TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– Family, friends and fellow first responders of Dave Phelps gathered on Tuesday to celebrate the life of a man who served nearly 60 years on the Prairieton Fire Department in southern Vigo County.
Phelps died this past week of a heart attack while responding to a fire on Thursday, Nov. 2nd. Tuesday, dozens gathered at DeBaun Springhill Chapel for visitation services, as well as a memorial put on by the Indiana Volunteer Firefighters Association.
Eric Johnson, the executive director of Supporting Heroes, an organization that assists families of fallen first responders, said seeing the large crowd Tuesday was a powerful moment for the family.
“It is very good to see such a great turnout. It’s really important for the family to see that the community that he served so long, and ultimately gave his life serving, it’s important for them to see that they appreciate his service and sacrifice. I’m sure they’re being overwhelmed with the response today,” he said.
Johnson commended Phelps for dedicating so much of his life putting himself at risk to help others.
“He obviously loved his community and we know that he loved the fire service,” he said. “He gave a great deal of his life serving. I don’t think that he ever dreamed his life would end in the line of duty, but it did and he’s going to be honored for his service as well as his sacrifice.”
Phelps was honored by the IVFA earlier this year for his decades of service, and his decorated career will be celebrated during his funeral Wednesday as well. Johnson said he will be carried to the cemetery on a fire truck, and a symbolic “three bell ceremony” will take place as he’s laid to rest.
Johnson also said he hopes community members continue to show support on Wednesday during the procession.
“It’s really important for his family to see and the other firefighters in this community to see that the citizens that he served, and that the other firefighters continue to serve, that they recognize his service and sacrifice,” he said. “For them to come out, here at the funeral home, or along the route to the cemetery, they’d be very welcome to do that, and it’d be very powerful for the family to see them.”
The gravesite services will be livestreamed on mywabashvalley.com starting around 12:30 on Wednesday. Details on the procession can be found here.