The job of a firefighter entails much more than one might expect…
Fire fighter crews also provide medical assistance to those who need it. Douglas Marks was one of those individuals. However, on one such trip to the Marks’ home in July 2014, the firefighters would learn something about the old man’s real identity.
Residents of Decatur, Georgia, Douglas and Maxine lived in a house that required some urgent repairs, mirroring the former’s poor health at that time in the summer of 2014. It was quite a distressing time.
The 82-year-old had suffered a number of strokes, and had also been diagnosed with dementia and emphysema. As a result, his wife made frequent calls to the local fire station.
Growing Fire Department
The department’s first station was located on North Decatur Road, but it took 12 years before the second station in Brookhaven, Georgia was operational. By the mid-1950s, however, DeKalb County boasted no fewer than nine fire stations, with that number eventually rising to 26 today.
Firemen Rush To The Scene
DeKalb County’s Fire Station Nine received Maxine’s calls for assistance, sending out firefighters several times to help her husband. “I don’t know how many firemen have been in my house,” she told a TV crew from Fox 5 Atlanta in July 2014. Each time they visited, Douglas was offered medical aid, with his wife looking on.
Who Was This Man?
Despite their frequent trips to the house, though, the firefighters didn’t really know who Douglas was. Indeed, while a friendly rapport was building between them, the DeKalb County workers weren’t aware of much beyond that.
It Would All Change
However, what the firefighters were not aware of, was that it all changed following one particular conversation with Maxine. They were about to find out a piece of information.
As It Turned Out…
As it turned out, Douglas was a former fireman of DeKalb County’s Fire Station Nine, earning the rank of lieutenant. He arrived at the station back in 1960 and became their 38th crew member, while he was also the first paramedic to be employed by the county. Following 25 years fighting flames and saving lives, Douglas then retired to his home in Decatur.
Learning The News
After learning about his former career, the firefighters quickly formed an even stronger bond with Douglas and his wife. “Once we found out that he worked for DeKalb, naturally we were drawn in to find out more about him,” firefighter David McBrayer told Fox 5 Atlanta in July 2014.
Yet that was not all, they would learn some more information about the elderly gentleman that would surprise them.
Consequently, it was soon discovered that Douglas was the oldest living firefighter from DeKalb County at 82 years of age. “Even though we didn’t work with Mr. Marks, we have that bond with him, if that makes sense,” Captain Shane Jones told Fox 5 Atlanta. “We know what he did because we’re now doing the same thing.”
The fire fighters immediately felt compelled to want to help him in some way, as he dedicated his life just as they were doing to the service.
As their friendship continued to grow, the firefighters then noticed the state of Douglas’ house, aware that both he and Maxine were unable to make the necessary repairs themselves. With the 82-year-old confined to a wheelchair, the DeKalb County employees decided to do their bit to help the couple.
Chipping In To Help
When they weren’t on duty, the firefighters returned to Douglas and Maxine’s house, looking to fix up the areas that had fallen into disrepair. They subsequently built a new deck just outside the property, as well as a wheelchair ramp for the former DeKalb County man.
“We were worried about [Maxine] falling,” Captain Jones told WSB-TV in July 2014 of the couple’s old decking and ramp. “It was at a pretty steep angle.” With that in mind, firemen got to work on the deck, but it proved to be a very taxing job.
“They had me screwing deck boards down and hauling lumber,” firefighter McBrayer recalled to Fox 5 Atlanta after completing the job. “I think we spent about ten hours that day [working on the house].” However, despite putting in all that work, still more needed to be done for Douglas and Maxine.
Faced A Huge Obstacle
Indeed, the elderly couple’s roof also required major repairs, while the house itself needed new flooring and insulation installed. Unfortunately, though, the DeKalb County firemen faced a financial obstacle before starting work on those areas of the property, with costs beginning to mount up.
According to Captain Jones, the funding for the required materials was becoming strained, despite boasting the necessary manpower to complete the job.
Had To Think What To Do
With that in mind, the fire department were open to receiving donations from members of the public to help finish the work for Douglas and Maxine.
Didn’t Give Up On Him
Despite those issues, though, Captain Jones reiterated the reasons why his firefighters wanted to help the 82-year-old out, citing his incredibly long service.
Tendency To Stick Together
“Firemen have a tendency to stick together,” he told WSB-TV. “So for [Douglas] to be here for 25 years, and give 25 years of his life here, we wanted to give a little something back to him.”
Hard Work Didn’t Go Unnoticed
Naturally, the firefighters’ efforts didn’t go unrewarded by Maxine, who paid them back in a heartfelt and traditional way following the completion of the decking and wheelchair ramp. “I cooked corn, green beans, collards, sweet potatoes, macaroni cheese [for them],” she recalled to Fox 5 Atlanta.
Didn’t End There
Maxine’s appreciation didn’t end there, though, as she also personally thanked each of the firefighters for their work on her house.
“Since I know these guys, I hug them [because] they’re like my family too,” she added. In the months and years that followed, the couple maintained their close relationship with the workers at Douglas’s old station.
A Helping Hand
The firefighters would make sure to check in on the couple, in case something happened, and a few times when either of them slipped or fell, or were in trouble, they were always there. It meant a great deal to the couple, but also to the fire men, that they could show a veteran respect and pay it forward.
Never Stop Caring
They even fixed the whole lawn as a special surprise for the couple, who couldn’t tend to their garden anymore. This made them happier than they could have imagined. They never felt alone again, knowing that they had people caring for them and watching over them. They also never felt unsafe. Yet the next turn of events would affect the fire fighters.
Sadly, however, in the spring of 2016, part of that heartwarming friendship came to a poignant end. Following his long battle with dementia and emphysema, Douglas passed away, leaving behind his heartbroken wife and their newly acquired extended family from DeKalb County.
Two Years Have Passed
It had been almost two years since DeKalb County Fire Station Nine had responded to a series of calls from a worried elderly woman in Decatur, Georgia. The crew’s chance realization that her husband was the oldest living fireman in the county kick-started an incredible relationship. It’s a tale that illustrates the important bond shared between firefighters of all ages.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Even though he sadly passed away, the firefighters still check up on Maxine, and make sure that she is never distressed or in need without their help. They will never forget the fireman who served and gave his all to his passion just like they did too. They even put a plaque up in his honor.