A fitting tribute

Andrew Wagstaff
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River Hebert memorializes fallen firefighters

River Hebert Fire Chief George Rector unveils the community’s new monument for fallen firefighters during the department’s annual open house on Sept. 9. The new monument, located next to the fire hall, features a pump that was mounted on one of the department’s former trucks, and served the community for decades.

RIVER HEBERT For more than 20 years it sat on the front of the River Hebert Fire Department’s main pumper truck, and now it will be a permanent fixture as part of a new monument for the community’s fallen firefighters.

The monument was unveiled during the department’s annual open house on Sept. 9, after several months of work and planning. The project was carried out from concept to completion by the department’s chief, George Rector.

“I just thought it would be something different,” he said.

“That pump was in service from 1970 to 2008, and that covered this community for that length of time.”

When the municipality provided the department with a new pumper truck in 2008 and took the 1992 truck it had been using, the department removed the pump, and it had been sitting in a barn ever since, growing rusty with disuse.

Also deteriorating was the fallen firefighters monument that had ben in place at the fire hall for the past 40 years, and Rector decided it was time to replace it. He asked the other firefighters what they thought of using the old pump as part of a new monument, and received their go-ahead.

For the following three months, he worked on the project off and on out of his home garage, sandblasting, painting and getting it ready for its final resting place.

He credited paint specialist Peggy Stevens at Harrison’s for being of great assistance to him with the project.

The end product, which features license plates reading “River Hebert Fire Department” and “In memory of all fallen firefighters” on each side, is one the chief said he is quite satisfied with. Two new flagpoles were also donated for the site.

“I just wish I took a photo of it when I first took it out of the barn,” he said, noting that a before-and-after photo would have demonstrated how much work went into it.

It took 10 men to lift the pump, which weighs more than 1,000 lbs., off of its trailer and get it in place on its base, according to Rector.

A large crowd of community members and former firefighters was in attendance at the open house, which also included a barbecue and musical entertainment.

The day’s pouring rain stopped right on time for Rector to go outside and unveil the monument at 1:30 p.m., only to resume immediately after everyone went back inside the hall.

“They knew who was in charge,” he joked.

Organizations: River Hebert Fire Department

Geographic location: River Hebert

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