Cleveland Hearth Division’s most senior firefighter retires after 40 years of service

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CLEVELAND – Senior firefighter in the Cleveland Fire Department hangs up his uniform after 40 years of service.

Eric White joined the division in January 1981 and has been with Engine 10 in 101st and Chester since 1985. On Wednesday he left the station for the last time and is retiring.

“Oh, I’ll miss the ride,” said White, who also turned 65 on Wednesday.

White was born and raised in Cleveland and raised in the Hough neighborhood. He said he became a firefighter after returning to Cleveland after his brother died.

Since then he has been a permanent member of the team.

“If we were playing basketball, he’d probably be the station’s Michael Jordan,” said Marco Lavender, a Cleveland firefighter stationed at Engine 10.

White said his love of helping people and his colleagues kept him in the business decade after decade.

“The work is not difficult. When you’re in any shape, the job is never hard. What is hard is the people, ”said White. “Those you can help and those you cannot help.”

White said he and his teammates always mourn the losses, but they also celebrate the victories.

“That’s part of the reward. It’s the next day. Couldn’t help this one, but you helped these three. Maybe that doesn’t help, but you helped four more. “

Now, at 40 years old, these teammates – who have become like brothers – are celebrating white. After his last shift, they held a retirement party for him at the Academy Tavern.

“A 100 percent mentor right away,” said Lavender.

When Lavender joined the department 20 years ago, White was the first to show him the craft. He said he was strict but open and always ready to answer questions and offer advice.

“I went to him, hugged him and tried to get him inside. He said, ‘No, we’re not doing that here yet,’ ”Lavender said.

But White is still warm in his own way, and most importantly – loyal and reliable.

“You respected him and took him seriously because you knew he knew his job, he would be there when you needed him,” said Captain Tyree Thompson.

Thompson said White encouraged him to seek a promotion within the department he was later given.

“Just making him say, ‘Hey, take these classes,’ task force classes, tactics classes and stuff like that,” Thompson said. “I went to class and Eric was sitting there with all these bosses and I was wondering where he was from. Eric has been here for 30 or 40 years and still takes courses, some of which he would do twice. “

Now White’s younger colleagues are planning to take on the duties and responsibilities that he has fulfilled.

“The senior is the most important person at a fire station, everyone will tell you that. It is not a captain, a lieutenant, or a chief. It’s the senior man – and that’s Eric, ”Thompson said. “Only the knowledge he has is gone and we can’t get it back. So for us, the guys who came after Eric to make sure the knowledge continues and this department gets better – this is how we can pay tribute to him for having been here for years. “

Now that this ride comes to an end for the senior man in the Cleveland Fire Department, he remembers the old days – and looks to the future.

“I’ll miss the guys, I’ll miss some of the action,” said White. “It’s a nice place and he offered me the ride, so it’s basically my town.”

“I’m overqualified as a firefighter so I hope to maybe work part time for FEMA or teach for them. I have ID, ”said White.

White also plans to travel with his wife during his retirement.

Jade Jarvis is a reporter for News 5 Cleveland. Follow her up Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

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