In his final moments, Randy Parker was the same as ever.
Trustworthy. A leader. A can-do guy.
The kind of guy not afraid to, as he had in the past, hop in a dragstrip hotrod and mash the pedal to the floor. Or, say, march into a burning house.
Parker, a lieutenant with the Macon-Bibb County Fire Department, died last week battling a blaze on the city’s southwest side. He was 46, a husband and a father of two boys.
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Some of his final words were recalled at his funeral Monday, in large part, because of what they said about him as a man.
A chief at the Feb. 11 fire on Fairview Drive south of Rocky Creek Road asked Parker and some other men to punch a hole in the floor of the house. Heat trapped in the basement needed venting.
“Let’s go do this,” Parker said.
In they went.
“It was time to go to work,” Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said Monday evening. “That was just moments before the tragedy struck.”
The floor gave way. Parker was killed, and five other firefighters were hurt.
At Parker’s midday funeral, Riggins told a full house at the Macon City Auditorium, “In public safety we tend to deal with tragedy almost daily. ... Unfortunately, every now and then, and unfortunately last Wednesday evening, tragedy struck in our community. A tragedy struck in our own family. When it strikes in this sense, it takes on a whole new, different meaning for us.”
A picture from the scene shows Parker standing, his hand on the hood of a truck, watching another firefighter fiddling with his turnout gear, those bulky, protective suits firemen wear.
The unimpressed look on Parker’s face was priceless, Riggins said. It was as if Parker was thinking, “Really? It’s taking you a little long to get your suit on. Business is at hand.”
Riggins described Parker as a fine manager, someone who could bring out the best in comrades.
“Randy provided the sunlight,” he said. “He was always looking for something to make us better.”
Firefighters from across the region were on hand to pay their respects. “His extended family in blue,” one speaker called them.
“We weep because we loved him,” Riggins said. “Randy’s gone now, guided by his faith and by the light of those he loved and cherished so much. Yes, Randy will be missed. But more importantly, Randy will be remembered.”
Half an hour before the 90-minute ceremony began, firefighters by the dozens in full-dress, navy blue uniforms milled around inside the auditorium’s main doors. There were hugs, pats on the back, long faces.
“I got kind of choked up,” one said.
“Hanging in there best I know how,” said another.
“He’s a good guy. He’s a really good guy,” a man in a suit told another fellow.
“That’s what I heard,” the fellow replied.
Seated a few rows from the stage, 80-year-old Lucile Clark, godmother of Fire Chief Marvin Riggins, said the chief called her the other night in tears. She asked how he was doing.
“He said, ‘You know how it is when you lose somebody — a good man.’ I said, ‘I know, baby,’” Clark said.
Clark, a beautician known to firefighters across the county as “Big Mama,” recalled Parker being “friendly as he could be.”
The five bagpipers strode in playing “Going Home.”
A slideshow of snapshots flashed on a projection screen: Parker as a boy with a mop of blond hair; him as an all-state trumpeter in his high school days in Louisiana; him on a white horse.
As firefighters filed in, one shuffled over to Parker’s flag-draped casket. He stood at attention and snapped off an emphatic salute.
Fire Capt. Jimmy Hollis, a good friend of Parker’s, sobbed as he told of losing “a neighbor, a great friend, a beloved family member, a brother firefighter and a true hero.”
Hollis said, “We’ll never forget what happened last Wednesday. ... He fought bravely and despite unimaginable, difficult conditions.”
Mayor Robert Reichert addressed Parker’s wife and family.
“On behalf of a grateful community, we extend our deepest and most sincere condolences,” he said. “The attendance here today is another visible sign of this love and compassion that we share at times like this. ... I pray that healing will occur, happiness will return to your family, to this department and to our community.”
Cedric Scott, a friend and former Macon firefighting colleague of Parker’s, recalled the fierce contests of the basketball game “horse” they waged in their days on the force together.
“We used to try to come up with a shot that was impossible for the other to match,” said Scott, now a fire chief in Suffolk, Virginia.
Parker liked to poke fun at Scott’s sports predictions.
“He asked me who was I going to pick in the Super Bowl. I told him Seattle. He said, ‘Wrong again, buddy,’” Scott said. “He had a way of picking the winners.”
Scott said Parker sent him a text message last Monday.
“The Lord put you on my mind this morning,” it read. “I hope all is well. I just finished praying for you and hope you have a great day.”
“Isn't that something?” Scott said.
To contact writer Joe Kovac Jr., call 744-4397.