The sun shone on brilliantly polished boots and gleaming fire trucks Saturday afternoon, Jan. 14 as representatives from fire departments across the province marched respectfully to honour the late Rob Patterson.
Patterson served as chief of the Malahat Fire Department for six years, crowning his almost 20 years of service as a volunteer fire fighter. Patterson died Monday, Jan. 2, at age 53, and leaves behind a wife and family, with two sons actually serving with the fire crew he loved.
Fellow firefighters, and friends laboured hard Saturday morning to make his memorial service an impressive event. It was held at Frances Kelsey Secondary School at 1 p.m. but hours before that time, the area was a hive of activity. One parking lot was lined on both sides with command trucks from the various departments, all bright from a wash and polish and set to act as a backdrop for the parade which would pass through towards an arch of honour made by two ladder trucks with a Canadian flag suspended between them.
Meanwhile, at nearby Kerry Park Rec Centre, crews were on site at breakfast time as well to prepare the trucks that would take part in the parade itself. By 11 a.m. that area was also buzzing as the firefighters mustered with a group from the Shawnigan Lake RCMP, search and rescue members, and the Cowichan Pipes and Drums.
They marched off from the centre at 12:15 p.m., with members of the Malahat department escorting one of their own trucks — a moving tribute to a father, friend and respected colleague.
Once they arrived in front of the arch, the entire parade stood silently to honour Patterson before moving indoors for the memorial service.
Because the Malahat department has the task of responding to the many motor vehicle accidents on the Malahat highway, Patterson and his colleagues often had to deal with sights and conditions that were extremely difficult and stressful, especially for volunteers, but the chief never backed away from calling for more effort to improve road safety for everyone.
Hundreds, including many, many friends of all members of this community-minded family, stood silently as the cavalcade wound its way up the hill.
After the service, everyone was invited to spend a special time together, remembering Patterson and how he had touched their lives.
Along with family and colleagues, current and former municipal representatives came out to honour Patterson, including Area F regional director Ian Morrison and former Area B regional director Bruce Fraser.
Fraser said he was attending “for all first responders. They are all important. Rob was certainly one of the first among them but what’s really important is that we honour them all.”
“We’re here to honour Rob. He was so special. He was a customer of mine,” said Julie Thompson.
Elaine Kerr said she was attending to support Tanya Patterson.
“She was my manager. He was an amazing guy,” she said.
“They were very nice people. He always went above and beyond,” she said.
Friend Greg Sadler posted the following poem on the Facebook page, Celebration for Rob Patterson:
“No alarm to race to, no tones do you hear drop
The floor no longer echoes with the sound of your boots
Nor resounds with your voice clear
Come on, you, don your gear.
No longer to hear the laugh, the dark joke
As we follow your selfless hero’s lead.
To some of us trusted friend, others a mentor true
And to those lucky enough to have called you father,
Regardless, we all will remember you.
In this life of uncertainty you never questioned your call
In all this chaos you stood fast for safety
You never broke your faith
You served as you lived
You lived life to it fullest
And still had more to give
Always putting those in need first
You always lead us by example
Even when we made mistakes you were there to help us through.
You set a high standard for yourself and your crew to uphold
And we all in good faith will keep it
To honor and respect you, and our hall
We will remember your love and devotion to us,
Who served under your command
As we bid you goodbye on this your last Call.”
Tanya Patterson has publicly expressed gratitude for the outpouring from the community, saying on the Facebook page, “We would like to thank everyone for all their support and condolences, Rob was everything to us and we can also see what he has meant to so many others.”