Firefighter of 63 years laid to rest in Yoakum
June 6, 2010 at 1:06 a.m.
Updated June 7, 2010 at 1:07 a.m.
YOAKUM - Hushed sniffles mixed with the quiet chatter of an emergency radio scanner broke the calm of the Thiele-Cooper Funeral Home on Sunday afternoon.
The home was filled nearly to capacity with firefighters, police officers, friends and family to remember Jack Hough, 89, a World War II veteran, businessman and Yoakum's longest serving firefighter.
The Yoakum native died Wednesday of health complications following a stroke in January.
Hough, who many describe as a selfless gentleman, served with the Yoakum Volunteer Fire Department for 63 years.
A white firefighter hat commemorating his 63 years of service sat atop his open casket.
The firefighter was known for his service, patriotism and faith.
"I think Jack Hough would like it said that four days ago America lost a patriot," said Bob Orr, Hough's nephew, during the eulogy.
His never-quit attitude lasted well into his old age. In his last few months of life he'd nearly lost his eyesight, and would call family members to drive him to the fire department late at night.
"He was such a giving person," said Jeff Ruppert, fire department captain. "It wasn't about him, it was always about somebody else."
Hough even had his niece drive him to a fire or two, but when no one was available, Hough would grab a flashlight and walk the 10 blocks from his home to the station to man radios.
"He was there to do the job of a firefighter, not to look for somebody to feel sorry for him," Ruppert said.
And when asked if he would ever retire, Hough was sure of one thing.
"I may die in a fire, but I will not die in a rocking chair," Orr said, quoting his uncle.
Hough's last moments were spent in a nursing home.
"It's a peaceful thing because we know he's better off now than where he was," said Bob's wife, Mary. "He was a Marine and he did not want to be in the nursing home."
Hough was also known for his vivid stories, Bob said, which included everything from playing high school football for Yoakum during the Depression to watching the iconic flag-raising at Iwo Jima as a young Marine.
"Hundreds of millions of Americans can recall the image of those Marines raising that flag on Iwo Jima .," Bob said. "Jack didn't need a picture to recall that, he saw that picture with his own two eyes."
Sunday Hough's casket was carried by the men he loved most - firefighters - and set atop a red engine bearing the name of the city where he served a lifetime.
The funeral procession was a motorcade of fire engines and flashing ambulances.
The Victoria Fire Department Honor Guard marched before rows of uniformed men who walked alongside Hough's casket to the grave site. A member of the Emergency Service Pipes and Drum Association played "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.
The crowd repeated a slow, solemn Lord's Prayer with head's bowed as firefighters wiped away tears.
"Jack's first hellos in heaven can't change the harsh reality that we're all gathered here today to say goodbye," his nephew said. "So, let the record show that we are gathered here to say goodbye to one of the most respected and admired men the community of Yoakum, Texas has ever known."