OXFORD, Maine — For the second time in as many weeks, Maine's firefighting community is saying goodbye to one of their own.
It was less than one week ago when firefighters from all over the state came out to the funeral services of Capt. Joel Barnes. It was during those services when Oxford Fire Chief, Gary Sacco, fell ill. The 63-year-old was rushed to a nearby hospital where he died.
“To lose one of our own is difficult and to lose the leader of your organization is that much more difficult,” said Shawn Cordwell, Deputy Fire Chief of the Oxford Fire Department. “We were constantly trying to improve our science and improve our job for the safety of the membership as well as our citizens.”
Funeral services were held Saturday, March 16, for Chief Sacco at the Oxford Hills Comprehensive High School in South Paris.
Before becoming the chief of the Oxford Fire Department, Sacco once served as chief for the New Gloucester Fire Department and also represented the Poland Fire Department.
His colleagues say he'll be remembered for his dedication to his community. They say he was a friend to all he worked with and pushed them to be better.
When the time was appropriate though, he loved a good laugh. That's something Mark Bosse, the Assistant Chief of Poland's Fire Department recalled in an emotional tribute.
"Back in October, Gary enjoyed a chance to roast me at my retirement party," he said. "In that speech, one that I will never forget, he asked me to find the time to take a ride with him to finish some past business. That last ride ended up being Sunday March 10th around 10:30 in the back of an ambulance."
According to his obituary, he was very passionate about firefighting and helping people. Firefighting was a "true calling for him."
Sacco was a member of the Italian Heritage Center in Portland, the Maine Fire Chiefs Association, the International Association of Fire Chiefs, Coastal Mutual Aid, and he worked as an instructor for the Maine Fire Service Institute.
Chief Sacco is survived by his wife Sandi, children, stepchildren and grandchildren.
“You treated us especially my mother, Sandi, with respect, care, and dignity," said Toby Lebel, Chief Sacco’s stepson. "I’ve never seen my mother so happy and I know damn well you were too.”