Amid quiet reverence during the graveside service of Joseph “Joe” Darr, a dispatch alarm broke the silence. It was the last alarm issued for Darr, who was a member of the Chillicothe Fire Department for 34 years.
The alarm was followed by Chillicothe Police Dispatcher Tina Thompson’s voice:
“Attention all agencies dispatched by Chillicothe Police Department.
“This is the last alarm assignment for Chillicothe Fire Department Assistant Chief Joseph C. Darr.
“Assistant Chief Joseph C. Darr answered his last alarm September 4, 2013 at the age of 62. He served the Chillicothe Fire Department for 34 years.
“The Chillicothe Fire Department is thankful for the service Assistant Chief Joseph C. Darr has provided to the community they serve.
“He will be missed.”
Dozens of firefighters and public safety personnel from throughout the area and some from the far reaches of the state gathered in Chillicothe to honor one of their own by providing full fire service funeral detail for Assistant Fire Chief Joe Darr, who died Sept. 4, at the age of 62.
Station coverage during visitation on Sunday and during Monday’s funeral service was provided by other entities so that the local organization could pay homage to their assistant chief. Among those providing service were Cameron Fire, Carrollton Fire, Trenton Fire, Cameron Ambulance, Noel T. Adams Ambulance Service of Bethany and Grundy County, with assistance from Heartland Regional.
Funeral services for Darr were held at Calvary Baptist Church Monday morning with the Rev. Jeff Parker officiating. Darr’s firefighting gear was placed next to the casket at the front of the church.
Rev. Parker described Darr as an “unselfish, simple man who was comfortable around people.... He honored them.”
Darr enjoyed serving the community and worked several jobs so he could be a firefighter, Parker stated.
“He was willing to give of himself, sacrifice and work,” said Parker.
The service included Regional Haz-Mat Chief Bill Brinton reading the Firefighter Prayer. Assistant State Fire Marshal Greg Carrell offered comments about Darr and read the Governor’s Proclamation.
Corey Sloan, emergency management specialist, introduced representatives from the International Association of Firefighters and the Missouri State Council of Firefighters, who presented the Medal of Valor to Darr’s daughter, Sara.
Darr was born in Chillicothe and was a 1970 graduate of Chillicothe High School. He was a lifelong member of Olive Branch Baptist Church in Chillicothe, and was a member of the Masonic Friendship Lodge No. 89 in Chillicothe.
When asked by the Constitution-Tribune two years ago what inspired him to become a firefighter, Darr replied, “to be there for the kids.”
“He had a big heart,” said Assistant Fire Chief Kevin Hoskins, who joined the Chillicothe Fire Department in 1979, a few months after Darr. “He loved showing the little kids the fire truck and talking to them about fire safety, our jobs, and what we do.”
Page 2 of 3 - At the close of the funeral service, the casket was placed on Fire Truck No. 329. The truck passed by the Chillicothe Fire Station, that was constructed shortly after Darr joined the department, then traveled to Resthaven Memorial Gardens in north Chillicothe, where full fire services continued.
The procession to the cemetery included fire trucks, ambulances, and patrol cars from dozens of public safety entities. Along the route, people stepped out from their places of business to pay respects as the procession passed. Outdoor workers also paused at their job sites to honor Darr.
At the entrance to the cemetery, the ladders from Plattsburg and Cameron fire trucks formed an archway. Public safety vehicles lined the highway on the east side of the cemetery.
The graveside service included the traditional playing of the bagpipe, ringing of the bell, the playing of “Taps” and the last alarm ceremony.
The St. Joseph Honor Guard presented Sara Darr with a flag. She was also presented with her father’s badge and helmet by Fire Chief Darrell Wright.
Toward the end of the graveside service, the Lifeflight Eagle ambulance helicopter, based out of Trenton, flew over the cemetery.
Pallbearers were Eric Reeter, Kevin Hoskins, Kenny Darr, Dean Moore, Stoney Bowers, Aaron Minnick and Daniel Moore.
The formal fire services were provided by the Missouri Fire Service Funeral Assistance Team.
Darr began with the Chillicothe Fire Department in March 1979, where he was one of three assistant fire chiefs and an emergency medical technician. He was the Chillicothe Fire Branch Coordinator for the Region H Homeland Security Region Response System (Haz-Mat team).
Darr was the longest-serving firefighter on the current force and was given the nickname “Grandma” early in his career. The name stemmed from Halloween 1980, when Darr dressed as an old woman and came to the station, then located at City Hall, and no one recognized his true identity.
The nickname was fitting for Darr. He looked after those he worked with and helped train younger firefighters.
When a person joins the department, the station becomes their second home and their colleagues become family, said Fire Chief Darrell Wright, who joined the department in 1983.
“We’re like a second family,” Wright said. “We do everything together. We are with each other every day.”
Losing one of their own makes it especially tough.
“It’s just like losing a sibling,” he said.
Wright described Darr as being friendly and always helpful.
“He was committed to the department and to the city,” Wright said. “He was very dedicated and someone you could always count on. He was Mr. Dependable.”
Page 3 of 3 - Hoskins agreed.
“He was always ready to help somebody no matter what the job was,” Hoskins said. “He never asked any of his guys to do something that he wouldn’t do himself. He was just an all around good guy.”
Funeral services were under the direction of Lindley Funeral Home.