Members of the surrounding communities packed the Wendell Baptist Church sanctuary Monday to pay respect to Herbert Walton “Herbie” Ramsey Jr.
The former chief and 52-year volunteer at the Wendell Fire Department passed away at WakeMed April 17 after having a stroke the week before. Ramsey was 71 years old.
He was buried at Greenmount Cemetery in Wendell with full firefighter honors.
Ramsey was born to Mamie Frances Todd Ramsey and the late Herbert Walton Ramsey Sr. on Oct. 11, 1942, in Pitcairn, Pa. He graduated from Wallace-Rose Hill High School in Teachey, N.C., before joining the Coast Guard. There, he refined his skills as a firefighter.
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He joined the all-volunteer Wendell department in 1960 and worked his way through the ranks to become chief in 1981. He led the department for three years before assuming the role of assistant chief, a title he held for the 27 years leading up to his retirement in 2012.
As assistant chief, Ramsey helped former fire Chief Tom Vaughan transition the department from an all-volunteer agency to one that includes volunteers and paid staff.
Ramsey’s funeral was highly attended by representatives of neighboring fire departments. Brian Staples, the current Wendell Chief who served alongside Ramsey for his final 15 years at the department, said it seemed like a third of the Town of Wendell was present.
“Everybody knew Herb,” Staples said. “He lived in Wendell his whole life and served with us for 52 years, and worked at Red Star Oil in Zebulon for 27 years. Between Wendell and Zebulon, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who didn’t know Herb.”
Staples said there are only three people on his paid staff who have been alive for more years than Ramsey served the Wendell department.
“People just don’t serve like that anymore. He probably averaged about a call a day,” Staples said. “He was well respected and liked, and he never met a stranger. He’d stop and talk to anybody and everybody.”
Ramsey’s dedication to the fire department was recognized as he was named the winner of the 2013 Wendell Mayor’s Award in November.
A letter nominating Ramsey for the award described him as a man who spent countless hours protecting and serving the community. His nominator said he provided a great, selfless service to the town.
“This service came at a great cost, not to the taxpayers of Wendell, but to Mr. Ramsey,” the letter read. “His sacrifice of family time, material gain and personal cost were never a factor in his decision to serve, but can never be measured in terms of profit and loss to the citizens of Wendell.”
Ramsey is survived by his mother; his wife Doris Parrish Ramsey; and children Angela Kearney, Mike Capps, Lynn Capps and wife Marie, Diadera Privette and husband Dwayne, Samantha Creech and husband Kevin. He is also survived by brothers Warren Ramsey and wife Carol, and Dowell Ramsey and wife Martha; and eight grandchildren, two great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his father and his granddaughter, Jessica Hope Denton.