NORTH IRWIN (KDKA) — Hundreds of people paid tribute to a local firefighter who died while doing his job last week.
Streets in the community he served were lined with people honoring 63-year-old James Gumbert as his funeral procession made its way through the town of North Irwin Monday morning.
Last Wednesday, Gumbert was preparing to respond to a call when he suffered a heart attack and died at the North Irwin Fire Station.
Outside of the fire station, a small memorial has taken shape including boots, a fire jacket, wreath, flowers and the fireman’s prayer.
Two ladder trucks formed an arch under which hung an American flag during the memorial ceremony.
Escorted by North Irwin Police, a firetruck held the casket of Gumbert, leading it to the church where the memorial service took place.
It is customary that a fallen firefighter has a final page, which came Monday morning as the company sounded their alarm for Gumbert one last time.
“I’m sure it’s going to be a sorrowful day today, but it’ll be replaced by the good memories and the times that we laughed and the times that we joked with each other,” North Irwin VFD Chief Thomas Harrison said. “We’re going to feed off of that from now on.”
Hundreds of firefighters came from around the area, but have also come from as far as Chicago to pay their final tribute to Gumbert.
As firefighters are among the most respected members of the community, many members of the community also lined the streets in support of their fallen hero.
“They do this all the time – they answer calls – I think everyone takes it for granted and I just felt like I should come down,” Kim Hoffman said. Her son is a junior firefighter.
Gumbert worked as a firefighter in Butler County before his service in North Irwin. He was a Vietnam Veteran, but he didn’t like to talk much about himself.
Around the firehouse, that earned him the nickname of the “Silent Giant.”
That silence will be missed.