George Billberry passed away around 2:30 this morning. he had gone back to hospice over a week ago, after spending some time at home with Lola. George was a great story teller and I'm happy to say Leslie and I got to visit with him and Lola at their homelast September, and hear some more incredible stories about the great times with the Miami Firefighters. George is back with his best friend Ken again. Pray for Lola to find the strength during this hard time.
Retired Miami Firefighter / Paramedic George T. Billberry, 77, passed away peacefully on November 23, 2009 of natural causes. George graduated Miami High School in 1950. At the age of 18, he joined the Miami Fire Department and after 32 years of distinguished service to the City of Miami he retired. George and Lola Billberry maintained residences in Sun Key Village, Palmetto, FL and Scaly Mountain, N.C. He was active in local community associations and was known for his cooking at fund raising events.
One of the proudest moments of George's career was when he was chosen to be part of an unprecedented program to train Miami firefighters to provide advanced life support in the field. Upon graduation, George and his classmates became the first paramedics in the country. George eventually became a paramedic instructor and in his off duty hours, taught EMS and First Responder classes at Miami Dade Community College and the Miami Police Academy for over 20 years. He was best known for his sense of humor and his ability to teach serious medical subjects in a manner his students could remember. While working with the Miami Police Training Unit, he developed a concept to imbed Firefighter/Paramedics with police SWAT assault teams. The concept was to have a medic accompany the SWAT team for medical support under hostile conditions. The SWAT Medic program has been adopted by police departments across the nation.
George's career on the fire department was briefly interrupted in 1952 by four years of active duty in the U.S. Coast Guard. He remained in the Coast Guard Reserve and retired after over 39 years as a Chief Warrant Officer 2 in 1991.
Brother George Billberry was a 32 Degree Master Mason for over 50 years and a member of Royal Palm Lodge 100 in Homestead, FL. He was also a member of the Miami Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite and Mahi Shrine Temple. George Billberry is survived by his wife Lola, his loving daughter, Carol Ann, her husband Ernie, and their sons, Nicholas Fletcher and Kiel Eden Felts. He is also survived by a son, Jim and his wife Laura (Lutes).
An online guest book can be found at BradentonHerald.com
I had the pleasure of knowing George for almost 50 years. He was a truly an exceptional man, and was a VERY effective teacher of all Miami Police officers throughout the years. I am sure his teachings saved their butt many a time. Never seen him angry. Never seen him turn down an assignment, he was always there to help. Also enjoyed the times with him at the Fire Reunions up in Otto.
I am sure he is already up there with McCullough rehashing war stories.
We all should be lucky to have one tenth of the friends George had.
May he rest in peace.
Retired Miami Firefighter and Miami Police Academy Instructor George Billberry passed away peacefully this morning in Bradenton, FL. My Dad had a distinguished career on the Miami Fire Department. He always considered the Miami Police Department as his adopted home. He took exceptional pride in creating the Miami Police SWAT-Medic program and having the opportunity to train new recruits in his First Responder classes........ the service will be in Bradenton, FL with internment in Key West, FL. In honor of his retirement from the US Coast Guard, he will receive military honors and in honor of his 50 years of service to Freemasonry, he will receive a Masonic funneral....
District Chief and Fire Marshall. At his retirement, he had served on the Miami Fire Dept. longer than anyone else. Chief John Collins Wilkes
Capt. Perry Donaldson Wise I was excited to come across the MFD website while looking for some historical information on my old high school in Miami (Miami Senior High). I noticed that you had a memorial page and recognized two names: Jack Beach and Elmer Wentworth. I used to date Mr. Wentworth's daughter back in High School, and my parents were very good friends with the Beach's before my father passed away on Dec. 1954 at age 29. He was a Fire Captain (Perry Donaldson Wise) and according to the Miami News clipping, that I will send you when I unpack it, he was the youngest Lieutenant to be promoted to Captain in the history of the department. I had just turned five when he passed, so I don't remember a lot about him. I have a few pictures of him that I am forwarding to you. My mom, who passed away in 1997, told me years ago that he took me just about everywhere he went. The family picture is at the old station on 27th Ave. between Flagler and 7th St.
My hope is to get Dad's name on the Memorial section of you web site. Thanks for your consideration.
Kenneth Perry Wise
Capt. Perry Donaldson Wise
MFD "CHIEF WASSI" March 26, 1916 - Sept. 17, 2008
Marty was a wonderful father, husband, grandfather, friend, mentor, and all around "good guy". Known as a man of humor, strength, honor, and dignity, he helped many people in his lifetime. He was a respected fireman and MFD District Chief.
He is greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him.
Dad, we are all so grateful for the life and love you shared.
The best part of all was you!
The Family of Martin Wasilewski
McCULLOUGH, KEN, Retired City of Miami Department of Fire-Rescue Chief, died Saturday, August 8, 2009 from an extended illness of cancer. Mr. McCullough, a Miami native, joined the Fire-Department in August of 1952. One of his proudest moments came in the 1960's and 1970's during the development of the paramedic program as we know it today. During this period he worked with Dr. Eugene Nagel and Dr. Jim Hirschman in the development of paramedic skills and field testing much of the equipment which is used today to provide life saving paramedic service. His efforts were instrumental in developing Emergency Medical Services (EMS) in the United States. He served as a firefighter, driver engineer, paramedic, division chief, fire marshal, deputy chief of administration, Fire Chief and most of all a Great Leader. His favorite quote was by Theodore Roosevelt who said: "It's not the critic that counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. I have been in the arena and I have been marred by dust and sweat and blood. On occasion, I have erred and come up short again and again. I have known the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and know I have spent myself in a worthy cause. I have known the triumph of high achievement and on a few occasions I may have failed greatly, but my place will never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat." He is survived by his wife of 56 years, Rayleen, mother Florence, daughters Jennie, Joy and husband Michael, grandchildren Jennifer, Tyler, Brian and wife Jennifer, great grandchildren Jaida, Conner and Caleb, brother George and wife Mary, uncle Richard Pope and wife Martha, and many loving nieces and nephews. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to The University of Miami/Jackson Memorial Hospital Burn Center Unit at 305-243-9655. We love you, Daddy.
The Miami Herald 08-13-09
Kenneth Edward McCullough, a retired City of Miami Department of Fire Rescue chief who, in the 1960s, helped develop the contemporary emergency medical services system, died Saturday -- two weeks after his 75th birthday, July 26.
The orchid fancier and history buff suffered a heart attack on July 4 then succumbed to cancer at a Bradenton hospice.
He was very instrumental about how we developed the emergency medical system in Miami,'' said McCullough's predecessor, Herman Brice, who is retiring Friday as Palm Beach County Fire Rescue chief. He guided it to where it became the paramount of service we provide.''
In the 1950s, firefighters couldn't do much for injured victims beyond administering first aid at the scene then rushing them to the hospital.
McCullough helped change that in 1963, after his rescue truck responded to reports of a man in cardiac arrest.
McCullough was among those who tried to revive him. Dr. Eugene Nagel, an anesthesiologist who lived in the building, pronounced the man dead.
McCullough and Nagel -- who taught at the University of Miami Medical School and is credited with coining the term paramedic'' -- got to talking about the high mortality rate in such situations.
Their conversation launched a decades-long collaboration between the fire department and Nagel and Dr. Jim Hirschman, a UM cardiologist and short-wave radio enthusiast, which shaped nationally accepted EMS protocols.
McCullough arranged for Nagel to visit Fire Station 1, where he taught the firefighters how to start IVs, insert breathing tubes and administer closed chest cardiac massage:'' CPR.
According to Assistant Fire Chief Allen Joyce, the city manager at the time was very reluctant to have these gentlemen do that,'' so McCullough started an IV on Nagel right there in the commission chambers, and they allowed that group to continue training.''
They experimented on cadavers, dogs and each other, according to a fire department history.
The guys in the department. . .used to call us the Band-Aid squad,'' retired paramedic George Billberry -- Big Mac's lifelong friend, who resides at the hospice where McCullough died -- once told The Miami Herald.
Meanwhile, Hirschman worked on the telemetry: radio transmission of vital signs from the street to doctors at the hospital.
The history says that in 1965 the Miami Fire Department became the first in the nation to make radio contact between hospitals and firemen in the field.''
In 1969, Miami firefighters became the nation's first to successfully use a defibrillator on a call.
McCullough grew up in Miami, attending Ada Merritt Elementary School, Citrus Grove Junior High and Miami Senior. He joined the fire department in 1952, at Billberry's urging.
McCullough took the test and they put him at a fire station that night,'' recalled his wife, Rayleen Hillis McCullough. They told him, If there's an alarm, just get on the truck and somebody will tell you what to do.' ''
He and Rayleen were high school sweethearts -- he played the trumpet in the band; she was the majorette. They married in 1953 and he spent four years in the Coast Guard before returning to the job he loved.
Her husband delivered babies in cars, taught paramedic courses at Miami Dade College, and tested battlefield medical equipment for the military.
He was always giving somebody money if they were stranded,'' Rayleen said, and once coaxed a sick woman out of a laundromat and into the rescue truck by promising to bring her laundry so no one would steal it.''
McCullough initially worked at Station 2 in Overtown, built in 1915. After it closed in 1973, and as chief in the '80s, he sought, unsuccessfully, to turn it into a museum.
Big Mac'' McCullough retired in 1987. After Hurricane Andrew destroyed the family home in Homestead five years later, they moved to Palmetto, near Bradenton, and a second home at Scaly Mountain, N.C.
In addition to his wife, McCullough is survived by his mother, Florence, and daughter, Joy, of Miami; daughter Jennie of Georgia and brother George -- also a retired Miami firefighter -- of Westminster, S.C.
OSWALDO MARTIN "Ozzie" ALVAREZ
25 Years at Station 9
"He will be remembered...." GERRY, John J. 73 of Citrus Springs, Fl. passed away Monday, December 22, 2008. Originally from Rockaway Beach, NY, John retired in 1986 from the City of Miami Fire Department Station 5 after 25 years of Service. He enjoyed the next 23 years of retirement traveling with his loving wife of 50 years Marianne and was an avid golfer. John has been a close friend since he eased out of station 12 and came to the the zoo at 5 "C" back in the mid 60's. Thank God we were and are in a profession that has so many memories. John will be mentioned in all the stories that will continue to come up at the reunions and firefighter get togethers for years to come. He will be missed greatly but not forgotten. Dave LaCroix John came to Sta.6-C out of the Fire College. A skinny young man from New York. He quickly endeared himself to his fellow firefighters. John was always quick to do anything asked of him in a cheerful way. Many worked with him at Burke Displays and later at other companies. Anyone lucky enough to have John as a friend had a real friend indeed. I never met a more generous person in my life. He would literaly give you the shirt off his back. John was the guy in the bar who, if six rounds were bought, he bought five. Irene and I had the pleasure of spending some time with John and Marianne in the past few years and will treasure the memories. John will be missed. Jim Nelson Like most golfers I thought I needed a new set of golf clubs to break 80, So I splurged and got a set of Taylor Mades. While playing with John,he said he wanted to buy a set of Taylor Mades. I have to ditto what JIm Nelson said about John and so I had an opportune time to give him something. So on one of my many trips up to see John and Marianne I brought up the set of clubs for John. I was very pleased when Marianne said that John was playing well with the clubs and liked them. That and many many times we played golf together I will keep these memories with me. Nancy and I will miss him. Frank Latusek The first time I saw John was in 1973, just after we had competed in the 2nd annual Firefighters Olympics. We were both in the "C" flight of the golf tournament. As it turned out John and I were tied for second place and had to go back for a play off. John was a gentleman then and friend from then on. We will all miss him. John Wood
LINDSEY Robert Paul Lindsey, 77, passed away on Friday, November 27, 2009. Mr. Lindsey was born on April 10, 1932 in Schenectady, NY to the late William and Edna (Jordan) Lindsey. He was a retired U. S. Army and Coast Guard Veteran and also served as a fire fighter in Miami, FL.
I deeply regret the passing of Bob we came on the
department on October 6 1958, promoted to first class together July 24 1961. We wound up together in 1967 on Chemical 5c. He was a hell of a firefighter and role model and a dear friend. I cherish my time at 5C commonly refered to as the ZOO. With Bob, Dave LaCroix, Gerald Camp, Shorty, Rick Beecham, OJ (old John)Gerry, Danny Givens (the kid who made superman look like an under achiever)George Scott, and Piggy aka Bill Miles. A group where I cant never was in their vocabulary. Will miss you Bob. Dan Tapp
My heartfelt condolences to Dottie and family on Bobs passing. Bob has been a good friend of mine since 1965 when I was shanghaied to Station 5C to be Bob's alternate driver on Chemical 5. We both joined the Miami Springs Power Boat Club (Stiltsville) in 1966 and spent countless hours together diving for lobster in the finger channels.
Station 5C was quite the place! A lot of good people and a lot of good stories came out of there and I'm sure we will be bringing up many stories of Bob at future reunions. He was quite unique and will be missed. Farewell Brother.
Capt. Richard Herbert Deke 12/20/2007. This photo was taken when Richard worked for the department as the graphic artist after his retirement.
Richard Deke on the Volleyball Team Richard Deke on the Volley Ball Team
Capt. Michael S. Oxenborg January 5, 2008
Gamewell Bell and Receiving System at Sta 6
In 1952 he joined the City of Miami Fire Department... "there was not a finer man and gentleman than Charlie Matthews. He will be missed by all who knew him."
Bill Anderson (ret 1995)
Born Feb 9, 1932 to William Emmet and Christine Smith Matthews, he graduated from Miami High School in 1951, where he played on the 1950 State Championship Football team. In 1952 he joined the City of Miami Fire Department. Charlie was a member of the first group of paramedics in America. His unit pioneered pre- hospital mobile emergency care. When he retired in 1982, after 30 years of service, paramedics were a fixture nationwide. In 1964 Charlie founded Underwater Unlimited, the second dive shop in Miami. Begun as an educational training center with classes offered at Miami Dade College, it assisted police and fire departments in developing underwater recovery techniques. With over 20,000 students certified, Underwater Unlimited continues to serve as a leader in the dive industry today. Charlie was active in many community groups including the Coral Gables Kiwanis Club. He served on the Board of the Coral Gables Congregational Church where he is affectionately referred to as "the Sheriff" for his ability to keep meetings moving. His association with Miami High has continued with active involvement in the alumni association and a lifelong friendship with other members of the state championship team. An avid outdoorsman, Charlie loved to fish, dive, hunt and fly. He was deeply interested in history and dedicated to serving his country and community. Above all, he was dearly loved and committed to his family and friends. His strength, courage and honesty were an inspiration to all who knew him.
JOHNS, GROVER CLEVELAND, 83, passed away peacefully on December 8, 2009 after a short battle with cancer. He was born and raised in Coconut Grove. He served in the U.S. Navy during WW II from 1943 to 1947. He returned to Miami and worked for the City of Miami Fire Dept. where he retired. He was a licensed boat Captain who loved to fish and go camping. He also loved playing his guitar and listening to music. He is survived by his loving wife of 64 1/2 years, Juanita, two beloved daughters, Dottie Bown and Bobbie Johns, seven incredible grandchildren, and a great son-in-law, Mike Bown. He was a comedian to all who knew and loved him.
GROVER JOHNS WAS AN OUTSTANDING FIREFIGHTER AND PERSON AND IT WAS A REAL PLEASURE TO WORK WITH HIM AT OLD STA 4. I ALWAYS FELT A LOT MORE COMFORTABLE AND SECURE WHEN GROVER WAS RIDING THE FIRE TRUCK WITH ME. GOD BLESS HIS FAMILY.
LeMay, Chief Daniel, 79, passed away peacefully at home on December 16, surrounded by his wife, Cristy, children Chris and Robin and his dear friends Colonel and Diane Duke. Danny was born in Newark, N.J. and moved to Miami in 1947. After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard , he attended the University of Miami and remained a lifelong Hurricane! He joined the City of Miami Fire Department where he retired as a Division Chief after 32 years of service. He considered himself very fortunate to have spent his life in a career he loved. Daniel was a devoted husband, loving father and grandfather. He lovingly touched the live of so many people. He will be truly missed by his family and many friends. He was predeceased by his parent, William and Anita LeMay, and his first wife, Barbara (Carpenter) LeMay. Danny is survived by his devoted wife, Cristy; loving son, Christopher Daniel (Annette) Lemay Palm City, FL, Grandchildren Dr. Christopher (Katie), Casey, Corrie, (DJ) Daniel Juhu, and great granddaughter Selah Kathleen; loving daughter Robin (George), grandchildren Amanda and Joseph Daniel; beloved sister Elizabeth Mitchell and numerous nieces and nephews including his very special niece Danielle (Lance) and great nephews Mitchell and Matthew.
Douglas "Oscar" Garner, 67, of Old Town passed away peacefully Nov. 19th at Haven Hospice in Chiefland. Oscar was born September 6, 1942 in Charlotte Harbor, FL. to Dorothy and Hiawatha (Snook) Garner. He was raised in Homestead, FL. where he spent most of his adult life. Oscar dedicated his life to community service. He was a City of Miami Firefighter for 27 years. After retiring he moved to Old Town, FL. where he was the Chief of the Old Town Volunteer Fire Department. He soon came out of retirement and became the Director of Emergency Management for Taylor County. He later moved to Sebring, FL. where he assumed the position of Director of Highlands County Emergency Management. Oscar then began a second career and was the Area 6 Coordinator for the State of Florida Emergency Management and was in charge of 10 counties in Southwest FL. He retired from the State four years ago and settled back in Old Town where he spent time with his wife, children and grandchildren. On June 30, 2008 Oscar received the prestigious "Al Keaton Award" in recognition for his long service, leadership, and dedication to Florida Emergency Preparedness Association.
Sorry to hear about Oscar's passing. We came on the Fire Dept. together in 1964. He left an impressive record and I am sure he will be missed.
BJORKMAN, RUSSELL, 58, passed away unexpectedly on June 21, 2009. He was born in Miami, Florida and moved to Vero Beach in 1989. He was retired from 25 years with the City of Miami Fire Department. He served as chairman and trustee of the Miami Fire Fighter's Relief and Pension Fund from 1984-1990; as chairman and director of the Miami Fire Fighter?s Federal Credit Union from 1983-2003; as chairman and trustee of the City of Miami Fire Fighters and Police Officers Retirement Trust from 1990-2001; an appointee to Governor Jeb Bush from 1999-2002 on the Investment Advisory Council; as trustee of the City of Vero Beach Fire Fighter?s Pension Fund since 2001; and was Vice President of the Portfolio Management Group at Janus INTECH since 2003. He was a member of First Baptist Church, Vero Beach. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Pamela Bjorkman; children, Russell Bjorkman II and Diana Bjorkman Wade and son-in-law, Jason; sisters Andrea Rudloff Gottschalk and Sylvia Chance; 3 nieces and 3 nephews.
Visit Russell's memorial website: http://www.russbjorkman.com/Home.html
William "Bud" A. Long ‚ 1922 - 2010
Clermont, FL ‚ William A. (Bud) Long, 87, graduated to glory Tuesday, January 19. He now lives with the Lord Jesus Christ he served so faithfully. He is survived by Sara, his wife of 66 years; two children, Lynda Morgan and husband Dick of Eustis, and William, Jr. and wife Susan of Jacksonville; five grandchildren; and seven great grandchildren. He was born in Cairo, GA and lived in Miami from 1923 until his retirement in 1976 when he moved to Clermont. Bud was a retired Miami Fireman of 30 years, and a veteran of World War II and service during the Korean War, with 18 years combined active and reserve in the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Ordinance Chief Petty Officer. He also retired from Burdines Department Store where he worked part time for over 30 years. Bud was a deacon and member of Open Door Baptist Church in Clermont. He was known as a friend, helper and giver to people. Besides his love for his family, his greatest joy was in serving the Lord and His church.
I was stationed with Bud long at Station 5 during the mid 60's. He was a great cook and a good man. John Wood
Osbond Victor Baggett, 86, passed way Friday, Jan. 29, 2010. He was born in Decator, GA. and served in the U.S. Army from 1940-1945 as Private First Class in the 805 Engineer Battalion. Mr. Baggett retired as a chief of the City of Miami Fire Department in 1973. He also was a member of the American Legion and Retired Employees Association of the City of Miami. He is survived by his wife of 61 years Marilyn I. Baggett; daughter, Gwen (Glen) Cook; daughter in law, Sandri Baggett; grandson, Timothy (Denise) Baggett; and three great grandchildren T.J., Tyler and Tiffany Baggett. He was preceded in death by his parents, Alonza Thomas and Ayrilo Jackson Baggett; a son Newell E. Baggett; four sisters and two brothers. Burial will be at Florida National Cemetery, Bushnell, FL. Condolences may be left at www.beyersfuneralhome.com Arrangements entrusted to Beyers Funeral Home & Crematory, Leesburg, FL.
Ladder L on the scene had been attributed to him as a swing Lieutenant and not remembering which truck he was riding. He leaned out the window of Ladder 7 and reading it upside down announced Ladder L on the scene.
DIAZ, RUDY J., May 29, 1917 - March 10, 2010. Beloved and devoted father to Rudy Diaz, Jr. and Maureen (Kim) Diaz and life long companion and friend to Muriel Tower. Rudy Diaz retired from City of Miami Fire Department, Station 8. Rudy went on to become a real estate developer and sales agent. Rudy spent the past 25+ years involved with public speaking with Dale Carnegie and Toastmasters International, winning numerous state and national awards.
When I first went on the fire department I rented a room from Rudy and he was like a father to me. We worked together at Station 8. My deepest condolances to Murial and the family. Gary Thomas
I remember Rudy with fond memories from his days on the MFD. Dr. Duck will not be forgotten. John Mullins
KELLER, George F., 80, of Sebring, Fla., died Thursday morning, October 21, 2010, at Highlands Regional Medical Center. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., he had lived in this area for 17 years. He served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He retired from the City of Miami, after 26 years as a firefighter from the Local 587. He was preceded in death by his daughter, Linda Theresa York. He is survived by his wife, Theresa L. Keller, Sebring; two daughters, Brenda Witherspoon and Kathy Elise Sanders; son, George L. Keller; sister, Dorothy Hensley; eight grandchildren and eight great-grand children.
"My deepest sympathies to the family. I was on the Miami Fire Department with George and have played many a tennis game with him and soft ball games. He was a very good athlete. I will continue to think of him often. Gary Thomas" Gary Thomas (Valdosta, GA)
Loy, Paul Richard, 71, of Cooper City, FL, passed away on December 11, 2010. Loving husband of Camille; wonderful father to Dawn and Jennifer; friend and grandpa to Hunter and Kayla; brother of Kathy Mussard and Dennis; brother-in-law, uncle and friend to many. Paul served in the Navy and Naval Reserves for 26 years and was a Firefighter and paramedic for 32 years in the City of Miami. Paul was a hard working devoted husband, dad and grandpa, he lived life to its fullest with his joyful sense of humor that would always put a smile on your face, he will be greatly missed by all who knew and loved him.
VARGO, WILLIAM E., 83, of Homestead passed away 9/8/10. He was born 1/12/28 in Beaver Falls, Pa. He was a WWII Vet that joined the City of Miami Fire Dept and retired after 30 years of service. He owned the Roadrunner Inn and "Golden Lady lounge. He was known as "The Silver Fox" of Homestead for his amazing karaoke talent. He was a member of the VFW4127, Moose Lodge 2258, and the American Legion 43. He is survived by: William Vargo Jr., Mark Vargo (Terese), Mary Hocker (Joe), Brian McConnell (Pat), 11 grandchildren, 6 great- grandchildren.