DANIA BEACH
Ex-Fire Chief Jewell dies
Eugene Jewell, a former Dania Beach fire chief and city manager, who one battalion chief called ''hard on the outside, soft on the inside,'' dies after decades of service.
BY ASHLEY FANTZ
afantz@herald.com

Fewer than two months after suffering a severe heart attack in 1986, then Dania Beach City Manager Eugene Jewell was back in his office, ready to work at 8:30 a.m.

At the time, he told a Herald reporter that he was determined to get back to work despite his doctor's advice to take it easy.

That spirit defined Jewell, who served as Dania Beach fire chief between 1976 and 1985. During several of those years, he also took on the responsibilities of assistant city manager and city manager, a post he resigned from in 1988.

Jewell died Saturday of heart failure at 57.

''He loved Dania,'' said his wife, Diana Jewell. ``And he was a stubborn man in everything he took on. I thought his stubbornness would keep him here longer.''

Jewell always had his eye set on becoming chief, she said. His passion for firefighting was stoked first by a teenage stint with Dania Beach Fire-Rescue's Junior Volunteer Program. He spent several years in Vietnam as a U.S. Air Force firefighter and then immediately returned to Dania to join fire-rescue.

Thomas Grammer, a childhood friend who succeeded Jewell as fire chief, said coming of age in Dania in the 1950s gave a young man good reason to desire the excitement of life as a firefighter. The two remained close friends, continuing to share a neighborhood for most of their lives even as their families grew.

''It was a small town, and if you were accepted into that world [of junior firefighters] you felt like you accomplished something, because there are only a few people chosen,'' he said. ``If anyone had focus, it was him. He seemed to really know what he wanted.''

As chief in 1979, Jewell hired Frank Molina, who is still a firefighter with Dania Beach.

Jewell was impressed with Molina's efforts to climb a rope during a physical test for a job because Molina's hand was covered with stitches at the time.

''The stitches came undone during that climb and there was blood all down my shirt,'' recalled Molina. ``There were so many other people up for that job. But [Jewell] said anybody who wants something that bad should have it. That's what he was good at -- he recognized when people had heart.''

Jewell moved to Dania with his family when he was 12 years old. The move came four years after his father died while working on the railroad in Terre Haute, Ind. His mother had remarried and his stepfather chose to relocate the family, said Diana Jewell.

Current Dania Beach Fire Chief Kenneth Land, whose brother was a teenage pal of Jewell and Grammer, said Jewell was instrumental in obtaining new equipment for firefighters and beefing up the department's staff as the city began to grow.

Jewell founded Dania Beach Fire-Rescue's union, said battalion chief Mike Brown, and negotiated the department's first collective bargaining agreement around 1972. From 1990 until his death, Jewell was chairman of the department's pension board.

''He was a born leader,'' Brown said. ``He was hard on the outside, soft on the inside. He was very sentimental and could cry at the drop of a hat.''

Jewell leaves behind three children, Racheal Jewell, 25, of Central Florida; Donald Jewell, 20, an Air Force airman stationed in Phoenix; and Jessica Jewell, 22, of Dania Beach.

''He loved his children more than anything,'' said Diana Jewell.

Services will be today with a viewing from 3 to 9 p.m. at Panciera Memorial Home, 4200 Hollywood Blvd. On Tuesday, a funeral is planned for 11 a.m. at Panciera with a procession to a burial site lead by a Dania Beach fire engine escort.