Gloversville pays tribute to former fire chief

GLOVERSVILLE – The sound of bagpipes filled the morning air as hundreds of friends, family and fire service members paid tribute to former city Fire Chief Doug Edwards on Friday.

A funeral service took place at the Foothills United Methodist Church. After the service, Edwards’ casket was loaded onto fire engine 512, which led a procession to the Union Rural Cemetery in Mayfield.

Edwards, who was city fire chief from 2007 to 2010 before retiring because of illness, died Sunday from severe injuries he suffered April 25 in a motorcycle accident on Spring Street.

During the service, people close to Edwards spoke about his life.

“During the last four years of his life, there was a storm,” his sister Marcia St. Clair said during the service. “But he taught us all to dance in the rain.”

Edwards was diagnosed with stage four glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer, in March 2010.

Current Fire Chief Beth Whitman-Putnam spoke about how Edwards would always have fresh flowers on his desk and would often be asked what purpose they served.

“He would tell them that the flowers are there to remind him that life is short and you have to take the time to smell the flowers,” Whitman-Putnam said.

In honor of the former chief, Whitman-Putnam said, the department is wearing black bands over their badges and draped a black shroud over the firehouse doors.

Also during the service, Edwards’ son, Matthew, was presented with his father’s fire helmet from a representative of the Mayfield Volunteer Fire Department.

After the services, the procession made its way through the city and passed by the city Fire Department, where a flag was hung from a ladder truck and a silver bell was rung as Edwards made his final pass by the firehouse.

Edwards became a firefighter for the Gloversville Fire Department in 1982 and became chief of the department in 2007 before retiring in 2010, completing 28 years of service.

“No matter what I do, I am always looking forward and pushing forward,” Edwards previously said when talking about his life while fighting cancer. “I don’t go do things just to occupy myself. I go out and do things I love and enjoy doing.”

One of those things he said he enjoyed – other than spending time with family – was taking care of local horses.

One horse in particular, a young percheron named Buster, didn’t listen and didn’t like to be touched when Edwards first started, but over time, the horse developed a trusting relationship with Edwards.

Whether it was helping a troubled horse or the residents of the city, Edwards always had a positive effect on those he encountered, people who knew him said.

“The fire service was his life,” Whitman-Putnam said. “[Edwards] was a man dedicated to the city of Gloversville.”

Police Chief Donald VanDeusen said the investigation into the accident is ongoing, and no charges have been filed.

He said police are still awaiting a report from the accident reconstruction team.

The pastors leading Friday’s services were the Rev. Ed Hackett Jr. of the Foothills United Methodist Church and the Rev. Chris Hamm, fire chaplain.