St. George – People in this community have shown just how caring they are, following the tragic fire which claimed the lives of a family of four last week, and culminated Saturday, when hundreds attended a memorial service.
The town, whose motto is “A Community Strong”, has proved the motto time and time again since the Tuesday fire, which claimed the lives of Esther Elizabeth Boyd, 80, and her three sons William Hugh (Billy) 59, David Bruce (Davey), 56 and Robert Brian (Robbie) 52, all of whom had special needs, at their South Street home.
A private family graveside service was held Saturday morning, at St. George Rural Cemetery, followed by the afternoon memorial service at St. George Baptist Church, where Esther sang in the choir for many years, and it was also shown across the street in St. Mark’s Anglican Church, where Davey was a member, to accommodate all those who wanted to pay their respects.
This was a particularly difficult fire for the St. George department to attend, as Davey had been an honorary firefighter for more than 40 years, starting when he was just 12 years old.
A special medal was created for Davey in 2014, bearing the town’s logo, and named in his honour, which is presented to all those with 20 years’ service or more.
Davey had been at the fire hall earlier in the day Tuesday, when the fire department took delivery of a brand new fire truck. In his honour, the fire department has named the truck after him.
A section of Main Street, in front of the two churches, was closed to traffic Saturday afternoon for the service, and fire trucks were parked there, with the new truck in front – Davey, who would have been 56 on Saturday, would have been so proud. St. George firefighters sat in the front rows of the church, and both Premier Brian Gallant, and Fundy-The Isles-Saint John West MLA Rick Doucet, who grew up just around the corner from the Boyds, were in attendance.
Rev. Jason Hooper told the firefighters, “We want you to know that we, as a community, are grateful for what you do, and will continue to pray for you all, as you selflessly continue to serve and protect your community. Today is a difficult day.”
This past week has proved that no community is immune to tragedy, said Hooper, and what he had witnessed was a coming together of the community in the midst of tragedy and loss, willing to work as necessary to comfort one another.
Scott Boyd, who was Esther’s nephew, said she was the most selfless person he ever knew, and never spoke ill of anyone in her lifetime. The church, he said, was her second family, and the community became her third family.
“The kindness (of the community) has been so great, I don’t know how it can be repaid. To the members of the St. George and surrounding fire departments… the dedication, professionalism, and camaraderie was second to none… The love they showed Davey is appreciated beyond words by the Boyd family.
“The community support this week has given me reassurance. The love coming together gives me hope that we have faith in each other. Something good must come from this…
“Esther’s kindness and Davey’s smile were all helped along by the community’s generosity. Your caring and sharing stories has given us strength to carry on.”
Eulogy by St. George Fire Chief
Fire Chief Sean Morton, who gave the eulogy, began by thanking the firefighters from Blacks Harbour, Fundy Bay, Saint Andrews, Musquash, and St. Stephen, who were at the fire, as well as Ambulance New Brunswick, and the RCMP.
He said the firefighters were at the scene within 15 minutes, and they worked together. They are one big family, and they look out for each other, said Morton.
“The outpouring is overwhelming. We have been overwhelmed ourselves, obviously, but the help that has been there is hard to comprehend at times so thank you.”
One of the roles Morton said he inherited when he took over as fire chief six years ago was Davey.
“We look out for Dave. We do what we can for Dave. He’s part of our family, but Captain David Kernighan goes above and beyond….For that reason Captain Kernighan had the honour of sitting with Dave in the fire truck this morning.”
Speaking of Esther, who was once his Sunday school teacher, he said he used to meet her when she was out walking with Billy, although over the years these walks had become less and less. While he had spent some time with Robbie he said, like many, he didn’t know him well.
In 1973, when Davey was 12 years old, a former fire chief, Ralph Parks, who was the Boyds’ neighbour, took him to the fire station. Davey loved vehicles, so Parks thought it would be a good place to take him, and taught him how to put gas in the fire trucks.
“Well, Davey never left,” he said to laughter, and when the gas pumps were taken away, it was the fire hose that filled that void. Morton said he and Davey grew up around that fire station, and they used to wash the trucks, usually ending up getting hosed as much as the trucks.
Davey, he said, served under seven different fire chiefs, including his late father Mike Morton, and around 200 firefighters. He was there when they had the old siren and the red fire phone, as well as when they got their first radios.
“I can still remember my father giving him hell when he took a couple of them home,” he recalled to more laughter.
He was there when the town got its first real fire truck in 1975, and saw five more trucks after that. The newest one arrived Tuesday morning, and Morton said they were very proud Davey was able to be there for that.
He said Davey was also there when the fire station got cable TV, and he loved to watch the wrestling, but Esther called one day to ask if maybe they could restrict him from watching because he was coming home quite excited.
“We tried. The first thing we did was we locked the TV up and that didn’t go over very well, and the next day Davey was coming up the road with a big old picture tube TV and he put it on a shelf half its size.”
That’s when they decided they had to get rid of the cable, said Morton, so the wires were put up into the ceiling but the next day the ceiling was all laying on the floor.
Davey had crawled up into the ceiling to get the cable and fell down through.
“Of course, Davey being Davey – it was deny, deny, deny.”
When they moved on from the cable TV era, Morton said Davey discovered the internet, and he would watch “The Price is Right”. He also figured out how to work the printer and when the newspapers stopped printing the TV guide, he would print them out.
“I couldn’t keep paper or ink…. eventually the printer went away so I wasn’t on the most favourite list there for a while.”
Creating a medal
In the summer of 2014, Davey was presented with a medal for 40 years of service.
Morton said he always felt Davey would have been a worthy recipient of the NB Fire Service long service medal award, and fire service exemplary medal of Canada, so he went to work to try to achieve that with the help of Fire Marshal Jeff Cross but they were unsuccessful.
“I wasn’t satisfied, so I went to work, and I decided to create a medal for Davey…. What does that medal mean to us? Well, prior to this week, it meant we had put in 20 years service with the town of St. George. Now it has a slightly different meaning.”
Morton said he had been sheltered from the media a lot this past week by town staff, his family, and his fellow firefighters.
“Obviously, people want to hear from me because of my position, and I chose to speak here today to my people, to our people, to our community. That’s what matters right now.”
Throughout the week, the firefighters have been busy at the station, he said, and the new fire truck has been a Godsend, giving them something to focus on, and the opportunity to be all together.
“Davey Boyd was dealt a difficult hand in life but, despite that, he had the courage to come out into our community. and be who he was, and for that, I can’t thank him enough.
“He was very brave and he took on life with a smile. He is the epitome of courage in my eyes… No firefighter I ever met was ever so honoured to be part of the fire service. He wore his uniform every day, without fail.”
Davey was at the fire hall every day, said Morton, and if he wasn’t, they would start looking for him, thinking there must be something wrong.
“That’s what the medal is all about – the dedication. He certainly was a leader in that regard.
“What happened on Tuesday, no one will ever know for sure. We know more or less what caused the fire. No fault on anyone – accidental…. I feel Davey Boyd was a firefighter to the end.
“This morning, we had a service for Davey and the rest of the family. I hope I have done Davey right, and he now has the medals he deserved with him.”
Lastly, said Morton, he had a message from Davey. He wanted the firefighters from St. George to know that he carried them all extremely close to his heart.
“He loved you, all of you, as much as we loved him, and that was demonstrated to me very quickly on Wednesday. Rest in peace Davey.”
Morton’s eulogy was greeted with a round of applause. Following the service, firefighters formed an honour guard outside the Baptist Church as people walked across to the reception held at The Beacon, where food had been provided by a number of local stores, and restaurants.
The Fire Marshal’s office continues to investigate the cause of the blaze, but it has been determined to be non-criminal in nature. Autopsies have determined that all died of smoke inhalation.
**Special thanks to Susan Hill for the photos