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A firefighter to the end

Longtime Exeter firefighter loses battle with cancer


EXETER — Wayne Raymond had a passion for his profession.

The time of day when the call came in didn't matter. Neither did his age.

He was a firefighter to the end.

"He was a real fireman's fireman. He understood what it was to be a fireman," Exeter Fire Chief Brian Comeau said of his longtime friend and fellow firefighter who dedicated his life to helping others faced with personal tragedies.

A familiar face at fire at accident scenes in Exeter and beyond for more than five decades, Raymond died Nov. 9 after battling cancer.

He was 77.

Raymond, who lived his entire life in Exeter, was a firefighter in town for 50 years and spent the last five years as a firefighter in Brentwood. He remained active until this past summer when he underwent surgery.

He was a member of several fire service organizations and in 2010 was named "Firefighter of the Year" by the New Hampshire Police, Fire and EMS Foundation.

At the time of the award, Raymond was 74 and still responding to fires in Brentwood. He wasn't able to haul heavy hoses around at that age, so his job was to keep track of firefighters at a scene to make sure they were all accounted for.

"As the old saying goes, once firefighting is in your blood it's in your blood forever," he said in an interview after receiving the award.

Raymond began his career as a call firefighter at the Exeter Fire Department in 1958. He became a full-time Exeter firefighter five years later.

After 28 years working fulltime, Raymond returned to being a call captain, a position he held for nearly 17 years before retiring from Exeter in January 2008.

Just a few days after retiring, Raymond accepted a job as a call firefighter and safety officer in Brentwood, where his son, Gary, is the deputy chief.

"He would be the first one to jump up and help you. He just truly loved the job and being in the firehouse," said Brentwood Fire Chief Kevin Lemoine, who knew Raymond for more than 30 years.

While he had retired from Exeter, he was still a part of the department.

"Once a member of the fire department, you're always a member of the fire department," said Comeau, who has known Raymond since he joined the Exeter Fire Department in 1982.

Even in his older days, the veteran firefighter nicknamed "Hawkeye" still managed to get himself out of bed at all hours to respond to a call. He could even beat the younger firefighters to the scene.

Lemoine was always impressed when Raymond, in his mid-70s, would run out at 2 a.m. for a fire alarm activation or an accident.

"He was the kind of guy who was always the first at the scene," Comeau added.

Exeter Assistant Fire Chief Ken Berkenbush knew Raymond for 18 years.

"Out of all the people I've met, he was genuinely a nice man and he just enjoyed the fire service. He was always there. Even as he grew older and couldn't do the hard stuff, he still wanted to contribute so he tailored his duties to his abilities," Berkenbush said.

Mourners will pay their respects to Raymond Thursday and Friday. Visiting hours will be held at the Stockbridge Funeral Home, 141 Epping Road, Exeter, on Thursday from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m.A Mass of Christian burial will be held at St. Michael's Church on Friday at 11 a.m.

jschreiber@newstote.com

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