Author Dr. Harry Carter (center) with Jack Peltier (right) and Los Pinos, CO, Deputy Chief Thomas W. Aurnhammer at a recent trade show.
Photo credit: Photo Courtesy of Thomas Aurnhammer
Following is the eulogy that Harry Carter will be giving at the memorial service for Jack Peltier on Saturday, Dec. 15 at Immaculate Conception Church in Marlborough, MA. Carter asked that we share this on Firehouse.com so that their buddies who are unable to attend the service will have the opportunity to read it.
How does any man say good bye to his best friend in the whole world? This is a question which has haunted me since late Sunday evening when I got that fateful call from (Jack's son) Jim. To that end I have decided to share some thoughts which you that have come to me based upon our many years of being together as we traveled the road of life together.
Having spent nearly a month traveling across America with Jack on our 2006 Road Trip probably makes me the most qualified person, outside of his family, to tell you why I loved and admired that man. Let me start with the most important part of who Jack Peltier really was as a man.
Jack was devoted to his family. Sue and he were a real team. I wish I knew how many times she was able to keep that big lug out of trouble. He was a loving husband, devoted father, but most of all he was the consummate grandfather. There was never a time when we were together when he failed to mention his grandchildren to me. Jason, Sara, Steven, Shawn, and Seth were at the heart of what Jack was all about.
He really enjoyed sharing stories about Jason's tuba playing, Sara's skiing trips, and Steven's latest fireman's-related escapade. The same held true for his children. There was always a fresh new Ann Marie, Melissa, or Jimmy story to be shared. And he always had a kind word about the love of his life: Sue. Let me assure you that I shall miss those great tales of love.
Jack was a humble man. He was much more comfortable sitting in the back of the room watching someone whom he had trained, mentored, and more than likely kicked in the butt once or twice, get the accolades. He took great pleasure in sharing his knowledge with others. We first met at the Fire Department Instructor's Conference. That hallowed educational event was the place that allowed Jack and I to meet and bond.
From our time back in Memphis, through our years in Cincinnati, to our time in Indianapolis, Jack was always at the center of a group of younger fire people. He would spend hours combining his wisdom, knowledge, and experience, with a few brewskies and a glass or two of single-barrel bourbon. He never hesitated to reach out and share a gem or two of wisdom with the newest and youngest members of the group. His life was the living embodiment of what a mentor and coach should be.
Perhaps one of the highpoints of his life came at the FDIC in 2011 when Bobby Halton welcomed him back to the convention after his serious illness back in 2009 and 2010. I was there to watch as he rose to receive a standing ovation from his professional fire service associates. That was a great day.
I have heard it said that when a person passes on to their reward, the library which was their life is closed forever. The knowledge that was there is no more. Not to worry about this when it comes to Jack Peltier my friends. His was the ultimate lending library. This room is filled with Jack's knowledge. Each of us was taught by Jack to be a better fireman and a better person. Therefore, let me suggest that each of us owes Jack a duty to perpetuate his memory by sharing what he taught us with others.
Please indulge me and allow me to share a final quick personal story about Jack. He was my personal representative to the world of common sense. Whenever I would come up with some new screwball idea, I would always run it by him. I long ago lost count of the number of times he rounded the rough edges off of my brainstorming ideas. You can only imagine how many times he kept me from making a major, public faux paux.
But one living part of his legacy is my current series of articles in Firehouse Magazine entitled, "Riding the Right Front Seat." One day Jack called me to tell me that he had decided that he and I needed to share what we both knew about being a company officer. He asked me to come up with a title and a list of suggested topics. He then took great pains to round off the rough edges of my list and then suggested a few more topics than I had listed.
My friends, as you read the words in the magazine, I want you to pause and think of Jack. Imagine that he is saying them to you. I know that is what I am going to do.
Let me close by saying that there is going to be a great big open spot in each of our lives. Trust me when I say that this loss will be felt in different ways for each of us. As for me, I shall most miss our daily phone calls. Many were the times that Jack and I would go on and on about the problems of the fire service. Then he would tell me a bit about his family and I would share a story about mine. Or I might call him from the scene of an emergency and solicit his opinion. Or it could be that he would call me and tell me that yet another idiot had smacked a tree out on I-495. This was an everyday part of our lives.
Rest assured my friends that as I sit out on my front porch puffing on my favorite cigar, I will still be sharing my thoughts with Jack. Only now it will be my heart that will be listening for his reply.