BROOKVILLE — Members of the Pine Creek Volunteer Fire Department laid a brother to rest Saturday with love and many a tearful eye.
Chuck Nelson, 60, of Brookville had served with the men and women of the Pine Creek VFD for 28 years in protecting the community he loved, first as a firefighter and later as captain of the fire police.
His years of service began when he was but 14 and growing up in Vandergrift, Pa., when he became a junior firefighter. He would spend 18 years as a firefighter in Vandergrift, before moving to Brookville and joining Pine Creek VFD.
His “brothers and sisters” at the fire department knew they could depend on Nelson, whether to answer the fire siren’s call or to protect them while at the scene of a fire.
“One of the things about Chuck, he was always dependable; he was always there. When I was out on a call or in charge of a call, I didn’t have to worry about the traffic control because I knew Chuck was there, taking care of it,” said John Blicha, a former fire chief. “Chuck will be very missed. He’s been a part of this department for a long time. He will be very, very missed. Good-bye Chuck.”
Blicha held a favorite photo of himself and Nelson. It was one with Nelson dressed as Santa Claus with Blicha perched upon his knee. “One of my fondest memories of Chuck. This picture was taken of Chuck and myself at Christmas time. He was Santa Claus and I think I asked for a new fire truck that year. We ended up buying the brush truck that year.
“That was one of my fondest memories of Chuck, Blicha reiterated, looking at the photo of he and his friend.
Al Crate, another member of Pine Creek VFD, said, “If Chuck was in the area, Chuck was there if we needed him.”
Nelson’s knack for connecting with children was well known. He participated in Fire Prevention Week when the fire company went in to the elementary schools to talk with the children about fire safety. He engaged the children in learning about fire prevention so that it was a fun experience for them.
Crate, who has known Nelson for 30 plus years, said, “One of the things about Chuck was he did fire prevention and like John said, he liked working with the kids. One of the biggest things was Fire Prevention Week. He had a crew that he worked with and a few of the guys got together and made up a few skits. We worked with kids anywhere from daycare up through third grade. Chuck lived for that. He totally enjoyed it.”
His love of children also showed in his portrayal of Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny. Nelson loved playing Santa. He was so loved in this role that he would have to keep a calendar of all the events he attended from schools to nursing homes, private events and more.
“As far as the community, Chuck was very active in the community playing Santa Claus. He loved being around the kids, he loved being Santa Claus. It tore his heart when he couldn’t do it anymore. He’ll be missed,” Blicha said.
Paul Young, a member of the fire department for 34 years and has known Nelson for 30, “He was a very good asset to the fire department. I’ve been an officer ever since I’ve been in service here at the fire department and Chuck has stood beside me the entire time.
“One of my greatest and biggest things about Chuck and I was our relationship and we grew together. I do a chicken BBQ every year down on Main Street and Chuck was there year after year at 3 o’clock in the morning getting the fire started and we didn’t finish until 8 o’clock that night. So Chuck and I grew very close together for all the things we did for the Laurel week.
“Like John said no matter what night or time we had a fire call, Chuck would always be there and he had our backs to make sure that we never had an accident on scene from getting hit by an oncoming vehicle.
“We have the brotherhood and Chuck was a brother,” Young said, noting that Nelson’s death is a great loss to the fire department. Others, he said, will have to step up to handle the many things that Nelson did. “It is a great loss for the whole department.”
But Nelson was more than just a fellow fire fighter or the captain of the fire police. He was also a mentor to young fire department members. “Chuck was a really good rolemodel. He took a lot of young people under his wings...The younger guys starting into fire prevention and those are the guys that now going to step up and fill this position,” Young said.
“Chuck loved being the head of the fire prevention. Go up to the daycare and see the kids smile when we come in there. Joke and kidding and showing what they need to do in an actual fire. The kids just loved him. The room was filled with excitement when Chuck came into the room,” Young said.
The fire department held an emotional ceremony Friday night at the Peterson Funeral Home to pay their respects to their brother. Those participating, along with many of Nelson’s family and friends were shedding tears as the Final Call was made for Nelson.
At the request of Pine Creek VFD Chaplain Sandy Young, Jefferson County Control sounded the fire department’s alarm. Into the silence of the room the sound of the siren could be heard from a radio and then a voice:
“To all stations and Pine Creek members. It is with a heavy heart that this will be the final call for brother firefighter and fire police captain Chuck Nelson...Chuck unselfishly gave his time to his and surrounding communities by watching all of his brothers and sisters backs to keep us safe while we performed our duties. He kept travelers and citizens out of harms way during emergencies. His caring knew no bounds. He lightened the hearts of communities and children by being one of the special people to teach us about fire safety and not to be afraid – Firemen are your friends. He brought joy to the world, the true meaning of cheer, and not to ever stop believing. God speed Santa Claus. Tonight will be a silent night.”