|Pete’s monument was installed two weeks before he died.|
Two weeks before Peter Jorgensen died he called me to ask if I would offer a few words from the fire service at his funeral. I knew the end was near and quickly accepted his request. Knowing that he might need a little levity, I told him that I was very busy and asked if he could postpone his death for a few years when I would have more time. Pete laughed and said that he would like to wait, but was not sure he was in control of the situation (a rarity for him).
He went on to explain that he had seen the verbiage on his tombstone, all 460-plus words, and that it was eight feet tall to accommodate everything. A portion of the epitaph is as follows:
NEWSPAPERMAN • ENTREPENEUR • JOURNALIST
EDITOR • SELECTMAN • FIREFIGHTER • DEPUTY SHERIFF
EMT MEDICAL TECHNICIAN • TRUSTEE OF PUBLIC FUNDS
BUSINESSMAN • EMPLOYER • HISTORIAN • COLLECTOR
DEFENDER OF THE PEOPLE’S U.S. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS UNDER THE FIRST AMENDMENT
& SECOND AMENDMENT
AND THE VERMONT CONSTITUTION
Having known Pete for more than 10 years, he was all of the above and then some. ECCENTRIC is surely missing from the above.
Never have I met a person who was so well versed on so many aspects of life, be it airplanes, photography, bamboo fly rods, Civil War history, tractors and fire trucks. One night we were at dinner with some customers to talk to them about how the magazine could help them sell more fire trucks. Next thing I knew, Pete and the apparatus company president were comparing specifics of their collections of antique tractors. It turned out they were both tractor experts, and tractors would be the topic for the evening.
Pete and I shared some of the same heart medical problems, which brings up another example of the scope of his knowledge. When we would talk, he would explain my ailments in great detail, what was happening to me and why. He was brilliant.
His tombstone gives insight to his philosophy of life:
MARCH NOT TO ANOTHER’S BEAT – GET YOUR OWN DRUM
SET YOUR COURSE AND SPEED AND STEER WITH PURPOSE
CONTROL EVENTS – LET THEM NOT CONTROL YOU
SEE ADVERSITY AS A CHALLENGE NOT A DEFEAT
MAKE TIMELY DECISIONS WHEN CONFRONTED WITH CHOICES OR LOSE THE OPPORTUNITY TO INFLUENCE THE OUTCOME OF EVENTS
TAKE THE HELM, DECIDE, ADJUST COURSE AS
THE NEED ARISES
I had great admiration and respect for Pete. We often had serious discussions (maybe even arguments), and when I thought he was wrong, I’d tell him so. It happened recently when Pete challenged me on a picture of a new rig which I stated was a quint. Pete insisted it was a pumper with a water tower. I retorted that depending on how it was equipped, it could be either, and since I had personal knowledge of the unit and the customer, it was a quint. Bob – 1, Pete – 0, I thought, even though I had inside information.
Coincidently, at his funeral, one of the ministers explained that you could never win an argument with Peter. You may reach a draw and agree to disagree, but Pete usually could “out fact” you.
Linda Ellis is a poet who has penned some very touching words called “The Dash” which I used as the basis of my remarks at Pete’s funeral. Her entire passage can be found at http://www.dashpoemmovie.com/. I urge you to take the time to view this.
The essence of my words was that on a grave marker, the dash was the most important part of the birth and departure date line because the DASH represents the time spent on Earth.
It matters not how much we own, the cars we have or the house we live in. What matters most is how we live and love. So think about this long and hard. Are there things you would like to change? Do it now as you never know how much time is left that still can be arranged.
Try to understand how other people feel and be less quick to anger and show appreciation more. Love the people in your life like you have never loved before.
So when your eulogy is being read with your life’s actions being rehashed, will you be proud of the things they say about how you spent your DASH.
In the case of Pete, his dash should have been much longer than his tombstone would allow. He was bigger than life.
Rest in Peace, my friend.
Editor’s Note: Bob Barraclough is a 50-year veteran of the fire service and fire manufacturing industry. He is chief columnist for Fire Apparatus & Emergency Equipment magazine.