Longtime Exeter firefighter remembered as 'all around nice guy'
EXETER - Wearing his blue dress uniform, Newfields Firefighter Lucas Raymond carried the helmet worn by his grandfather, Wayne C. Raymond.
A fourth generation firefighter, the younger Raymond will also carry on the legacy of his grandfather, who served 50 years as a firefighter in Exeter and another five in Brentwood.
Nearly 300 mourners attended a memorial service Friday at St. Michael Church to bid farewell to Wayne Raymond, a firefighter who dedicated his life to helping his community.
He inspired generations of firefighters, including his grandson, Lucas.
"My grandfather truly loved firefighting. It was his passion and calling in life. His great nature and compassion for helping others motivated me to also become a firefighter. I'm honored to be his grandson and to have the honor to carry his helmet," he said.
Dozens of firefighters from Exeter and other towns lined up outside of the church for a final salute as his flag-draped casket was carried from the church and loaded into the back of old Exeter fire truck that led a march down Front Street to the cemetery.
Spectators stopped along the sidewalk to admire the processional held for a man who never let his age stop him from doing the job he loved.
When he retired from Exeter in 2008, Raymond waited only a few days before joining the Brentwood Fire Department as a safety officer, a job that required him to keep track of the firefighters at a fire scene. It wasn't a position that existed when he became a firefighter 55 years ago.
"Now it's become one of the most important positions in the department, to know where their men are," said his son, Gary Raymond, who followed in his father's footsteps and is Brentwood's deputy fire chief.
The 77-year-old Raymond was still active until this past summer when his battle with cancer forced him to take a break. He lost his fight on Nov. 9.
Gary Raymond described his father as a loving family man who had two families: the one at home and the other one at the firehouse.
"For him, it was more than a job. It was a way of life," said the Rev. Mark Montminy.Raymond was a father of three who was married to his wife, Theresa, for 56 years.He joined the Exeter Fire Department in 1958 as a call firefighter and went to fulltime five years later.
"He worked 72 hours a week for, yes, $78 a week," his son said.
When he began his career in Exeter, Raymond was responsible for both firefighting and dispatching.
His desk time gave him reading time, his son said, and he became known as the "unofficial proofreader" of the newspaper. He always kept his eye out for spelling errors and other mistakes.
His love for the newspaper, even with the errors, is something others recalled as well.
"One of his habits was he would read a newspaper from cover to cover every day and he knew exactly what was going on," said Bill Toland, a former Exeter fire chief who worked with Raymond for more than two decades.
Toland, 71, described Raymond as an "all around nice guy.
"The thing I liked about Wayne was he didn't complain a lot on the job. He never seemed to be down. He was always upbeat. Even the weather didn't bother him," said the 71-year-old Toland, who later moved on to the state fire marshal's office.
Those who knew Raymond said he likely would have continued his career in fire service for many more years if the cancer had not struck.
In fact, in an interview with the New Hampshire Union Leader after he earned a "Firefighter of the Year" award in 2010, Raymond insisted that he had no plans to retire.
"I'm going to do it as long as I feel well enough to do it," he said at the time.
In addition to his more than five decades on the two fire departments, he also served on many fire service organizations, including 15 years on the executive board for the New Hampshire State Firemen's Association and 50 years on the Interstate Emergency Unit where he was the current vice president.
"He didn't just join to join," Toland said. "He always wanted to do something."