FORKED RIVER, N.J.-- 'Santa Detail' is something Firefighter Donald J. Wallis took part in for many of his more than 50 years with the Forked River Fire Company.
Wallis was often the one who would drive the fire engine around town -- with Santa Claus on his sleigh perched on top of the truck -- for children and adults alike to see.
But on the morning of Sunday, Dec. 16, right before the company was about to leave the firehouse, he told other firefighters he didn't feel well. The 68-year-old collapsed and was revived by paramedics but was later pronounced dead at the Community Medical Center in Toms River.
"He was well-liked, well loved, and was just the greatest guy," said Firefighter Greg Baranyay, an ex-president of the company who has worked alongside Wallis for 22 years.
"He was a very devoted life member," he said. "Whenever he was needed he did what was asked of him.
"He was very well known throughout the area. We're expecting a lot of firefighters at his funeral."
Wallis is survived by children: daughters Wendy Cramer and Sandy Robinson and son Mickey Wallis; six grandchildren and one great grandchild; and the mother of his children, Joyce White.
Visitation is scheduled for Dec. 19 and Dec. 20 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Riggs Funeral, 130 Route 9, Forked River, N.J.
Funeral services will be held Friday, Dec. 21 at 10 a.m. at Good Luck Cemetery in Lanoka Harbor, N.J.