A-21 Is 10-7

Some of you may not find this interesting…it will be like reading my diary…a look out my window…and inside my heart.

This past weekend, I drove to Warren, NJ to help my father bury his best friend, Ken Reagan.

Dad & Ken (already blind) out for their Saturday morning coffee at Panera's.  (Nov. 2008)

Dad & Ken (already blind) out for their Saturday morning coffee at Panera’s. (Nov. 2008)

Friends since 1972, there probably has not been more than a week that they have been apart in all those years. They have spent the good times, bad times and knew each other better than their wives did.

I cannot begin to comprehend the depth of their friendship…and the gallons of Scotch they drank together during all those years.

No one could remember when this was taken, but my guess was during the 1970's

No one could remember when this was taken, but my guess was during the 1970’s

We can draw a conclusion that while Ken had been sick for several years, he declined quickly over the past few months and although some may call it a coincidence, Ken waited for my dad to come and visit and he died while my dad was joking with him.

The department honored their former chief...look how much smaller that old engine is...it seemed so big when I was riding on it back when I started on the Department.

The department honored their former chief…look how much smaller that old engine is…it seemed so big when I was riding on it back when I started on the Department.

Ken had been a fire chief of one of the four, volunteer fire companies in our community. At a reception after the visitation on Sunday afternoon, the current fire chief presented Mrs. Reagan (who was my school bus driver during elementary school) with Ken’s name badge, indicating that he began his service in 1956…four years before I was born. His radio identifier as chief was “A-21”. The reference to 10-7 is radio code for being out of service and is used as an honor to firefighters and police officers…it is part of the ritual of blue and red stripes.

Doris wore this proudly on her jackets after it was presented to her.

Doris wore this proudly on her jackets after it was presented to her.

The fire department came out and brought several engines to the funeral home…including the retired engine that was in service when Ken was chief.

I enjoyed getting to see many people who were part of my former life…we shared many stories.

Jim McAleer (L) and Dennis Ryan playing  as the casket is moved into the mausoleum. Jim knew Ken longer than I did and I know he lost a piece of his past last week also.

Jim McAleer (L) and Dennis Ryan playing as the casket is moved into the mausoleum. Jim knew Ken longer than I did and I know he lost a piece of his past last week also.

The weather threatened, but acquiesced….snow showers that changed to rain was a welcome error from the predicted 4-6” of snow.

The funeral Mass was celebrated by Fr. Sean who had also grown fond of Ken over the two years, (Irishmen are like black labs…they always get along, it seems)

We took our friend to his final place of rest and his (and Doris’s) mausoleum crypt is just a few feet away from my parent’s…and there are three other couples that they know that are (or will be) on the same wall.

It was a good thing that there was no crime in Warren that afternoon as the on-duty officers were escorting the procession and blocking intersections. One of the original, Warren Police Officers, Retired Sgt. Jim McAleer, (himself a lifelong, volunteer fireman and a former Auxillary Police officer) and Retired Police officer and current paramedic, Dennis Ryan honored Ken with their bagpipes.

Two sailors came, played taps and presented an American Flag to Doris, “On Behalf of a Grateful Nation”

The men of Ken's old firehouse brought the engines down and parked them in front of the funeral home on Sunday afternoon...nice touch.

The men of Ken’s old firehouse brought the engines down and parked them in front of the funeral home on Sunday afternoon…nice touch.

Lastly, the fire pagers went off and the dispatcher acknowledged Chief Reagan’s service and advised he was “out of service”

And so it ended….If I ever grow up, I wouldn’t mind growing up to be a man like Ken.

***********

Before I left for NJ, I posted a brief story, entitled, A Difficult Task, Indeed. Dad asked me to write the eulogy he had to give…I was scared and at a rare loss for words.

Well, I wrote it in twenty minutes (Thank you, Holy Spirit) and dad delivered it flawlessly, only adding one phrase…a reference to Scotch. A couple of you asked to see it, so I decided to post it here. Will it go down as one of history’s greatest speeches? Absolutely not, but it will remind us of the meaning of real, genuine friendship. (Note: I am copying it as I wrote it… using the “…” to indicate pauses for him as he was reading)

Jesus Wept.

This is the shortest sentence in the Bible.

Today, we weep for our husband, father, grandfather, colleague and friend.

As we gather here today…. the Church is preparing to Celebrate the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus…His dying on the cross for our sins and his rising from the dead…. so that we may inherit the Kingdom of God….Heaven…. Ken received the sacraments and was ready to stand before his God.

That is our hope for Ken…. and I ask you all to pray for his soul… so that he will one day be in the presence of God and that his blindness will be cured …..and he will see his loving, heavenly Father

It is next to impossible to stand here and in a few short minutes… talk about the man who has been my closest friend for forty two years…. Our lives had been so intertwined…police department….fire department….politics….church…fun times… sad times…that if I had to go back and count…. there probably was not barely a handful of times, in forty two years that we were not together for at least several hours each week….. Sometimes we could sit silently…..just being together was good enough for us.

We knew each other’s hearts like no one else…. I can stand here today and tell you that Ken had a good heart…he was a humble hero…. ready to help whenever asked.

Ken also had a contrite heart…. often talking about his frailities and failures… the things in life that you wish you could hit the “do-over” button but can’t….. My son Raymond, who loved Ken like a second father…. would say that Ken did the best he could… knowing what he knew at the time…. but that he knew that at times, he came up short.

It was one of the traits Raymond admired in him…. Ken admitted he wasn’t perfect…. Most men are not man enough to admit that.

Ken also had a pained heart…the pain of losing his son Brian to cancer…. the pain and fear of losing his eyesight and mobility …. and finally the pain and fear of knowing it was never going to change.

The heart that I will remember most is Ken’s loving heart…. The many things he did will be a legacy to his memory….. as will the many lives he touched in different ways…the times he put the well being of others before his own.

Soon…Ken should be with Bill Murphy, planning for the party when I eventually join them….. I look forward to that reunion… but not too soon.

A-21 is 10-7 …..and yes… we weep….. but his memory will live on in the many lives he touched….. and let us take solace from knowing that.

My life was blessed to have him as a friend.

About Ray V.

Living between Aiken & Charleston,, South Carolina, USA, I like to share what I am looking at, thinking about or listening to. I refer to this as the view out my window. Thanks for stopping by.
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1 Response to A-21 Is 10-7

  1. Jenny says:

    Really cool story. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

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