respected by everyone who knew him and someone who will definitely be missed.

Ernie Branscomb said...

.... And Happy Birthday!!!

Pat said...

Hi, Elaine. Sorry to have been absent so long. I've enjoyed your previous postings that I've just run through, and this touching one too.

And Happy Birthday!! I too am an Aquarius---Feb. 2. Not too late to enjoy some cake I posted on that day.

USelaine said...

Hilda - Thank you.

Laurie - How I wish I were such things! Thank you.

Halcyon - He loved and cared for his community, and his community responded. Thank you.

P - It really did demonstrate the beauty and value of ritual for offering a group focus; a way to say, here, now, if you knew him, think of this loss, feel it together with others who understand it. Thank you.

Ernie - Thank you too. I know you understand. Jeff was the son of Perry Smith, if you remember him.

Abe - Thank you.

Eric - Thank you for commenting too. I also had some workplace interactions with him a number of years ago, and it was such a joy. He loved his work, loved to help, loved to share a smile and lighten hearts.

Ernie - Thank you.

Bibi - Thank you. It's good to be an Aquarius, isn't it? I think I had some of your cake, so I hope I remembered to comment!

Thank you all for sharing in this tribute, and for your good wishes.