“Just a lovely man who loved his family, loved his community, who sought to serve as much as he could serve," said Broughton Fire Department Chaplain Jude Urso.By Andy Sheehan

BROUGHTON, Pa. (KDKA) – The South Hills community of Broughton commemorated the life of a local hero today. The volunteer fire department laid to rest 96-year-old Joe Ferrelli, its former chief and decorated World War II veteran.

Friends gathered to celebrate Joe’s life Tuesday, and what a life it was.

It was one that merited the 96-year-old former soldier a flag-draped casket for heroism in World War II and a procession of fire engines.

(Photo provided by family)

“Just a lovely man who loved his family, loved his community, who sought to serve as much as he could serve,” said Broughton Fire Department Chaplain Jude Urso.

Serving under General George Patton in Europe during the Great War, Joe was corporal in the engineering division, building bridges for troops across France and Germany and was decorated five times for heroism, receiving five Bronze Stars.

His sons Barry and Joe say he returned home to serve his community, immediately becoming a volunteer firefighter and then serving as chief in Broughton for 27 years.

Widely recognized as an innovator in training and fire response, he’s long been a bit of legend in the South Hills firefighting community and served as an inspiration to current chief Mark D’Alessandro.

“I remember him almost all of my life. He taught fire prevention in the schools back when I was in kindergarten through first, second, third and fourth grade,” he said.

He never lost touch with the company he helped create.

“Even in his 90s, he came to our monthly meetings he as still Involved, still around the guys,” Urso said.